Stories of God’s continuing grace – His unmerited, undeserved favor and blessing – are fun to hear and fun to tell. Throughout our life, we have seen this happen time and time again. Let me start sharing some of those stories.
It was 1987. My wife and I were married in the cold of the winter, only to move in to the cold of an apartment in Rossville, GA where two walls were underground and the other two overlooked a cliff. Another apartment was above ours and all four of their walls were above ground.
My wife says that I froze her out that year. Allegedly, there was a skim of ice in the toilet that I do not remember. What I do remember was that we were just trying to be frugal since our income was minimal. I was a full-time student, a full-time employee of a Christian bookstore, and a bi-vocational pastor. My wife was working full-time in a restaurant. We were living on a tight budget but we weren’t paupers. So, when we left for the day, we turned the heat down to the minimum. Maybe there was a little ice in the toilet, after all!
Like George and Wheezy Jefferson, by ’88, we were “movin’ on up!” We moved to that upstairs “deluxe apartment” and thought we were doing great. And, we really were! However, we had one vehicle and after a while, we knew that we had to find something closer to the school and our jobs. Rossville was the first place you came to heading south out of Chattanooga. It was still quite a drive back and forth and we had to cut some corners.
If you have ever hunted for an apartment or a house, you know that it can be a frustrating venture. We would buy the newspaper and start scouring the ads. Having lived the apartment life, we knew that we wanted a house. Most places were way out of our price range or were in neighborhoods that were less than appealing. For days, phone calls were made and places visited, only to feel every door close in our faces.
On one particular day when I was taking my wife to work, we headed out with the newspaper to a house that was for rent. With the paper in hand, I got out of the car and started walking up the sidewalk. Out of nowhere, this overwhelming irritation and futility came over me. I turned around, walked back to the car and when I got in, I balled up the newspaper and declared, “I’m done! I’m not looking any more. This is a waste of time. If God wants us to have something, He will give it to us!”
Now, lest you start to marvel at the tremendous faith of a young husband, let me quickly stop you. This was NOT faith. It was 100% irritation and annoyance that God hadn’t already given us a place. Let me say it bluntly. I was mad at God! And, this wouldn’t be the last time, either.
While I would never encourage anyone to be angry with God, I can tell you that He isn’t surprised by it. Read Psalm 73 when you have a chance and hear another man of God express his frustration. In fact, there are several Bible characters that had hissy fit melt downs – adult temper tantrums – with God. Through the years, the Lord has let me huff and puff like an old bull until I calm down and then, He does one of those amazing grace things.
This day would be one of those days.
After leaving this house, I planned to eat breakfast with my wife before she started work and before I headed off to my job. As usual, we bowed our heads, held hands, and prayed together before we ate. No sooner had I said “Amen,” a regular customer came up and said, “You’re Christians, aren’t you?” She was a kind, elderly lady so we weren’t too worried by her question. However, we wondered where it was leading.
She said, “By any chance are you looking for a house to rent? I have a house that I would like for you to look at.”
After work, we both went to this simple but very nice two-bedroom house that was only a couple of miles from college going one way and about a mile to our jobs going the other way. The landlady lived next door. The rent was exactly what we were able to pay. It was fully furnished. And, we spent the remaining 2 ½ years in that house.
Continuing grace IS amazing!