Looking back on it now, the Lord threw us a life-preserver with the invitation to “plant” a church in Rhode Island. We knew absolutely nothing about church planting, but desperate times called for desperate measures. All this young pastor really knew about us was that we had four kids and spent a lot of time serving the church; he didn’t know about the crossroads we found ourselves in. He didn’t know how close we came from walking away from the church… or how we saw this invitation as our “last chance.”
But, there was a catch: Our current situation made relocation to Rhode Island extremely difficult. We had a house to sell and my husband needed to find a job. So a “for sale” sign went up in the yard and resumes started going out as we prayed for God to make it clear if we should go. For months, we prayed and dreamed about the possibility of being a part of this new beginning. We talked about how easy the decision would be if we won the lottery (of course, you have to actually PLAY the lottery to WIN the lottery!). But, at the time, the fleece seemed obvious: If we sell the house and find a job, then we go. If we don’t, we stay. Pretty straight forward. Our finances limited us from going on our own, so if God “wanted” us to go, He would sell our house and provide the job. That’s how it works, right? Well… not necessarily.
During Thanksgiving, we found out my mom had terminal cancer with only weeks to live. My husband took a leave of absence from work and we headed down south to take care of her those last six weeks. I won’t belabor the point, but seeing death… all the horrible effects of cancer on the human body… you gain perspective and appreciation for life. Both of my parents lived for retirement… neither one of them lived long enough to see it. (That alone was a wake up call.)
The night after she passed away, my husband and I began contemplating life. We asked the typical questions I feel many ask when facing similar situations. Are we spending our time (our lives) on the things that truly matter? Will we wake up one day regretting our decisions in life? And then my husband said something unexpected: If we wanted to go to Rhode Island, we now had the money to do it. For a brief moment I got excited. My mom’s final gift to our family would be the chance to seek after the only thing that truly matters; but as quickly as the excitement rushed in, the skepticism and cynicism fought back. My response,
“I don’t think that’s a wise way to spend this money.”
As soon as the words escaped my lips, the conviction strangled me. I felt like throwing up as this horrific, guttural sound came from my mouth. In that moment, I let the world override the Holy Spirit. I chose “sensibility” over righteousness, a high-yield interest rate over a priceless, eternal investment. If I was truly living my life on mission… living out the Great Commission… then there was no greater way to spend ANY money. We stayed up for hours that night talking about how crazy (and financially irresponsible) it would be to use that money to move when God still seemed to be so silent in the details. I remember sitting in my mom’s living room and saying, “I feel like we’re just suppose to go for 6 months. In faith, I feel like we’re suppose to go and that He will be faithful.”
The next morning, we went to my mom’s church. This place was like Disney World for Christians. For real. The greeters in the parking lot wore those over-sized Mickey hands and perm-a-grin smiles as we wound our car around the seemingly endless rows of parking spaces. (This place also has a slide on the second floor for kids to ride down at the end of church. I’m pretty sure I saw something like that on Babylon Bee once… but this one actually exists.) There were three things I clearly remember about that service: #1 The house lights were turned off in the sanctuary and without the help of the usher AND HIS MINI FLASHLIGHT we never would have found a seat… but maybe the stage lights bouncing off the fog pouring out of the fog machines would have provided enough illumination; #2 It was the first and (PLEASE, LORD JESUS) the last time I will ever hear Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer” being sung in church; and #3 being the first Sunday of the New Year, it was Tithe Challenge Sunday… commit to giving the church 10% of your income for 6 months and they guarantee you will see the blessings of the Lord, or your money will be given back. (No. Words.) Confession: we only continued to sit through that service because we wanted to see how bad it would get.
At some point in the ramblings about the Tithe Challenge, the pastor said, “Someone here has been praying about this and needs to hear it: You need to be faithful for 6 months and trust that your Father will be faithful. Yep. I opened my eyes as wide as I could and slowly turned my head to look at my husband. He kept his eyes on the pastor, but the smirk on this face told me that he understood what happened: We prayed. God spoke. And now we had to answer.