http://bible.com/116/isa.26.7-8.nlt But for those who are righteous, the way is not steep and rough. You are a God who does what is right, and you smooth out the path ahead of them. Lord , we show our trust in you by obeying your laws; our heart’s desire is to glorify your name.
The past few weeks, I’ve been getting things ready for a gathering of folks at our farm land. At the same time, we are involved in a Dave Ramsey financial peace class where we are running on a very strict weekly budget as we are focusing on eliminating debt and coming into obedience and self discipline in that area of our lives.
So when things break, I cannot just go down to the store and buy replacement parts because there is money left in the checking account, because every dollar already has been decided on where it will be spent. If something new comes up unexpectedly, my wife and I have to discuss it and decide together on whether or not it merits pulling money out of our emergency fund.
And I can tell you, I don’t want to be the one that is always coming up with emergencies that need to dip into that security blanket – because when that emergency account is at the balance that it is supposed to be, she finds comfort knowing that we are prepared for life’s little emergencies. And life is much easier when you live in a house where your wife is comforted and not worried, anxious, and concerned.
So when things started breaking and not working out the way that I had planned, I maintained the course and tried to find workarounds. Knowing that I needed to replace a front tire and tube on my tractor, I checked and went by Tractor Supply to pick them up (after I had discussed it with my wife and had the money authorized and agree upon for the repairs). But I got there and they’re was a tire, but no tube. So I called my friend and next door farm neighbor and asked if I could borrow his tractor, and I headed to the farm.
I could tell you the details of the rest of the story, but let’s just save time with a rundown:
1) tractor #1 bad tire & tube
2) tractor #2 won’t start
3) trailer to bring lawn mower bad tire
4) lawn mower dead battery
5) lawn mower flat tire
6) hitch carrier not wide enough for lawn mower
7) remove seat rows from church van and transport lawn mower in van to find mower has tank leaking and gas spilled inside van
8) begin cutting grass only to have belt on lawn mower break 1/4 way through the job
9) return lawn mower to house to work on it, but van door breaks so I can no longer transport lawn mower using van
10) check my tractor to make sure a tire is all I need and it won’t start, plus I quickly discover there is a hornets nest under the hood
11) cut a tree at the farm driveway entrance that the power company had topped for me so that I could safely drop it and the wind caught it and pushed it back towards the lines, dropping a live wire across my entrance/exit to the farm (eliminating options for renting/borrowing anything that day)
12) neighbor gets replacement ignition coil because we weren’t seeing any spark from the plug wires on his tractor, but we still couldn’t get it to work
The old me would have been angry, maybe living and throwing things. But my perspective is different than then. Now, I look for the lessons that the Lord has to teach me. Lessons about being over extended financially and cutting corners by not maintaining properly the things that we have. If we can’t afford to keep things properly maintained, we can’t afford them.
If I can’t maintain two separate properties because of the time and money involved, one needs to go. I need to plan, and when those plans fall through I need to ask for help, and when help doesn’t come and I can’t make it happen, I need to accept the closed door and learn from the experience or just trust that there is a reason beyond my understanding.
A few nights ago, I came home from working on the variety of things that were breaking and getting in the way of having a gathering. I came in the door and said to my wife, “I give up. I surrender.” To which my daughter immediately responded, “Don’t give up, Daddy!” And that was encouragement to push me to make sure that I had exercised every option. Had I been trying everything within my power, yes. Had I been praying for guidance and assistance and patience and peace with whatever happened, yes. Had I prayed for the Lord to help me if it was in His will, yes. Had I asked others if help was available, not yet at that point. But it prompted me to reach out in case someone else was meant to be the body of Christ helping me.
This morning as I worked on this lesson, my daughter cried out in frustration. I heard my wife hurry to her to see what was the matter. My daughter complained that she couldn’t get the dress on one of her dolls. My wife explained to her – don’t cry out like that if you are frustrated, first you should ask for help. I realized that just like earlier in the week, my daughter was encountering something she couldn’t do by herself, and she was frustrated and giving up, crying out in desperation. She was following my example.
Sometimes, even when I’m seeking to glorify His name, I get caught up in the big things. I think that having everyone over for a gathering will be fun and fruitful – but if preparing for such a “big event” puts me in a circumstance that compromises my obedience in the small things, like using money that should be paying off debt to fix tractors and pay for gas, like spending time away from my family that needs my daily support and guidance trying to get ready for an event…
You see, at times I truly see how ridiculous my efforts are. I see how useless my struggling to actually accomplish anything of worth or value is in this world if it isn’t God’s will. I repeatedly step out in faith and find myself sinking because I’ve eagerly jumped into the water, yelling, “I’m ready, send me!” When I’m just a child.
It is maddening to still be a child while you want so eagerly to be a grown up. To want to be walking perfectly in His will but to find yourself looking foolish time and time again as your plans are proven useless.
So instead of trying to run, I just need to walk. Instead of trying to do something big, I just need to focus on the small stuff. Yes, I’m supposed to dream big dreams for bringing the Lord honor and glory, but when I try to do them on my own, I just end up humbled and disciplined.
But unlike Cain, I’m not upset that my offering isn’t playing to the Lord. I’m not mad at the Lord for proving to me that everything that I try falls short and proves unworthy. I just hope that I will learn and listen and being Him what He desires the next time. And that is a humble, surrendered life lived as a sacrifice and testimony to Him.
Look at my life testimony as a warning, friends. You don’t want to live like me. You don’t have to know the consequences of a life lived far from God, though renewed, still having so much to relearn about daily life. I am a babe in an old man’s body. If you look at my life, I fear whether it alone can teach you anything of value. But look at my faith, and look at what I am being taught. Learn from my lessons, from my being disciplined, so that you might avoid these traps that I have walked through.
Don’t follow me. Follow Him who I seek.
Following me will lead you to a pile of broken tractors and broken dreams.
Following Him will lead you to everything you need.