Ok, I made it to Nashville. It was a great week spending time with friends and “making the rounds” in a city I have spent a lot of time in over the years. I went to prayer meetings, had dinners, met with my pastor about the upcoming trip, went to a couple services at church, and goofed off with old friends.
All that aside, there are those moments when you feel God is really interacting with you and that’s what I’m writing here. I have been traveling on a really light budget, so every cent counts and I have to be careful how I spend money. I paid for the bus ticket to Memphis, the gas up I-40 to Nashville, some groceries, and a few meals out here and there. Things were going pretty good as I closed out the week at my long time friend, Donavan’s house. Don has 6 kids and his wife was out of town visiting her mother with the infant, so we talked long into the night after the other 5 kids were asleep. Don, just like me, is on a tight budget and understandably so. I can only imagine the challenges and expenses involved in raising 6 kids. As we talked further, I felt the Lord impressing me to give him $20. I had no idea the specifics of his financial state at that moment, but that wasn’t the point. The point was obedience. “…but Lord, $20 isn’t that much money. I feel like it’s an insult to give that to him. That’s me making a statement that I assume he is completely broke.”
I have to interject something important here. Whether or not Don needed the money was unknown to me. The fact of the matter was that I REALLY needed it. I had budgeted the trip and had the EXACT amount to get back to Michigan the next day. I’d done the math; 500 miles divided by 30 miles per gallon at $3.10 per gallon is about $52. In my pocket at that moment, I had $45 with another $11 in my bank account, and that’s it. I also had to get a quart of oil at about $3, so I’m holding $56 and, according to my budget, I need $55. That leaves $1 for a sandwich off the 99 cent menu at Wendy’s or McDonalds. Perfect. It was Saturday night. I would wake up tomorrow, go to church, and hit the road.
So, I’m having this debate with God about the $20. “I won’t make it back if I give it. Besides, it will be awkward, so I can do it on the way out later.” We sit talking and I think the inner turmoil I am having sparks a conversation about giving and God’s blessing and how that all works. We chat back and forth about how the best kind of giving is when it costs you to give-when the Lord HAS to come through because of the action. Where is the faith when there is no risk, right? Blah, blah, blah. I preach on. I’m a lying hypocrite. So, on the way out the door, hours later, I still don’t do it. Excuses to God, a quick, “See you in the fall, hopefully,” I head for the door, start the car, and head up the drive for the street. On the seat next to me, sits Don’s favorite coffee mug I meant to give back to him. Shoot! I’ll stick it in the mailbox. It’s almost 3am and he just killed the house lights. I felt the Lord telling me again, “Put the $20 in the mug.” Crap! Really? Ok, fine. Done. It’s in, mailbox door closed, and I’m on the road headed for Jeremy’s place to get some sleep.
I wake in the morning and my first thought is, “You’re short. You won’t make it.” Well, first it’s church and you never know what might happen there, so off I go. Mike Glenn preaches a great message about evangelism and sharing our faith from Acts 6. Cool, I’ll try. After some glad-handing, I leave church and head for a Starbucks on the north end of town; the point of no return before getting on I-65 Northbound. The place is rammed full of Vanderbilt students. I sit down to do a bit of cost-counting and see if there is any possible way this can happen. I check my back account on line, add up the figures again, and it’s the same-only now I’m $20 short. I will run out of gas somewhere in northern Indiana. I have 2 choices. I can either stay for another night hoping something will materialize or I can hit the road until my low fuel light goes on, stop at a big Pilot Truck Stop, and sit there and ask God, “What now?” That sounds stressful, but what will change in 24 hrs? Asking a friend for money or borrowing money is absolutely out of the question. This is an exercise in obedience, and the second I do that, I have leaned on my own hand and quit. I’ve gone back to Egypt and asked Pharaoh for help. Can’t do it. I take $2 of my remaining $36 and get a bold coffee in an effort to pay the rent for my chair in the warm coffee shop with the free wifi… and so I can get properly stressed out.