“Your problem is that you haven’t told God that you need a miracle. Tell him! Demand a miracle!” That was the advice my friend gave me when, seventeen years ago, we were drowning.
I was pregnant with my 6th, my husband had lost his job and the part-time job he had in the meantime wasn’t paying, and my adjunct contract wasn’t going to be renewed because of budget cuts. We were falling behind in our mortgage payments and our savings were gone. Very soon we’d be in very dire circumstances.
“Tell God exactly what you need and get that miracle!” my friend insisted.
So I prayed—earnestly and daily—telling God what I wanted: a good-paying job for my husband so that we could meet our financial obligations, and the ability to keep the house we’d built so our family could be raised in a great neighborhood.
Not much—just what all of our other friends and family had. Not a fancy car, not a dream vacation, not a huge house—just the bare necessities.
Others also prayed in our behalf—intently and constantly—until finally the miracle came: my husband got a job.
But the not-so-miraculous part was that it was 2,000 miles away from that great neighborhood and my family.
And it wasn’t going to pay enough.
And we’d have to leave our house.
But maybe, just maybe—it’d be ok?
With enormous reluctance and huge tears, we moved our family cross county, put our house up for sale, and waited for the next miracles.
But they didn’t come as I demanded. Where we’d moved was outrageously expensive, and my husband’s education-based income would never cover rent, so he found yet another job, this one a couple hundred miles away, leaving me and our six children to mooch off of his family for several months.
The sale of our house fell through—four times—and because we couldn’t get caught up on the payments during those eight months, it was going into foreclosure with letters sent to us almost daily from lawyers and banks.
I was so humiliated and depressed, alone and still drowning. Did we not have enough faith to make those miracles happen? What more was I supposed to do to get my prayers answered? What did I still lack? Why wouldn’t God give me what I needed and what our family deserved?
I began to realize something: demanding miracles from God wasn’t how it was supposed to work. God is not, as Harry Emerson Fosdick once quipped, “a cosmic bellboy for whom we can press a button and get things done.”
Maybe I wasn’t praying for the right things. Maybe I didn’t even know what those “right things” were?
So I stopped telling God what I wanted and needed, and started asking Him to help me understand. I asked Him to change my heart to be submissive, to meekly take whatever was thrown at us. I was so low anyway, I didn’t have anything else to lose. I was hopeless, in heart and spirit.
I was broken. That’s what God was waiting for.
That’s when miracles began.
Miracle #1–We found a house to rent across the street from my husband’s new job. It was condemned and would be torn down in six months, had mice and skunks (in the cellar) and roaches, but we could live there for $350/month and be a family again for a while. The fact that I was grateful for such accommodations after living apart for eight months? Miraculous. (I’ve written about this house before here.)
And when it rained, water poured in on all the edges where the walls met the ceiling. But that was ok, because the vines growing in the house needed to be watered.
Miracle #2–We finally found a buyer for our old house, and the day before it was to be sold at auction we closed on it and were able to negotiate payments for the second mortgage, which wasn’t covered, down to a reasonable rate. We paid it off five years later.
Miracle #3–Astonishingly, the mortgage company hadn’t reported our delinquency properly, and on our credit report was only that we’d missed one monthly payment. Our credit rating fell a bit, but three months later we were in a position to buy a brand new house at $600/month.
A full year after I TOLD God what I wanted, I realized I was in a completely different situation than I’d ever imagined but . . . I liked it!
Our new life was giving us experiences that we never could have had any other way. Our kids were flourishing, our new house was adorable, my husband loved his job, and I had work as well.
And I was very glad that God did NOT listen to my demands.
A couple years ago we drove through our old neighborhood to see the dream house we had left and lost in 2000. I was so grateful that we did NOT raise our kids there. Not that there was anything wrong with the neighborhood, but I realized how limited and narrow our lives would have been had we never left, instead of the wealth of experiences God gave us instead by forcing us away.
He knew what we really wanted, rather than what we thought we should have.
The real problem, it turned out, wasn’t that I needed to demand a miracle and insist on my ways, but that I needed to ask God what His ways were for us. And His ways have always been far, far better.
With growing despair, he sat back on his heels. It was time to send the general a message.
“It’s the right thing to do, right, Puggah?” he whispered.
It’s an intriguing idea, Young Pere. But is it the right idea?
“Well, you did it! At least, you were trying to do it, then did it in another way—”
Young Pere, think about that—I tried to do it but failed. It wasn’t meant to be. It isn’t meant to be with you, either.
He scoffed. “But you just said it was intriguing!”
Yes it is. But just because it’s an intriguing idea doesn’t mean it’s the right idea. Especially when the Creator has something much better in mind.
~Book 7, The Soldier in the Middle of the World, coming October 2017