I've often wondered if my husband has secret conferences with our pastor. Somewhere out of the way and quiet, or more likely somewhere with free WiFi, where Richie lays out all of my problems, shortcomings, and slight neuroces. Then, our pastor, sympathetic to Richie's plight, begins to formulate a sermon. Of course he won't personally call me out during the sermon, he has an entire congregation to serve and besides, I will only be in one of the services. But the sermon will drill directly into my heart. Everyone sitting around me will know that Richie requested this sermon because while trying to take notes, I will cry non-stop. Richie will keep his eyes planted firmly on the pastor, never daring to look at me, because he doesn't want me to know that he requested this sermon especially for me.
Yep, that is what I think.
This week was a perfect example. The sermon series is entitled "Running on empty." They were clever enough not to use my face on the bulletin, since the fact I go for days without makeup and sometimes realize at dinner time I haven't brushed my teeth, would likely scare people off. It scares me. But still, I knew as soon as I saw the title, it was directed at me.
I've been running near empty for somewhere around 7 years. That coincidentally is the age of our first child. For three years I was a full time working mom with a high stress job. Then came my son, with an even higher stress job, full time mommyhood.
That's when I hit empty.
And then about a year ago, I started running on fumes. Constant health battles, financial struggles, not to mention putting on an extra 30 pounds, meanvdays when making it from bed to the couch are taxing. Facing those days while caring for a four year old. Boy. With boundless energy. Fumes are not enough to carry me through those days (he washed his toys off in the toilet this morning, if that gives you any idea.)
And then I show up Sunday and the pastor tells me I'm not alone. Not only are a lot of people around me running on empty, but one of the best known prophets in the Bible spent his life running on empty.
I'm sure it is no coincidence that the prophet he spoke of is named Elijah, my nephew's namesake. Probably something else Richie requested so I would be reminded of the sermon every time I see my nephew. Anyway, he said that Elijah came from the middle of nowhere during one of the darkest times in his people's history. This no one, from nowhere, was sent to the king to tell him it wasn't going to rain until he (Elijah) said it would.
Then God told Elijah to run away and hide.
I've heard this story many times, and I always figured God told him to hide because he had just given the king some really bad news and the king would enjoy nothing more than killing him.
But no, our pastor said, God sent Elijah away to train him.
Weird training, sitting by a brook, in a new middle of nowhere. A raven bringing him food in the morning and again in the evening. Watching the brook slowly dry up because of the very drought he prophecied. Every day, starting with nothing. Every night ending with nothing. Totally reliant on God for provision to keep him alive.
We aren't sure exactly how long Elijah was there, but it was long enough for the brook to dry up.
Picture me sitting in the pew, tears streaming down my face as I thought about my own sorry state, and imagining my brook, the only thing I had left, drying up.
Then it got worse. Basically God sent him on a hundred mile walk through enemy territory until he met a widow. But instead of finding provision, Elijah found that this woman and her son were preparing their literal last meal. She knew they would soon die.There was no more grain, no more oil, no water. More effects of the drought.
And then the pastor said something that caught my attention. He said, the widow's state didn't throw Elijah. Elijah had just been fed by a big nasty bird in the wilderness. He knew God would provide, and he also knew it wouldn't be in the way that the widow expected or wanted. Instead of dropping an HEB next door, God provided for the widow the same way He had provided for Elijah. Just enough every day for that day.
And for the next day, enough for that day.
God didn't set her up for life, but He sustained her.
*More tears, actually sobbing now.*
All these days when I thought the pain was too much for me to handle, God gave me strength enough for that day.
When the bank account and the pantry hit empty, God gave us enough for that day.
When my kids were sick, depression threatened to take over, or I almost killed the dog with chocolate, God gave me enough. For that day.
The problem, I realized, is that I don't want enouh for the day. I want enough for at least a week, preferably a year or two. I want to be able to look at the bank account, or the medicine cabinet, and know that tomorrow, I would be able to face whatever comes my way. And here was our pastor, telling us that God didn't work that way with Elijah, and He probably won't work that way for me either.
But He will give me enough. For today.
As usually happens after this kind of sermon, the one designed specifically for me, I got to practice this very thing the next day.
Already running on fumes, one of the kids got sick. Then the mail came and delivered us an unexpected medical bill that we are not prepared or equipped to pay. Opening the next bill, I realized I paid the wrong credit card, meaning I have a credit on one card we don't use and have made no payment for nearly two months on the card with a balance.
At that moment, I did not feel like I had enough. In fact, I felt like God was being just plain mean. Wasn't it enough that I was still sick and relying on Him every day for the strength to get out of bed? Wasn't it enough that we already had run up the credit card to pay medical bills. Wasn't it enough that both of my husband's grandfathers have serious health concerns and need multiple surgeries. Wasn't it enough that my self esteem had hit an all time low. I didn't feel like I could take one more thing. The fumes I had been running on were officially out and I was stranded by the side of the road. Or in this case on the bedroom floor crying.
And just then, at the very moment I couldn't move, God showed up.
He didn't magically pay off our debt, but He made a way for us to manage it.
He didn't heal me, but He gave me (and the kids) a full night's sleep.
He gave me enough.
I still don't like it. I want more. More security, better health, one day when I don't feel certifiably crazy. But every time God shows up, it reminds me of His faithfulness. Because it is likely that I will be running on empty again, probably tomorrow.
But when I remember how He showed up today, it allows me to think He will show up again tomorrow. Not with enough for the rest of my life, or even the rest of the week.
But enough for the day.
If you are running on empty, check out the sermon on-line. And know that you aren't alone. Besides Elijah, there is a really cool, full-time mom in Fort Worth that is right there with you.