Monday, October 22, 2012

Déjà Vu

About a year and a half ago, we were given a car. {you can read about it here} It was a 1997 DaeWoo Leganza. We named it Gonzo. We were living in Korea at the time, and some friends of ours were moving to a different area where they wouldn't need it. So, they prayed about it, and decided to give it to us. At the time, it was a huge blessing because we were traveling to another city at least twice a week, where we were heavily involved in a church, leading music, teaching and fellowshipping with the believers there.

As I drove Gonzo for the last time, taking him to a mechanic, where I would sell him for junk parts, I turned off the radio, instead opting to listen to the sound of the car - the brakes, the engine, the windshield wipers, the rain falling on the roof - and I began to praise God for this thousand-pound proof of providence. Gonzo was not a car I would have bought outright. It was an unattractive beige color, it was almost 15 years old and held a salvaged title. It wasn't the car I would have chosen for myself. However, it was the car God had chosen for me. I drove Gonzo for a little over a year, used him for ministry, fellowship and for fun. He turned out to be more than I needed or dreamed of in a car, and I was grateful, truly grateful.

Looking back, it's interesting to note that I never thought I was one of those people who God miraculously provided for. I had more than a couple of friends in college who were enrolled entirely in faith. They were working as much as they could in the summers, but it certainly wasn't enough for a private education, even at a small institution. Somehow, though, every year, God provided funds for them to pay for their tuition, books, room and board...and not through their parents either - through random, anonymous givers, the money would just show up in their accounts! Me on the other hand, I ended up $36,000 in debt...I just always assumed that God didn't regard me in the same way. I never held it against him. I believed that to be his prerogative. I know differently now. He simply had different plans for my life, different experiences he wanted me to have and different things he wanted me to learn. 

As time went on, I started to see God's hand of provision in my life. In 2005, I believed God was calling me to accompany three friends to go to China. We were there for almost 3 months, touring parts of the country, playing rock n roll in a local restaurant and encouraging the church there, where we encountered it (even helping to expand it in some places). I couldn't afford to go, but all four of us believed that we were all supposed to be going, so we committed to each other, that if one of us couldn't afford it, and the other three could, then the other three would help carry the one, and in turn, God would carry us all. And carry they did. My friends helped pay for train tickets, hotel rooms, guided tours, food and drink, taxis and even souvenirs. They were God's hands to me. However gracious that was, though, what really stands out to me was the anonymous $700 I was given about half way through the trip. We were at a house church meeting with some missionary friends, when one of them handed me an envelope. She told me it wasn't from her and that the giver wanted to remain anonymous. I had been working 3 afternoons a week in a local elementary school, teaching basic English vocabulary to earn about $250, but my verbal contract was ending soon. That donation was an eleventh hour miracle that I will remember for the rest of my life. I had spoken at the house church that morning on Luke 12 and as I encouraged our gathering to trust in God's provision for their lives, he was preparing provision for me...and not just me, as it turns out, my friends were starting to feel the financial strain of helping me. That donation was provision for us all. 

"Here I raise my Ebenezer", the old hymn calls out. As Christians, we sing this song often enough. However, most people probably don't know what the word Ebenezer actually refers to, if not Dickens' iconic miser. The term comes from the book of 1 Samuel, where the prophet sets up a stone, calling it Ebenezer, saying "thus far, the Lord has helped us." The stone was to act as a reminder to the people that God was their strength, their helper, their defender. So, now, when we use the word Ebenezer (it shouldn't even be capitalized...), we are referring to mental monuments in memory of God's faithfulness in our lives, instances of provision, in which we see the unmistakeable hand of God. 

As I maneuvered the Leganza through the rainy roads of Songtan, South Korea, on my way to the mechanics' shop, I praised God for his provision, my heart full of heart-felt gratefulness. I confessed that I had dreamy ideas in mind for what my next car would be. My wife and I were moving back to Cali and we'd been shopping for used cars online for over a month already. However, in that moment, none of my desires mattered. I told God that I wanted the car that he wanted me to have. I prayed that he would help me to look beyond my own desires for opportunities to see his hand of guidance in my life. 

My wife and I spent this last weekend down in San Luis Obispo. We were hanging out with her brother and his wife, visiting our cat, and picking up our new car. Ferial's brother was recently able to acquire a car he's been dreaming of having for years, and was selling his old car, a 1997 Acura Integra. It's not the car I would have chosen. It's black paint is now a dingy grey, fading and chipping in patches. The inside smells slightly musty, the way old cars often do. The interior is stained. It's almost fifteen years old, and it holds a salvaged title. No, it's not what I would have chosen for myself. However, I am certain that it's exactly what God has chosen for us. Driving it back from SLO, I listened to classical music on the radio, looked out over the beautiful California landscape and thanked God again for his provision in our lives. 

Again, we have a car. 
Again, it's perfect for us.
Again, it was free.

Here I raise my ebenezer.

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