“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22–23).
Waiting is hard. We wait and we wonder and we watch and we pray. When I signed on that line, or rather, clicked that box, on all that student debt, I felt a had to. I knew it would take a long time to pay back. I knew it was my responsibility. I knew.
But what I didn’t know is that it would represent ten beautiful, long, hard, difficult, full, exhausting years of waiting. Waiting to be done, waiting to pay it off, waiting to buy a house we wanted to live in. Waiting to live the way we wanted–whatever that meant. And now, with the end of it on the horizon, and an eye toward a house in the inner city where we want to do outreach, a new chapter is starting. But as I think back over the last ten years of student loan debt; all the budgeting (and failing) and going without and “vacations” at my aunt’s house; I see a bigger picture of what God was doing.
Ten years ago, I thought I was ready. Ready to move to China, ready to serve the Lord in amazing ways, ready to leave behind my past and my disappointment and my trials. Ready to run away and be free of it all. But God had other plans. With the tether of debt and everyday life, I had to settle down in my dumpy rental and face myself.
I had to learn to love the 60s cupboards of our apartment and the double-wide handicap doors, the second bathroom we called “the garage” because it housed our bikes, paper towels, tools, and spare car batteries. And our second-born’s crib. Because there was nowhere else to put her. I learned to process other people buying nicer things and work through my jealousy and my discontentment. With confession, I learned to truly “rejoice with them that rejoice,” and know the sweetness of that freedom. I learned to hang my pictures and make my space a home for my little girls, so much so that my oldest once said, “Mommy, if we ever live in a bus under a bridge,” (where does she get these things??) “we will just make it beautiful, right?” Yes, dear, we’ll hang our pictures and bank our promises and make it beautiful because God loves beautiful things.
God worked consistency into my heart. Consistent cleaning, because it is always in front of you. Consistent discipline, because you have to get along in a tiny space. Consistent attendance to ESL, so our students can depend on us. And yes, sometimes the consistency was in mourning because my heart was drowning in grief over the babies we loved and lost. It was those times I leaned heavily on Him to get through.
God worked the messy sweetness of grace into my heart. Grace for the plumbing access beside the toilet that was crooked because the handyman just didn’t care. Grace for the little old house we rented later. And grace for myself when life got busy and the toys, dirty kleenex and laundry piled up and someone stopped in for a visit and saw the mess in all its glory. Because life isn’t perfect.
And now, ten years later, the “way I want to live” has a lot more to do with grace and doing consistent quiet work and trusting Him with the results than with doing something amazing. It has a lot more to do with taking risks for the Lord and not my own thrill. And “the way we want to live” is not what we wanted ten years ago. And if it wasn’t for all the debt and all the waiting, I would never have known that this old city needs the light of Christ the same as any other dark corner of the world including my own heart.
For right now as I write this, it means more waiting. I wish I could tie off the season with a spiritual bow and report we’re debt free homeowners and living with new purpose. But with our lease ending and the purposes of a God heavy in our hearts, we’re heading to the middle of a corrupt old city where half the world is represented. We have purpose; we’re packing up and going out, but we don’t know where in the city of Detroit we are going. We’ve offered on three houses but for one reason or another (mostly shady business practice on the part of the sellers and realtors) we do not have a house. We’re quickly sifting through all the rentals that are active in the area, most anything will do. Every morning I wake up with a fresh splash of fear and I reach for my Bible. I find that He is still the same. I look back at all His faithfulness and all my weakness and I have nothing to do but hand this over to Him as well. Sometimes the burden is so heavy I have trouble handing it over, but I just put it down and let Him pick it up. With shaky hands on my coffee and His promises, I chose to believe Him and continue.
“Mommy, we should pray,” Elise warmed my heart when I told her that we withdrew the last offer. I linked hands with their little ones (even the two-year-old didn’t want to be left out) and we asked God for another home. Unexplainable peace fills me with just enough to meet the day. His mercy is new every morning. And His love is steadfast in the dark.
We’re still waiting, sisters. And that’s ok. Please pray for us.
“‘I will now arise,’ says the Lord, ‘and place him in the safety for which he longs’” (Psalm 12:5).
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.