January is a time of reflection and since I promised God that I would share our family adventure, via this blog, I want to take a moment to share my reflections on the previous year. Jenny will also be sharing a post, with her reflections, in the coming days.
If you have been following our story (see “The Shipwreck” post) you know that a couple of days prior to Christmas 2013, my family and I were forced to move out of our rented home. Thankfully, God had spoken to a lovely family, a few of months before, and told them that the Sanders family would be living with them. They lovingly welcomed us in and provided food, shelter, comfort and friendship for all of 2014. We have lived on manna from heaven and are very thankful.
You might feel that this provision was the perfect opportunity for our family to be able to recover financially. With no expenses, we could get jobs, work hard, save money and be on our feet again in 2015. That is exactly what I thought. The problem with that plan is that our family has made an agreement with each other, and with God, to only do what we feel God directs us to do. To my chagrin, he was not directing us to the obvious things. We felt that he still wanted to show our generation that he is more powerful than the god of money.
From the first day that we lost everything (November 2013), we felt that God told us that we are not to get a job or pursue government assistance. Any logical thinking person, with less than $100 to their name and no prospects of more, would have been actively pursuing both. Because of our agreement, we obeyed and instead of getting government assistance or jobs, we spent our days praying, Bible reading and allowing God to overhaul our thought process. Since I was raised as a pastor’s son, attended a private Christian school, went to a Bible College and spent several years as a counseling pastor, I was not a stranger to the Bible or prayer. The desperation of our situation caused me to read my Bible and pray like never before. I was no longer reading the Bible to understand the hidden mysteries of Hebrew and Greek words or to have a great lesson to teach someone, I was reading it to find out who God is. I was no longer praying out of a need to be disciplined, I prayed in order to become a sheep that clearly heard and knew the Shepherd’s voice.
As a result, my family and I began to see the God of the Bible come alive like never before. We learned that we had accepted lies about him. The lies prevented us from living a life for God and made us a slave to fear. Our Bible reading showed us that he is better than we ever gave him credit for and that his ways really are not our ways. We also saw, with a fresh perspective, how God treats those he calls to greatness. The lives of Abraham, Joseph, David, Old Testament prophets and New Testament disciples showed that when God calls someone to greatness, he also takes the time to equip them for the task. His equipping is not easy and leaves the person feeling lost and alone (see Psalm 22). Moses’ wilderness, Joseph’s prison cell and David’s cave were all God’s strange equipping places for the great tasks that he had called them to.
So, when I reflect on the last year, I can honestly say that I would not trade any of it. We gained far more than we gave up and our family experienced love, joy and peace like we have never known. Our children are also doing better spiritually, academically and socially than they ever have.
Just to be clear, I am not saying that the last year has been easy. It has been the most challenging of our life. We had to allow God to completely alter our understanding of him, while we were financially destitute and relying on God, alone, to direct the supplying of our needs. That sounds good when you read it in the book of Acts (Saul’s conversion) or hear it in a Sunday sermon but, let me assure you, it feels HORRIBLE when you are the one living it out! When God does not provide for Christmas presents or birthday presents or your favorite snack, you don’t get them. Hardly a day passed where I did not contemplate quitting this insane journey and going back to “normal” life. I honestly would have quit if it were not for my amazing family. The kids never lost faith and they refused to allow me to. If I got down, they would say, “lets just give God one more week”. I would tell them that I feel crazy and they would tell me that we are following God and the Bible, so what everyone else is doing was crazy, we are the “normal” ones. I love those kids!
As frustrating as it was, God always provided. How he did it, and through whom, was completely unexpected. You would expect God to use other Christians, but that was not always the case. Strangers were led to help us, banks “reviewed their records” and found that they owed us money and the government “reviewed tax records” and found that they owed us money. When people would approach us to help, we would ask “Did God tell you to do this?” If the answer was “No, but you need it”, we politely refused. We did not accept anything that did not come directly from the hand of God. As a result, a family of 6 has survived for 13 months only on what God specifically directed others to provide. It has truly been a humbling experience.
We also have great friends that would take us out to dinner, or a movie, or take Jenny to get her nails done. That allowed us to experience “normal” life, from time to time, and we treasured each of those moments. We got to see the true, Biblical Church in action and the God of the Bible active in our lives on a daily basis. Those are the priceless gifts that I am thankful for. We still believe that God wants to show the American Christian that his people really can seek first the kingdom and he really will take care of their needs.
God bless you all and thank you for following our crazy God adventure.