Housing, Hannah, and a Talk with God
Just yesterday God and I had a long talk, through the process of the conversation I came to realize that I had been approaching my current situation with closed hands, grasping hands, and that he wanted me to open my hands.I had thought that I was approaching the situation really calmly – I had only had one real freak out moment and it was short lived. I knew that I could see God’s hand in our situation so I was really trying to trust. I think when it all first happened my hands were open, but over the last week and a half they have slowly closed until yesterday when I realized that they were not just closed, they were clenched. I realized yesterday that even though I have really been saying and praying that God would be in control and that I would trust him and follow where ever he led us, I realized yesterday that wasn’t really true. I have a path in mind that I want him to lead us down – I realized last night how truly deep that desire and longing was. I wasn’t open handed, I had already decided that there were certain things it was ok for God to take away and certain paths it was ok for God to lead us down and other things and paths that were not ok.
We have a mortgage that is far outside our reach… basically when we moved here we bought a beautiful new home that was within our abilities to pay but on the high end of what we could afford. Then the dollar started crashing and without having any change in our actual pay we took a 30% pay cut over the course of the last year. Since we are hourly we just worked more hours to make up the difference – literally working 80-100 hours a week each. It was insane and I believe that God is removing us from that job partly to stop that insanity. But, now as we look at the average pay here in Prague and look for new jobs we are beginning to realize that we can’t afford our house. Even if we get jobs on the high end of what we are qualified for we will still not be able to afford this place. I realized all this yesterday as I prayed and I could feel my hands clenching…This was something God couldn’t take away…
Me: “God weren’t you the one that brought us to this place. We felt so certain that it was from you, Lord. We felt so certain that you wanted us to use it here in Prague as a place of refuge for people and a safe place for your kingdom to flourish. We even had a dedication service for it and had people pray over it when we moved in…”
God: “That’s right, Bethany, you said then that it was MY place not yours and that you wanted me to use it for my glory and my redemptive work in the world… Did you really mean that? Do you still mean that?”
Me: “Yes, I meant it, and yes I still mean it… But, God I didn’t think that it would mean that you would take it away… we’ve only lived here for a year – a year to the month in fact…”
God: (cutting me off just now as I wrote this)… “But, remember Hannah…”
I heard the words, I wrote the words, but then I really stopped to think about what I wrote and I was struck with horror…. No, Lord, no…
You see right before we moved into this place we heard this sermon all in Czech – I couldn’t understand anything of it except the verses. It was the story of Hannah. It was after our move in date had been pushed back by 5 months, we had been living with friends for 5 months, I was really in anguish waiting… it was incredibly difficult to be living in a foreign country where nothing is really familiar and we are still settling in and making friends and not have a place to call home, a place that is your own. I was depressed and struggling with God over the whole housing matter. Then I read this story and I felt God speaking to me – very clearly – I felt him saying that this house was his not mine and saying that we needed to dedicate it to him. So, Bryan and I talked and interestingly he had been feeling God telling him similar things and so we prayed one night for a long time and just gave the whole thing over to God once again and told him that if everything did ever work out for us to own this place we would give it to him and dedicate it to his service. So, that’s what we did, we had a little dedication service after we moved in and since then we have tried to make decisions regarding our house in terms of how we can use it to serve the kingdom of God here in Prague.
But, as I wrote this God reminded me that there was more to the story of Hannah… She doesn’t just dedicate Samuel to God and get to keep him; she has to give him up. And when does she give him up? After Samuel had been weaned… probably when he was between 1-2 years old… Rereading the story again I felt chills… No, Lord, no…
Then God spoke…
“Bethany, are you willing to let go. Open your hands and give up this place that’s not really yours anyway? You don’t know where I’m going to lead, and I’m not telling you that you have to put this place up for sale tomorrow, but I am saying are you willing… I might lead there… Will you follow through with your vows if it comes to that? Will you trust that I love you and know what’s best for you? Will you trust that if I call you to give up this place it’s because it could better serve me without you and you could better serve me without it? Will you trust me?”
And then I heard the gentle whisper … “You know, Bethany, opening up your hands doesn’t just enable me to take things from you, it also enables me to give things to you. I am love. And I love you. Will you trust that I love you?”
…Yes, Lord, yes… Here I am, do with me as you will.
“The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.” – 1 Samuel 2:6-7
Rejoicing in the journey - Beth Stedman
Photograph by Beth Stedman