When I was younger, I decided to swim across a lake. I had been swimming with my brother and having a good time, but we were bored (as kids often are). We were bored.. and the other side of the lake just beckoned to us. Since we were young.. and we were used to swimming.. we went for it.
You may be thinking that we never made it. Oh.. we made it.. The great thing about swimming is that when your legs are tired you can just use your arms… When your arms are tired? You simply use your legs. When your whole body is tired? You can roll over and just float. Float and let the peaceful sky above you soak into your muscles, strengthening you for the next leg of your journey. When you see a rough patch ahead of you.. a strong current.. or a tall weedy patch (shudder)…?? You simply rest for a moment.. and then swim harder than usual to get through. And if you aren’t sure what to do next.. simple.. just tread water while you figure it out.
My brother and I made it all the way across. Well… technically we never touched the shore.. because it would have meant wading through muck and weeds.. But we made it close enough that we felt we had accomplished our goals. As I lay there.. floating on my back… staring up at the sky… letting my tired muscles rest momentarily? I admit it. I wished for a boat. I wished that a boat would come by and tow us back across. Now.. I would NEVER have admitted that to my brother. Nope! I wanted to appear tough and in control. In FACT.. I wanted to appear so tough and in control that I asked my brother if he was ready to swim back .. BEFORE he could ask me. Lucky for me, my brother was wiser than me.
“Give me a minute,” he said calmly.
“K,” I replied equally as calmly.. but inside I could hear the Halleluiah chorus being sung by all of Heaven’s choir…!!
As I gave my brother his minute, I remember wondering.. WHY did we think this was such a great plan? Really when were we really going to tell people that we swam across a lake.. ALL BY OURSELVES! Would it make us proud? Yes. But really when would we be able to use it?.. was there a place for that on a college application? .. was there a section of a job resume it would fit under? The answer is no where. It is simply a matter of accomplishment.. a matter of pride. I had made it across the lake.. all by myself.. No one helped me… I was self-reliant and NOW I had proof.
I swam across a lake as a child.. Knowing this? It used to annoy me to watch movies about shipwrecks. I mean honestly?? How hard is it to swim .. or float on your back.. or simply tread water until help came? If I could do it? A wimpy book worm! Anyone could right? Ok, I’ll admit the thought of sharks under my feet might make me panic a little … and the fact that no land was in sight might make you feel hopeless.. AND that I have never TRIED to sleep while floating on my back.. but in my teenage mind? YUP! My teenage mind was confident that I could do it if I had to.
This matter of pride and self-reliance followed me from Childhood into adulthood. In fact, I frequently have to check my Pride at the door. When I get angry, I usually have to ask God to help me take pride out of the situation. When pride isn’t in the way? I don’t feel like I should be able to do everything myself. I don’t HOLD onto the ideal.. that this SHOULD have worked. Those moments where Pride gets in my way?? All I am doing is treading water. It doesn’t matter that I had the best intentions. It doesn’t matter that I am a strong person. It doesn’t matter how intelligent I am. If my desire to say I did it ALONE is what drives me? That means no help is in sight. Once I am tired? There is no shore of hope to aim for. If I continue to tread water? ALONE? Yup.. eventually I will be too tired to survive .. on my own.
Lucky for me.. I usually abandon my pride as soon as I feel like I am treading water. You know that feeling you get.. when you clean all day.. then cook.. then clean the dinner dishes .. then clean the kitchen.. and when you want to rest on the couch?? Your daughter wants you to pitch to her .. so SHE can have practice hitting.. (or homework.. or favorite tv show.. or.. or.. ) That feeling that your work will never end?
That is treading water..
That is when your Pride kept you from asking for help. The pride of saying, “I keep my house clean ALL by myself.” Asking for help? Or (in the case of teenagers) assigning help? It’s like asking for a life line.
Recently, my family and I moved back to Michigan. We love being closer to home. At first, we were gone every weekend. But as our lives (and our visits) slowed down, I began to miss having a church.
Now missing church IS NOT the same as missing God. I visit with God everyday. I talk to Him throughout the day. I try to read the Bible every day. I sing hymns and praise songs.. every day. And I thank God for His blessings everyday.
But Church? I began to really miss church.
Finding a church for us isn’t that simple. With a child having special needs, you need to find a group of accepting people.. People strong enough in their own Faith.. that a small outburst of laughter won’t offend them. People who can forgive tiny disruptions. When you have a 6 foot tall child with special needs? Yeah.. you need a group of VERY accepting strong faith-ed people.
It is a very daunting journey sometimes. A journey so scary to me that.. I sit here.. just treading water. If I have Faith in my heart? And God in my everyday life? YUP.. maybe I can do it on my own. I can tread water!!
But you know what? My legs are getting tired.
Moving 500 miles, cost my family a lot of money. Living in a hotel for 3 weeks? That cost my family a lot of money. Setting up a new home? That cost a lot of money. But we did it. On our own. (Okay, not on our own. Our families helped us whenever they could, with what they could.) And.. we pay the money on our credit card every month. We are making it financially .. on our own.
Then with life… and Faith.. we found answers through medical tests. Tests that cost money. More money than we wanted to spend, but money we knew would be well worth it in the end.. So we spent it…
But then.. my kids had to start this new diet. I never realized how much of our food actually had Gluten in it. So I headed off to the store.
And then.. my kids couldn’t have dairy either.. more label reading.. more surprises… So again I headed off to the store…
THEN .. my daughter’s tests came back.. No more corn.. or dextrose or maltodextrin.. (ps.. corn is in EVERYTHING).. so I headed to the store.. and found nothing.. I headed to another store.. and found one kind of chip. So I headed to the health food store.. You know that expensive little store that is only found in a big city? I headed to THAT health food store. And paid premium prices..
AND THEN?? My kids became healthy and lost a ton of weight. So I bought them new clothes.. When they lost more weight? I bought them more clothes.. and when they lost more? YUP.. you start to wish they weren’t quite so healthy. All in all, we had so many blessings because I had FAITH that God could help me heal my kids.
But financially? We have had no such blessings. Why you ask? Because we show God no Faith in Him providing for us. We know that this is something we can do.. on our own.. BY OURSELVES!! You guessed it.. we don’t tithe.
Now I know “tithing” is like a bad word to some people. I know when you see it on the schedule for the sermon? Most of us groan. It’s not that interesting.. OK.. it’s really boring to hear someone preach about it. And I don’t always agree.
God would like us to Tithe.. Yes.. But God wants it to be voluntary.. God wants it to come from the heart. God wants us to be the widow who gives Him the last 2 coins.. the 2 coins that stand between us and Poverty. He wants us to demonstrate that we have FAITH that He will provide for us. Otherwise? Otherwise it means that we would like to Financially .. do it ALONE. And God lets us try.
Now we (my husband & I) have tithed… in the Past. When we had a church.. we remembered to tithe.. And we have caught a ton of financial breaks.. in the Past. We have experienced moments of humble prosperity.. in the Past.
These days? The bills pile up. We can’t pay extra on the credit card, if we have extra vet bills and doctor bills. We can’t pay extra on our payments, when our utility bills are outrageous. We don’t seem to getting promotions or bonuses like we thought we would.. And the interest on our credit card? It’s like a car payment.
Are we surviving? Yes.. But we are literally treading water… and my legs are getting mighty tired.
Now you may be thinking.. If you send money to the church, hoping God will Bless you financially?? Isn’t that like trying to buy your way into Heaven?? If you THINK of it as “buying” favor with God then.. yes…
BUT.. if you say.. God I am treading water here.. I can no longer do this on my own. I am going to be the widow. I am going to give my last 2 coins to You.. To show that I have Faith that You can do a far better job providing for me.. then I can do on my own?? Then I truly believe that God will send you a boat.. It may be a row boat.. it may be a kayak.. That “boat”?… it depends on your show of faith.
How do I know?
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the LORD Almighty, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Let me prove it to you! Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not shrivel before they are ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. Malachi 3:10-11
So today? I am trying to decide.. Do we send off a check (to a random church)? Do we send a small portion of my tithe? Do we wait to see how big of a Faithboat God sends to help us with our financial burden? Or Do we send off a check.. with the whole 10%? 10% of our meager salary is a huge step of Faith. Do we take that HUGE step of Faith and shout, “We give You our last coin Lord”? … not waiting for a small sign that it is the right thing to do? .. not waiting for a small feeling of financial peace to ease us INTO a stronger show of Faith?
Well honestly.. my answer depends on my Faith in God.. The Faith that my husband and I have together..
..and right now? Well right now.. We are really tired of treading water.