In the continuing series, “What’s the Shape of Your Faith,” Heather’s question for us this week has to do with those times in life when God has done something specific, something that was obviously just from Him. All Christians have moments like that, whether they are the big dramatic moments or the everyday manna of God’s blessing. Heather calls them “God’s thumbprints.” I like that.
I’ve been excited about this since I first read of it. Here are just a few:
- My family moved to a new small town before I started the eighth grade. I had never had trouble making friends before, but that particular school was the most cliquish place I have ever seen. I don’t know how many weeks I spent walking around the grounds at lunch time by myself. Every morning I would beg my mom not to make me go to school and she would practically have to push me out of the car. I’m not sure how long this went on — it seems like months, but it may have been just a few weeks — but finally I became friends with one other girl who was also outside any of the established groups. It was a lonely and painful time in my life, but there are things God wants to teach us in those times. I didn’t see God’s specific thumbprint in the situation, however, until years later when I heard about some of the things that those who I admired and wanted to be “in” with (yea, even had a crush on ) were into. I was shocked. Then I saw the Lord’s mercy in keeping me from close friendships with those people. That was a vulnerable and unstable time in my life because it was the time my parents’ marriage was in its final stages. That was the era I did things for which I am ashamed now: who knows how much worse that would have been if I had been close friends with people who would have led me farther astray.
- I mentioned this in my testimony, but when we moved to another town before I started the eleventh grade, we interviewed at a Christian school. I really wanted to go, but we couldn’t afford the tuition. We drove to the school again to tell them that I would not be able to go after all. My mom went inside while I stayed in the car. The pastor and his wife drove up, saw me, came over and told me someone had paid my way to go to school that year. Someone did the same for my senior year. It was at that school and then through the church the school was under that I got under regular consistent teaching, made sure of my salvation, formed the basics of my convictions, got grounded in the faith, heard about the Christian university I would later attend, and so much more.
- My parents were not able to help me attend college. I had one scholarship from my Christian school for I think maybe $1,000. I determined every year that if I had the money for the first month’s tuition, I would go and trust God for the rest. Working every summer, I was always able to have at least enough to start, but not enough to go very far. Many times over the years I found a note from the business office in my post office box saying that an anonymous donor had applied money to my account. One semester when I was particularly low in funds, I felt it was presumptious to go to school that way and I should probably plan to stay out a semester and work. Though I did not broadcast my plans, I received notes and checks from people at church urging me to stay in school. I remember one time in particular when my Sunday School class back home took up an offering and sent it to me. It came at just the right time, and I went to the store to buy deodorant and other necessities. I ended up with one dime. When I got back to the dorms, someone told me we were having a hall party that night and they were collecting a dime from every girl on the hall for refreshments. As I gave away my last dime, I had a moment of panic being totally and literally without a dime to my name. Then the Lord reminded me of what He had just done by sending money for my necessities and reminded me to trust Him about every need. Even with all of that, though, I had a pretty big debt accumulated at the end of my college career. (In fact, my husband used to sometimes jokingly refer to our wedding as that happy day when we consolidated our debts. ) I struggled with that — the Lord had provided so much, had I not had enough faith to take care of all of it? My husband reminded me that sometimes the Lord provides miraculously through other means, but most often He supplies by giving us work to do to provide money to pay our debts.
- Just after our first anniversary, my husband and I were driving from SC to Texas to spend Christmas with my folks. On Christmas Eve morning, our car broke down just outside of Biloxi, Mississippi. Our car was a little German Opel that my brother had nicknamed Gustav. We had had trouble with Gustav before, and it was always hard to find parts for it. In fact, one time it had taken four weeks for the needed part to come in. That was in the back of my mind as I silently wondered what we were going to do, how long we would be stranded, how would we get either on to Texas or back to SC — and how we would pay for it as we had no resources, no savings, not even a credit card. I don’t remember for sure but we must have walked somewhere to call for a tow truck because there were no cell phones back then. My husband just picked a mechanic with a towing service out of the yellow pages and called, explained our situation, and mentioned that we had an Opel. The man responded, “Oh, that’s fine. We just bought out an Opel dealership and have a lot of parts on site.” They towed us in, and even though they had closed at noon, one mechanic stayed and worked on our car. I don’t even remember what was wrong with it, but they had the part we needed. I called my mom to let her know we were delayed, and she offered her credit card to pay for it, which the mechanic accepted over the phone. We were amazed at God leading us to just the right mechanic with a random pick from the phone book, and what could have been a long, drawn out ordeal was taken care of in short order!
- When my second son, Jason was born, he had not one but two knots in his umbilical cord. I hate to think what would have happened if either of those knots had been tight enough to cut off the oxygen and food supply he needed, and I thank God for protecting him through whatever gymnastics he had performed to cause those knots.
- After I came down with transverse myelitis, so often I felt that I could serve the Lord so much better without the residual effects of it and asked the Lord many time to remove them. He did provide a great deal of recovery (and after I found out more information about it, I realized it could have been so much worse, and He had indeed limited that trial), but there were still symptoms which affected my everyday life that dismayed me. Yet I did see how He worked in and through it, both in teaching me further dependence on Him and in using me to encourage others. Not long ago I came across a devotional by Elisabeth Elliot about how God uses limitations to shape our ministry — that was a new thought to me which greatly ministered to me and helped me to see the TM in a new light.
There have been so many other little everyday instances of the Lord’s intervention and provision: safety during near collisions in the car, finding something that was lost after earnest prayer about it, praying for wisdom and receiving it, a word of encouragement at just the right moment, something from the Word that was just exactly what I needed for the day. I am so thankful for His loving, intimate, wonderful care!!
You can find other stories of God’s thumbprints or add your own here.