Then Sheena's birthday came, and God said, "I want you to give that dress to her."
I had heard her mention casually that she didn't have many clothes. (Not in the context of hinting around for her birthday, but just in the course of conversation. We were talking about whether or not it was safe to hang clothes on the line to dry, and she had mentioned that most of her things had gotten stolen off the line, leaving her with very few of her shirts).
But THIS dress! Oh, God, surely you can't mean this dress!
He did, and I surrendered it.
My roommates and I were talking about what we could give to Sheena for her birthday, and I said, "Do you know what I think would really bless her? Some clothes. We can't go out and go shopping at the mall, but we could all give her like one thing, and they would probably all fit her, because we're all about the same size."
So that's what we did. We prepared a gift bag and I unobtrusively put my dress in the bottom of the bag and covered it with tissue paper so that no one else would see it (not that they knew what special significance the dress had to me anyway, but just because I didn't want to make a big deal of what was going on between me and God). We delivered the gift bag to Sheena on the morning of her birthday and sang Happy Birthday to her and brought her a couple of balloons.
There. The dress was gone.
Sheena told me later that she almost cried when she opened the gift bag, and she wore one of the shirts that day, and another one the next day, and different items from our gift quite often. But for a couple of weeks, I never saw her wear my dress.
"Lord," I was tempted to say. "She doesn't even like my dress."
"Quiet," He replied. "I know what I'm doing. Trust me."
Then came the day that Sheena came to my room with a gift. It was for me!
On top was a note.
Inside the present was my dress. Ah! I couldn't believe my eyes. I thanked Sheena, and thanked God, and wore it the next day.
The note got shuffled into some of my other papers, and time went by.
Then it came time for my roommates to leave. Angela went through her clothes as she packed and left many items for me that she said she didn't need and wasn't planning to take home with her. It was a dazzling array of really, really nice things! They were practically brand new, with cute styles and cute prints, and even two orange things, and all my size. And there was a lot!
I looked at them and went to Angela.
"Angela, thank you!" I said. "These aren't just any ordinary clothes, I think these are the nicest clothes I've ever had!"
She gave the glory to Jesus and said that they had been provided for her by someone else and that she had gotten them specifically for this trip and thought it was best to leave them here when she left.
Then Bethany packed and left me a whole stack of beautiful and stylish things, too. And Kate donated her cute jean skirt, and Leann (I think) left a pair of shoes and Angela left another.
After they left, the card from Sheena surfaced again, and God connected the dots of all these circumstances.
It was like resurrection from the dead. It was like planting one seed and reaping many seeds. My dress came back to me, but not the same as it left. It came back with something attached to it--God's multiplied blessings.
If I had clung to the dress and refused to give it up, I would still have it in my closet, just as I do now. But I wouldn't have the same pleasure in wearing it. My pleasure would be spoiled by the memory of having stubbornly resisted God's request to take it away. Now, my old pleasure in wearing it is not only intact, it is multiplied by all the sweet memories of what God did.
With my own resources, I have never dreamed of going to a store and buying brand-name clothes in several different styles and several colors or prints in each style. But God went shopping for me and picked out better clothes than my own taste or pocketbook would have done.
It is as if God said, "When you give me one thing, I am able to give back to you far more than you gave up. I am not limited by your resources or human supply. You gave up one dress, and your sacrifice bore fruit. You gave it up, not expecting to get it back or to get anything else in return. But you have received from my hand what only I could give. I multiply the seed sown. I am the source of bounty. I am your provision."
Oh, sweet life of dependence on His generosity!
All this for giving up one dress!?
And of course, after the girls left, Sheena and I split the clothes from Angela and Bethany. (Why would I keep them all to myself? I'm all for more sowing!)