Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How God Filled My Gas Tank

On this date one year ago, I was driving across the country from Colorado to Tennessee to pick up my stuff and move it out to where I would be living. It was right after I got back from Haiti, and God had provided a Chevy Blazer for me, which I wrote about at the time I got it. He had also provided $50 for my gas tank in a lovely story that I also told here on my blog.

I didn't know it at the time, but there was about to be so much more to the story. The details are so God-glorifying, because it was so only and totally HIM that did this and took care of me, and I believe it's worth sharing.

As a bit of background, back in the summer of 2012, I had sold "Matilda," my Mercury Grand Marquis, for $2000, and then I spent that money in order to fund the initial part of my time in Haiti. It was with a bit of regret that I parted with the car, not because I loved the it so much, but just because I knew that I once the money was gone, I wouldn't have a car OR money.

"Cast thy bread upon the waters," Solomon says, "for thou shalt find it after many days." (Ecc. 11:1). That is how I felt. By the time I got back from Haiti, God had provided more, and I had $2000 left in my bank account.

I returned from Haiti to Colorado and bought the Blazer for $1650, leaving me $350. I filled up the gas tank and God provided enough to fill it again, and then I had a couple of airport runs, which emptied me out again, leaving me with just $300.

I had planned to go home to Tennessee, and I calculated that gas (one way) was going to cost me $300 to $350. I really asked the Lord about whether or not I should do it, because it seemed irresponsible and just plain foolish to use up all the rest of my money to get home and then not have anything to get back. But I felt like He was calling me to go home, and that He would provide.

Then, in a move reminiscent of His normal impossible-working pattern, He wiped out my $300. First I got pulled over for a burned-out headlight and had to replace it. Then my spark plugs were bad and needed to be replaced. Then I had an adventure on the highway that ended in the amputation of my driver's side mirror. Finally, my battery died. Fixing all these issues cost $300.

My scheduled departure day was Tuesday, June 18. Monday evening, my roommate and I had a prayer time together, and I prayed about my $300. "Lord," I said, "You know I had $300 for gas money, and now it's all gone. Yet I still believe that you are calling me to go home, and that you are going to take care of me and provide what I need. You know my needs. What are you going to do?"

That same evening, someone handed me fifteen $20 bills. Exactly $300 cash. "This is for your trip."

My roommate and I exchanged shocked glances, jaws dropping. Thank you, God!

I left in the morning and drove 22 hours across Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin, stopping at my sister's house to visit for three days. When I arrived near her house, I filled up my tank, and after that, I had $60 left, which would not be quite enough to take me the 800 more miles to Tennessee. "Ok, God," I thought. "What are you going to do next?" I was kept in perfect peace that He was taking care of all the details.

On Thursday, the day before my departure to Tennessee, I went to have lunch with some old friends, and I was telling them this story, exulting in how God was blessing me with provision (but leaving out the fact that I didn't have enough to get home). When I finished, they told me a fascinating story of their own about how God had provided for them an extra $200. "Now I'm going to pass that along to you," the husband said, and with that, he handed me two $100 bills.

"OH!" I said, "I didn't tell you that story to hint to you that I was asking for money!" I said. "You don't have to give me anything! Really!" But he prevailed and I accepted, making a mental note to self that if you tell these kinds of stories to people, it may come across as manipulative or end up being a subtle way of hinting for money (suggesting compassion for the 'poor penniless missionary'). In this case, it wasn't; my only thought was to exult to them of the grandeur of God. However, after this happened, I determined that it would be better to wait to make it public until long after the fact, so that the details of my immediate pennilessness would not come out (which is why I'm telling this story now, a year later, instead of right when it happened).

I went on down the road, filling up my gas tank as needed along the way. God told me to give away $100 of it, which I did.

I arrived home Friday night with $50 left, and I waited to see how God would provide the next step. I needed to drive back to Colorado with a U-Haul trailer full of my stuff. He sent an encouraging token of His remembrance when the next Thursday, I found a card in my mailbox with a check for $50.

Fast forward to June 30. I found out that the U-haul rental would be about $200. My heart kind of sank thinking about the amount of gas that it would take to get back to Colorado while pulling a U-haul trailer, but I realized, "Why sit here pining away about this when I could just ask for it?" So I asked. "Lord, I need about $500. Can you provide that?" And His answer immediately came: "Done." Taken aback, I said, "Oh. Okay. Thank you!" I didn't know how or when He would do it, but I took him at His word.

That evening, I checked my bank account, which I hadn't done for at least a week. My eyes widened. Five days earlier, on the 25th, someone had anonymously transferred $1000 into my account. "Before they call, I will answer." My prayer of that morning had been answered five days earlier.

Two days later, God told me to give $300 of it away, which I did.

The next day, someone handed me a check for $400.

Do you start to see the marvelous details of how this is working?
•  I gave away $2000; I got $2000 back.
•  I gave away $100; I got $1000 back.
•  I gave away $300; I got $400 back.

I'm not building a "prosperity doctrine" here. I gave up what He asked freely, without expecting anything in return. However, I would like to ask, Is it possible to out-give the Lord? We need not hoard, grasp, clutch, or protest, "Let someone else give." We can live with an open hand.

We clench our little fists around our possessions because we are afraid that if we let go, we will lose everything--but when we open our hands and take the plunge into that fearful territory, we discover that we can live with absolute fearlessness and peace.

My dad loading the 5x8-foot U-haul

Anyway, getting back to the story, by the time I had to go back to Colorado, God provided everything I needed in order to rent the U-Haul trailer and make the long drive. Between the U-Haul rental, gas, food, and tolls, it cost approximately $700 to drive out to Colorado. Round-trip, the total travel expenses were about $1050. In the meantime, I gave away $400 and even started sponsoring a child with Compassion International for $38 per month. Being rich enough to give money away is wealth indeed, especially when just a minute ago, you had nothing. Beyond the travel expenses, I lived on the bounty that God had provided for the next month and a half while I worked on my book. Then, just before I ran out, He provided a job.

So that's the story of how God filled my gas tank all the way from Colorado to Tennessee and back, when I started with zero the night before my trip. How great is our God! Sing with me!

And that was only the beginning of the amazing work He was about to do. There was the story of the job, the guitar, the yard sale, and the house, and so many more little evidences along the way of His incredible work to lead me forward. Truly there is no limit to His ability.