thin margins.

Putting yourself in a place where if God doesn’t come through, you’re screwed.

I forget where I originally heard that, but it stuck with me. That’s what we talked about in church today, in 2 Samuel 15 where David is suddenly back to his normal, God-fearing self after his devastating mistake with Bathsheba, and repents yet is on the run again because of something he cannot control: his son Absalom is trying to take over. Knowing that he was going to have to suffer consequences for his sins and being ready for whatever that meant (because real repentance relinquishes all the rights to control the circumstances of the consequences…love that), he prayed and wept as he left his home.

He found himself again in the wilderness, fully dependent on God to provide for him and guide him. The first mention in 10 years of David praying to God is right at this moment of exile. This is where David thrived. In the wilderness. I love the irony of that.

For whatever reason, God always has me in the wilderness.

You would think I’d get a break, maybe some time where I am sitting there with a substantial emergency fund saved up, or a picture of what’s going to happen in the next few months, or get involved in a project that has a guaranteed good outcome, or at least an outcome that couldn’t potentially leave me homeless living in a box someday.

For some reason, he chooses to let me live with “thin margins.” I love that concept that Pastor Frank taught today. I have come to believe that letting me live with thin margins has not only been Christ’s greatest mercy to me but in a strange, counter-cultural way, I can honestly say this is my favorite way to live, which seems weird, considering I’m saying I love living like I don’t know where my next meal is coming from, or how I’m going to survive the year, month, day, etc.

Many people long for financial security, even thinking their motives are right because “God wants them to live in prosperity.” I believe God wants the best for us, but He does not always think the best means wealth. Most of us, when given wealth, will become slaves to it. God trusted David with wealth, yet did not always give him prosperity. He was always on the run, life was never comfortable for long for him, always full of adversity. There are other ways that God helps us to know him better, like when he gives us the gift of adversity.

My whole life has been full of thin margins. I left my familiar homeschool world simply because I felt like God said to go to public school. When I graduated high school, I walked into a future that no one else around me had chosen, at a college 12 hours away that I couldn’t really pay for and only knew 1 person. When I graduated college I entered a year of fundraising what looked like an impossible over $33,000/yr, while working a minimum wage job and barely surviving. Before I left for Germany, I experienced some devastating losses that I felt like I’d never come back from. Then I successfully moved to a country across an ocean without knowing a soul or even knowing how to do the job I was called to. I lived solely for 3 years on others’ donations and whenever I lost a donor, the margin shrunk. Job security within the shrinking European military world was shaky at best and I was reminded of this shrinking margin at every staff conference. I had a huge scare when I defaulted on a student loan and would’ve gone home if it weren’t for a very generous friend that God sent to me, like God sent Hushai to David in 2 Samuel 15.

Recently I came back to the states and left my entire life over there not even knowing if I would be making enough to live or if the ministry I would try to restart would even survive long term. Some people wondered if I should’ve just stayed over there, or should’ve gotten a back-up job. Thanks to generous donors who have continued or started giving to me in this new endeavor the Lord has called me to, I am surviving on part-time salary right now. Last month, though, the paperwork didn’t go through for my raise that I was desperately waiting for, and thus I have spent the last month barely making it, and even in this current week I have been struggling to make it just seven days until my new paycheck. I have no security in money right now because I don’t have any money, or even health insurance. I don’t even know if Young Life will make it in Northwest Georgia, though so far the Lord has confirmed over and over, we still are working towards what we would consider “making it” and will probably be for awhile.

However, the way I have learned to depend on God throughout my life and right now has been priceless. I honestly do not wish for wealth, or security of any kind, because like David, I thrive spiritually in these times of thin margins. When things get comfortable in my life, when I have money, or think I know the future (“If we knew what was in the future we would never live in the present” -from Heritage’s graduation speech yesterday), or am involved in an already successful project, or things are just “easy,” I tend to fall away from the Lord. I tend to put confidence in myself and I tend to be vulnerable to sin.

When my margins are thin, when God just has to come through or I am in big, big trouble, I am on my knees like David. I am asking him for help and guidance like David. I am depending on him, leaning on him for everything. I am seeing answers to prayers, I am reading His word, and I am seeing others’ through his eyes. I am so thankful for thin margins and wouldn’t have it any other way. As we sang “Bless the Lord, O My Soul” today I cried tears of gratitude for what most people dread and try to avoid their whole lives: thin margins.  I pray that I would always put myself in a place of thin margins; where if He doesn’t come through, I’m screwed. Because He always, always will.

He is, after all, the Provider.

we are not done yet.

Here are just a sampling of the crazy thoughts/lies that combine themselves together on “I quit” periods of my life:

Germany does things too weird
The military is so ridiculous I was not made to be involved in it
I’m too tired to go on
My club talk sucked
I suck
Kids aren’t listening
The spiritual oppression is too heavy
I’m not having any impact
I hate winter
I am never going to catch up
I’m overwhelmed
All my friends have left me
I have nothing left to give
What’s the point of staying here
I’m the Worst Community Director Ever
I don’t know what I’m doing
I cannot say another goodbye
I cannot give myself to another hurting soul, there’s too many
These kids are too far gone to be saved (this is the most ridiculous/Satanic one)
The commissary is out of holiday coffee creamers
If I have to pay one more parking ticket I’ll have to sleep in the street
Etc.
Which leads into…
God where ARE you?

None of these things are truth, obviously, except for the coffee creamer thing. As I was getting ready to head to staff conference it was honestly a big “I quit” week, but that day was a typical day, I was rushing around packing at the last minute, standing in my bathroom straightening my hair while drinking White Chocolate Macadamia Nut coffee (the closest I can get to holiday creamers). Brandon Heath’s new CD was playing, and the first song was great song based on what Jesus says in Matthew 9, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” All of the sudden it stopped being a song and started being God’s words and this line struck me deep:

The Master is calling, we are not done yet.

There are few times in my life where God speaks and physically brings me to my knees. It feels like someone is pushing you down by your shoulders or like you just lost all feeling in your legs. A good punch in the gut of WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU? WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? GET YOURSELF TOGETHER. DO YOU NOT SEE ME? I GOT THIS. FIGHT, BECAUSE I’M FIGHTING WITH YOU. TRUST ME EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE TRUST ISSUES. I SEE YOUR HARD WORK. KEEP GOING. -Love, God.

I mean, sometimes he sounds like that, for real.

Then once I got to the Club Beyond staff conference, God continued speaking. Our international director was the speaker. He is a phenomenal dad and has two adorable little daughters that he always talks about. This time he talked about a time he asked his daughter to clean her room, but she broke down, overwhelmed, and cried in childlike desperation,

“Daddy, I can’t do it. I’m not old enough.”

We laugh, but don’t we feel that way sometimes? We get exhausted and out of sheer desperation, at the end of our rope, like a child, we cry to God,

Daddy, I can’t do it. I’m not old enough.

In the story, instead of lecturing, punishing, or forcing her to clean, he said:

“Take my hand, and let’s go do this, together.”

I hate, hate, hate asking for help.
Sometimes reaching up and taking his hand is the hardest. Thing. Ever. I’d rather swat it away and do overwhelming tasks by myself.
Sometimes simply admitting, Daddy, I can’t do it. I’m not old enough is the hardest thing ever. I’d rather keep my pride and say, Hey, I got this, I’m not tired, I’m not exhausted, I’m awesome.

But his strong and clear message is, we are not done yet.
And then I realize, where is he? …he never left. He was just patiently waiting for me to reach my little hand up into his big strong one, and say, like a child to their daddy, I need your help.

“so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
-Isaiah 55:11