Twenty-dollar manna

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset I toss. The sheets stick to my legs in Georgia-heat and grey sunlight filters through the window. Anxiety won't let me sleep.

I mentally review my finances again, like a flash card that keeps reappearing at the top of the stack. Even if I did get a job soon, it could take weeks for the first paycheck to process, and that was if...

Birds start chirping louder and no longer able to feign sleep, I peel the sheets back and wander downstairs.

God will provide. He already has.

I look around the lovely home he provided for us to stay in. Warm with laughter, full of southern cooking and alive with dogs and the Holy Spirit. What more could I ask for?

But even as I sit in this sleeping house, the flash card jumps to the front of my mind.

No, we can't justify going to church today.

The trip to church is an hour long. This means two hours round trip-- with no traffic. Which comes to about a half a tank of gas. I do the math, it'd cost us about $20 to go to church and back. It's a small sum, but with no income is it really worth it?

I walk outside to the front porch. Morning has burst into full song now.

The birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them..

I sit on the stone front step. The day is already threatening to be very warm, but now it's still cool with the morning dew. Light dances with grass and flowers outside the house and leaves rustle with early breeze.

I hear footsteps. It's Emily back from her morning walk. She joins me on the stone step and I pour out the concerns that eaten up my night. A slight line creases in her forehead as she listens.

"I think we should save our funds and just listen to a sermon at home," I suggest. "What do you think?"

"Yeah... we can definitely do that..." Emily agrees but I can tell she is downcast. I am too. I want to go to church this morning.

Part of the reason I left my home and job to come to Atlanta is for this church. To grow in it and meet people. To start building a home and a community for my beloved and I... Now I couldn't even to afford to go.

We watch the day continue unfolding before our eyes.

A car pulls up. Olivia, Aunt June's 19 year old girl hops out. Her bleached-white hair is wild from the night before and she saunters up smiling at both of us.

"Hi guys! You're up early," she observes and adjusts the bullring between her nostrils.

"Yeah we were going to go to church, but I think we've decided we're not going to spend the gas money on it when we can just listen to a sermon here," I explain.

"Oh," she stops. "Well maybe this will help..." She runs back to her sticker-plastered car. Almost immediately she's back and tosses a $20 bill on the stone beside us.

"I meant to pay you for helping me dog sit this morning," she explains as we look at her wide-eyed.

"Olivia... no... it was no trouble at all--" I start to protest but am stopped by a stern look through dark eyes set in a halo of white hair.

"I'm stubborn and you're taking it," the smile fades from her face briefly and she scolds me.

Then observing my defeat the smile reappears on her face and she announces she's headed back in to sleep for "lit-er-ally forEVER", and the door shuts.

Emily and I stare at each other and then at the twenty dollars sitting with us on the step.

"What do we do with this?" I ask.

"Let's pray" and she does just that.

Could it be? I wonder. Like manna, this has fallen into our laps. Not more than we need, not less.

Why is it always so hard for me to accept God's blessings? Without reservation, without fear? I know the answer.

I believe in a God who takes away. In one who challenges us to "do hard things" with the promise of eternal life. I understand a God who allows martyrs to be burned, relationships to be broken, cities to be burned, sicknesses to be endured, families to be separated and who requires sin to be punished.

But what about life now? I hear my heart scream.

I am well-acquainted with the God who sees the big picture and allows me to (bitterly) strive to see it from the same view. I understand the language of pain and loss. I've become so accustomed to the call to "come and die" that I search for it behind every bend.

But this God... I look at the $20 on the step. The one who feeds birds and dresses flowers, who gives his children bread, who creates manna and parts seas, this God I never expect to find.

I struggle to understand how they coexist...

Who is this God?

Emily finishes praying and we look at each other.

"What do you think?" she asks.

I think I disbelieve provision because it comes across as too good to be true. I think I doubt God's goodness and his gifts because I tell myself lies about his character. I think my lens is faulty and my understanding poor.

"What do you think we should do?" I return.

"I think earlier this morning we needed $20 to get to church, and I think within minutes God gave us exactly $20 to get to church. I don't know how much clearer of a word we need from him. We need to have faith."

Faith. I've practiced faith in suffering. But what about faith in goodness? That the blessings we receive aren't happy coincidences. That they are planned and arranged by our Father who owns a thousand cattle on a hill.

I need faith to believe in the God who gives, and not just the one who takes away.

Even more, I need faith to perceive that in the taking away, he is actually giving.

And morning dawns on my doubtful heart-- anxiety is scattered.