Looking back, I’m dumbfounded. How did I miss the seventy times seven flashing neon “good choice” doors? Choosing instead the door down the long hall with the sign reading: You Know Better. I’m grateful for all the times God waited patiently while I collected consequences from behind the “bad choice” doors. Those lessons, greatly improved my choosing skills.
Contrarily, what about the times when God bolts a door shut? No matter how hard you pull or twist the knob, it won’t open. It’s stuck, bound with spiritual duct tape. We have free will to do what we please, pound our head against the wall as often as we like. I’m talking about the times when HE intervened, protecting me from the scariest monster of all… self.
I’m not alone.
Remember the story of Balaam (Numbers 22:21-39), when he tried to shut his ears to God’s commands? God’s tactics to block his way, make the Coyote’s grand attempts to stop the Roadrunner appear amateurish. Placing the sword drawn Angel of the Lord on the road, worked for the donkey, but poor Balaam remained clueless, beating the animal. Imagine that moment when he realized he was dumber than his donkey.
Don’t you hate that?
Noting where the intelligence laid, the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, letting him reason with Balaam. Does he listen to his miraculous mule’s eloquent plea? No, he argues. Lastly, the Lord opens Balaam’s eyes,. When he sees the angel of the Lord standing in the road, sword drawn, he has the ultimate light bulb moment, falling face down.
A disclaimer: No animals were harmed in my version of the talking donkey story.
It began smack-dab in the middle of a “now what?”moment. My husband and I were standing in the 2400 square foot building we’d leased for 16 years. It was freakishly empty, swept clean, nothing left but an echo, previously buried under the menagerie of revolving antiques, and a CD player, chosen as the last item to haul away. We approached the player, hand in hand, ready for whatever random song was next in the mix.
Like a mannequin couple, come to life at closing time, we stepped into the display window, for a last dance, chuckling as Ruth Etting’s, 1920’s lilting voice sang the fluke choice, “The Song is Ended but the Melody Lingers On. ” Pressed close in each others arms, for all the world to see, we said goodbye to our business, we had created together, with a wink and a passing prayer.
We weren’t alone. At the glass door, wearing his best work tie,
sat our silent partner, Gabe, a 110 pound, yellow lab mix, sighing his own goodbye. Head down, instead of high and proud, aware his job as Executive Greeter, had come to an end. The head pats, tummy rubs and treats for a job well done… no more.
The decision to close our business came after much prayer. It wasn’t the first time we had asked for a sign to either keep going or close the doors. The answer had always been yes, coming in the form of a windfall of sales or sometimes a sense of palpable peace. This time, the answer was undeniably saying, “It’s time to close the doors.” Our morning after prayer response… walked through the door with news of yet another loss of income, slicing our dwindling income by half. A tangible answer as clear as Gideon’s dew cloth.
I wish I could say we dropped to our knees in gratitude for clarity. We did not. First, we discussed how we could keep our business afloat… lay off our loyal employee of 10 years… take out a loan… sublease part of our building… sell 2nd hand furniture along with the antiques. Then, as if doused with a bucket of “duh!”… we realized God had given us a clear answer. But it was “NO,” not the “YES” we’d wanted. Once we absorbed the “duh” moment, peace washed over us, and God took care of the list of impossibles.
The overwhelming task to sell all merchandise, proved fun and surprisingly profitable. Hordes of smiley buyers with open pockets hauled it all away, while shouting sincere thanks our way. Loyal customers, both local and long distance, carted off the finery and kitsch, the rare and odd, the ugly, the lovely. God shined his light on it all, whether a 19th century oil painting, kitschy resin grape clusters from the seventies, a 500 piece collection of pink Pyrex, or even a 1930s set of 7 foot tall wooden reindeer. There was a buyer no matter how bizarre.
With a fistful of cash, we thanked God for blessing our business. We prayed, determined to wait on God, for direction before taking the next step. We meant it.
We talked a lot about peace, rest, trust, being still. But we walked out our fears, took action, trampled all over our prayers to wait and listen.
We visited every old, charming building within a commutable distance of 300 miles. We pumped each other up, spouting plans for bigger, better this time. We agreed if the right place came available, we would mortgage our home. Our mantra spoken in unison, became, “You have to take risks to succeed.”
We had means, drive, will.
What we didn’t have was a “Yes” from God. We couldn’t get Realtor’s to return our calls. Except one guy. We asked questions, showed interest, requested he get back with us. He never did. We persisted… nothing. No one would take our money. It was as if God made us invisible or so hideously undesirable that no one could stand to talk to us.
Looking back, all I can say is, “phew” and “Thank God.” As it turned out, within weeks, my husband received notice that his 14 year position as a primary school counselor lost its funding. Come fall, he’d be out of a job. It’s easy math. Two incomes, minus two incomes equals zero income.
Thank you for saying “No!” For sending your angels to hog tie every Realtor in the Pacific Northwest, or however you pulled that off. What if we’d mortgaged our home to buy a new building? He saved us from losing our home.
But that’s not all God’s “NO” answer did for us. It prepared us for a season of great loss. That year came with four family deaths… my dad and brother, the father of my children and my husband’s mother. To be honest, I don’t recall the details of how we survived this whirlwind season of loss. The point is, we did.
Today it’s easy to see why God said no. Daily we thank Him for blessing us with the privilege of working at home. Our little online business continues to meet and surpass what we thought possible and allows time to write a book, and blogs, like this one. My husband is doing what he enjoys too, blessing others with the work of his talented hands, as a carpenter.
Oh ye of little faith… that’s us. I hope we’ve learned through our obstinacy, more-so God’s faithfulness, that “No” can be a great answer. Had we just rested in His reassurance… had we waited… had we faith.
What an awesome God indeed!
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