This past week, Doug and I were humbled by a gift from someone we have never met. An individual on the other side of the country was moved to send us a gift card to help us out with groceries this month. In a letter they sent with the gift, this person shared about how after they decided to do this, they were met with opposition every step of the way. I was deeply moved by not only this person’s generosity of spirit, but by her perseverance in following the spirit’s movement in spite of varied, and obviously frustrating, obstacles.
I am struck by how this is such an accurate picture of what it means to live as people who lay our lives down for others. So often we are nudged, or sometimes slapped in the face, to move toward another in compassion and generosity. And we can feel total certainty that yes, this is God prompting us to see and respond. But so often the obstacles do come, be they our own lives and schedules or other outside forces, and like the thorns that squeeze the life out of a vulnerable plant, they choke us. What was an opportunity to participate in a work of God, large or small, near or far, passes.
My husband is a brilliant musician who has recorded on numerous albums, who has led worship all over the globe, and who writes songs that bring people to their knees. Yet he does not fit the musician mold in one remarkable way: he has only owned one guitar his entire life (it was given to him when he was sixteen), it is a no-name guitar that has no reputation or prestige, and he has never wanted to replace it with anything else. “I was given this guitar at the time I needed it, and it has done everything I have ever needed it to do.” Now, I know a fair number of musicians, and dare I say enough guys in general, to know how strange my husband is in this situation: totally uninterested in the bigger, the brighter, the flashier toy.
After beginning to break multiple strings every week in our worship services, Doug took his beloved guitar in to a guitar tech. They were able to do a temporary fix for part of the problem but, “you have a year max on this thing” was the guy’s diagnosis: it was terminal.
When we got the news from the tech, I told Doug that we needed to pray for God to give him a new guitar. It was not soon after that I received news that our sister church in Pasadena wished to designate a financial gift toward the purchase of a new instrument for Doug (many of them had sat through our worship services and seen the strings fly!). The amount they set aside was exactly half of what it would cost to purchase the one guitar Doug had said he would love to own above all others. I began to pray and scheme and think about how I could raise/find/earn the other half.
Less than twenty-four hours later, an envelope arrived in our mailbox. Inside was a letter with only two sentences written in it: “Please find enclosed a check in the amount of… This gift is to be used toward the purchase of a new guitar.” Inside was the other half of the full amount needed to purchase Doug’s guitar, sent anonymously from someone at my home church in Seattle. I remember driving to Pasadena that day (I think Mercy had a doctor’s appointment) and having to fight repeatedly to see the road through my tears.
It was a year and a half ago that the tech gave us the bad news, and he was right! At about the twelve-month mark, Doug’s guitar broke to the point of requiring some clever use of twine to hold it together (thanks, Rabbi Dauermann!). He played it like this for months until it literally could not be played anymore. It was only then that he used the money given to him and placed the order for his new guitar.
This past Sunday, Doug stood in front of our congregation and led our worship in song with a new guitar in his hands. There just happened to be a family from my home church in Seattle that was visiting that day, as well as a family from Pasadena Covenant, our sister church. For me, these two visiting families who had never met unofficially represented the two church “families” that made Doug’s need, and our congregation’s need, their own. Two families that knew nothing of the other’s intent to give; two families who were somehow nudged or slapped; two families who were paying attention to God and who persevered in making a gift.
And like my long-distance friend, the opportunity to participate in something God was doing did not pass them by. And I am grateful.