I wrote this post on Friday, but I wasn’t ready to publish it yet.
While most years find us remembering this “Good Friday” as the day Jesus bore our sins at Calvary, prior to celebrating a glorious Resurrection Sunday, I was all set to enjoy this day, April 14, 2017, as a good Friday for another reason. Today, at long last, we were to close on the house in the Bronx.
Three years ago we began a life changing journey of deputation. I admit, it wasn’t anything I had planned on doing (even as a missions major…I thought there must be a way out of it). But it was good, and hard, and growing, and we crossed the finish line of that season of life on November 28, 2016, when we pulled into our temporary driveway after our last deputation trip. Near the end of that process, we gave up a much-loved apartment in Brooklyn. We moved into missions apartment in upstate New York, 2 long hours from my beloved Brooklyn, to save money on the rent. It has been 19 of the longest months of my life living in this place. We are secluded, in the middle of tick-infested woods, instead of in the middle NYC. There are no “quick trips” anywhere as the grocery store is one direction, Wal-Mart the other direction, and the trek into the city for church turns an hour long mid-weed service into an 8-9 hour ordeal.
I came here kicking and screaming. I didn’t want to leave the city, and I wasn’t happy to put everything in storage and live in a house over a deserted church building out in the middle of nowhere. But as I wrestled with God on this issue, I came to see the benefits and the lessons I have learned here as good. Last April, we began looking for a house to buy instead of an apartment to rent in the Bronx. The mortgage would be cheaper than rent, and living in Mountainville had enabled us to save up a small down payment which we never dreamed we would have.
We found the.perfect.house in my opinion and had an accepted offer on it, but the neighborhood was bad and in the end so was the electrical wiring so we backed out. I had wanted desperately to shout from the rooftops how God had given us a house in the Bronx, and I was willing to trust Him with the not-so-great neighborhood on the border. We prayed all summer long, while on the other side of the country, over another property far out of our price range. We watched the price fall and the house not sell, and we saw God answer prayer after specific prayer. But in the end, we were leaving Washington State when we got a call saying the seller had accepted a higher bid. I was devastated. That was a very difficult, dark season that I walked through in my spiritual life.
We came home at the end of deputation, and nearly fully supported. After Ben’s ordination we started looking again and a house came up, in a very good neighborhood (where we hadn’t been able to look before because of the average cost), in our target area, and suited our family. It was a short sale, so it was cheap. The work which needed to be done was able to be completed by Ben, so we could renovate it on the cheap. It had a two car garage and thus a guaranteed parking spot on a busy street. I thought this was the “better” which God was providing after losing the last house for no apparent reason.
We have been through the gamut these last four months, with one problem after another. We would take two steps forward, and the next email from the bank or lawyer would send us five steps backward. We filed for extension after extension, we waited. God gave us an extra grant from the City, and we thought He was finally starting to provide and to answer our prayers. At last, on March 9th we were clear to close. But the seller wasn’t. There was a problem with the title, and it has taken us five weeks to clear up. Tomorrow – the last extension on two parts of our paperwork, and they were finally going to close the deal. Finally. Everyone was squeezing us in on a holiday weekend. The bankers and underwriting department stayed late on Tuesday, until 8 pm, to give us our closing disclosure in time.
But last night, after 6 pm, a discrepancy was discovered in the short sale approval paperwork, and we were told that the closing was adjourned. The bankers in Texas had gone home, and wouldn’t be back until Monday. I thought Ben was playing a joke when he told me.
When we got the notice that we could finally close tomorrow, we thanked God for our house, and then we gave it back to Him. Hardest thing I have ever done, perhaps. Sometimes I wonder why this house has been such a trial to me. After all, it’s not like I have lost a child in pregnancy, or had a parent die, or am in desperate financial straits, or am leaving all of my family for a third world mission field, as some of my friends. Why is the house so important?
Where has God been? Why hasn’t He answered our prayers? Why so many delays? Doesn’t He want us to start a church in the Bronx? What am I going to say to the people who keep asking me how are things going? Now what? I have wrestled with these questions over and over. I have blamed God. I have been angry with God. I have questioned what He is doing. I have felt alone and deserted. I have tried to rent an apartment just to get out of all of this. These questions…and I still don’t have an answer yet.
But I was praying and thinking this morning and I remembered an excerpt from a devotion book called “The Music of His Promises” by Elisabeth Elliot. She talked about how the disciples were confused when Christ told them of the coming Cross, and the promised Holy Spirit. After all, they didn’t want the Holy Spirit. They just wanted Jesus. Why did He have to go away? Because it was better. Because He had a better plan. That devotion ended with the words to this old hymn, “Still Will We Trust.”
Still will we trust, though earth seem dark and dreary,
And the heart faint beneath His chastening rod;
Though rough and steep our pathway, worn and weary,
Still will we trust in God!
Our eyes see dimly till by faith anointed,
And our blind choosing brings us grief and pain;
Through Him alone who hath our way appointed,
We find our peace again.
Choose for us, God! Nor let our weak preferring
Cheat our poor souls of good Thou has designed;
Choose for us, God! Thy wisdom is unerring,
And we are fools and blind.
So from our sky the night shall furl her shadows,
And day pour gladness through his golden gates,
Our rough path lead to flower-enameled meadows,
Where joy our coming waits.
Let us press on, in patient self denial,
Accept the hardship, shrink not from the loss;
Our portion lies beyond the hour of trial,
Our crown beyond the cross.
Still Will We Trust