The Words of the Stewart Family
I sometimes wonder if an all knowing God really knows who we are and what we go through. It sometimes feels like we are here alone and we struggle. We go through difficulties in our relationships with spouses, children and each other. We struggle with financial problems; some are even losing homes they have been in for many years. Some struggle with addiction and despair. I thought God has so many things to contend with, He should not have to worry about me. I have to take care of myself and my family. But this thinking changed drastically several months ago.
I have never been poor; I have always had enough to live a comfortable life for as long as I can remember. All the financial struggles my family has gone through have been relatively minor and most were easily remedied. I became complacent and comfortable.
But in the middle of 2008, I saw my income start to dry up and vanish little by little. I thought to myself, “Don’t worry, you have enough and you can easily make what you need, you always have. Just be grateful and don’t complain”. This is very easy to say and it is just as easy to believe. I made that commitment in my heart and sat back and felt that all was going to be OK. If worst came to the worst, I felt God would make it right. Isn’t that what a person of faith needs to think and believe?
In my surety and my arrogance I spoke with God every day. I told God, “Please don’t worry about us, we will be fine”. But every day things were getting more and more difficult. With no income coming in, I was going through my savings at an alarming rate. It seemed as if the bills were just piling up. The more I prayed to God, the more my smile was strained and the more my faith was strained until the day came when my belief that all would be OK lay in tatters around me. I had $120.00 in my bank account and I gave it to a friend who was worse off than me, so I had nothing. The bills were still coming in and I had to stop answering the phone.
Monday morning I was driving my children to school and had no money to give them for school lunch. This was the one thing that hurt me more than anything; I was unable to pay for a school lunch for my children. When I picked them up from school both of the children went to their rooms and came to me later after homework. They had a few hundred dollars between them. It was birthday money, money they had earned doing work around the house and money their grandmother had sent them. They gave it all to me to help. I thanked them and had to leave the room. I was choked up and the tears were not far away. I was so moved by the heart of love from both of the children; I don’t think I will ever forget that moment.
Soon enough we were back to the same point -- no money, no food, nothing. I was still trying to pray and tell God not to worry, but underneath the words was a feeling of, “Why do we have to go through this? I have a public mission, I work hard, I am trying to be grateful and I’m not complaining.” I knew in my heart that even though I said the words, I didn’t believe them any more. I was hurt and angry that I was in this mess and felt that I needed to give up the public mission that I was committed to and find work to support my family. But I felt even more strongly that God did not want this. He wanted me to trust Him and continue.
Everything came to head one week in November. There was little food in the house but we made sure that the kids did not go hungry. The car was sitting in the driveway with no gas in it and I was walking to town and hitching rides to get to meetings. The heat was turned off and only turned on whenever anyone came to call. The electricity was three days from being turned off and I was due in Washington, DC for a meeting that day. I was ready to go, but I could not leave my wife in a cold house and I did not want to hitchhike into a meeting in DC. I was humiliated and hurt, WHERE WAS GOD? The old resentments were starting to bubble to the surface.
My wife came to me and asked if I was going and when I was leaving. She took one look at me and told me not to worry. She said, “God has you in his sight, go to the car and turn it on and God will get you to where you are going”. Well! I did just that; I went to the car, got in and switched the ignition on. There was enough gas to get me 3 or 4 miles and just as I was about to pull out of the drive, the wind blew a $20.00 bill in to the garden which stuck to the car window. Can you believe it? I put $10.00 gas in the car, made it to my meeting and spent the rest on milk and bread for home. [This is so good James...]
Two days later I was sitting in the house waiting for the electricity to be cut off and I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I could not speak to God anymore, I was beyond feeling anything. My wife came to me again and told me to remember what God had done for me a few days ago, but I was beyond caring. I had never been in this situation in my life and I was in so much pain.. I told her to stop bothering me and leave me alone, this was the end and there was nowhere else to go.
That morning we had been reading the book of Job. I felt just like him. The advice that his friends and neighbors had given Job was running around in my mind, “Just curse God and die”. I just could not get it out of my mind, but I could not go down that path. My wife told me to believe like Job and that was just too much for me. I was looking for a fight; everything was raw and near the surface. I shouted at Tilly, “Remember what happened to Job, he lost his wife, his children, his land, his wealth and his health”. I said, “Come back and tell me the same thing when we are living in a tent on the beach”. I was building up to let it all out and the only person who was there was my poor long suffering wife.
Do you know what she did? She smiled at me, and it was a beautiful smile. She told me again, “James, we have been together for 27 years, we have followed this way of life for over 30 years. God has cared for us and guided us all that time. When will you believe God has you in his sight and he will give you what you need?” To my shame, I told her that when I had enough money in my hand to cover my bills for the next couple of months, then I would believe. I hope this was just the heat of the moment talking. My wife told me that I would have what I needed within the hour, but all I could think was, “Yeah, Right!”
Ten minutes later Tilly was opening the mail when I heard her laugh. I thought it was another bill I was unable to afford. She came over to me smiling and handed me a piece of paper still laughing. It was a check for several thousand dollars. “God really does love you more than you will ever know”, she said. I was ashamed at my small mind and faith but excited that God had shown me his love and patience.
Later that evening, I was driving my daughter to her meeting. We always listen to the 7:00pm play on Christian radio. This evening the play was about a man who had lost his job and how God worked in his life through his family. The play ended with a quote from Matt: 6:31-33. I knew it was just for me and the words seared into my mind and heart as they were spoken.
Do not be anxious, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.
A few days later I opened the mail and found another check for over $4,000.00. Things are better, but we still need to be careful. I know that if I do what I have to do for God, then all will be OK.
My public mission is Family Fellowship (Hoon Dok Family Church) and small group ministry. I believe with all my heart that those small groups can be the place where we can truly love God, attend True Parents and live for the sake of others. Small groups are the place where we can find a safe, nurturing environment where we can support and care for each other. Small Groups are a place that can truly impact our lives and our movement. It is the place where we can grow in heart, spirit and numbers.
Please don’t be like me, a person with small and tired faith. Believe in the future of our movement and our family. Believe that God has all of in his sight and reach out to your brothers and sisters, reach out to your neighbors and your family and build a small group that will expand into a safe, nurturing community of heart where God can dwell with us. I believe that this is what God is calling us to do at this time and all that we need to accomplish this will be there for us. If a sparrow cannot fall from a tree with out our Father in heaven knowing, how much more will our Father know of us and prepare all we need.
God bless you and your family.