Janelle and I are in Austin! Well, we’ve been in Austin for a couple of weeks, actually. We’ve almost got the apartment set up, and I’ve reached the point where I have just come to accept the few boxes remaining in the bedroom can could probably function as some sort of modern decor. I’m pretty sure Janelle feels otherwise.
Austin and The Stone already feel like home. On Monday night, we gathered with other residents and interns on top of the Whole Foods building downtown and had a time of worship, fellowship, and prayer for the city and the different ministries we’ll each be a part of in the coming months. (“My church gathered on the roof of the downtown Whole Foods” might be the most Austin sentence I’ve ever said.)
I officially started on Tuesday, and that’s where the title of this entry comes from. I was accepted into this residency later than the other church-planting residents, and with that came the extra burden of trying to raise support in a very short amount of time. A little over two months to be exact. We filled out our budget, sent it in to the church and began to raise our support around that budget of $2800 per month.
I’m just going to be honest because I don’t know how else to say things. When this process started, I prayed one of those stupid prayers. It wasn’t stupid because it was wrong theologically or anything. It was stupid because it was dangerous and it is probably going to hurt. It’s like when you pray for patience and just dismiss that you’re praying to the God who calls Himself a refining fire to purge the Israelites of their iniquity, and who says through Paul that we develop perseverance in our faith through His testing. God answers those dangerous prayers. What I asked God for was that He would not only provide for us the financial support we needed, but through the process He would teach me to trust in His provision.
Some of you just slammed your head on your desk. “Provision is the hardest one!”
See, I thought He was teaching me this when a number of potential supporters from our church in Dallas just weren’t going to be able to help us like I had hoped. But funding began to come in from our friends who had just gotten married or just had babies, and family members who believed in us and wanted to invest in us, and we were overwhelmed at the generosity. When we moved down here, we were at 80% of our goal and were feeling pretty good about it.
But if I’m being honest, I don’t think I ever really started trusting God for His provision. I wanted to believe I did, and even told myself I did — “Hey, God really provided for us and it came from somewhere other than where we expected.” But I didn’t really believe it. We were just well prepared to send out enough letters and we knew enough people and a million little reasons why it worked out.
But then I started work on Tuesday. And by “started work” I mean I spent 9 1/2 hours doing HR paperwork. But as I sat down with one of the Stone’s number crunchers, we quickly realized that my budget was wrong. (Now would be a good time to mention that I don’t do numbers good.) I had accounted for all of our expenses, savings, school loan payments, and all of those sorts of things and totally forgot to take into account taxes, social security, and tithing. Where as I started the day off feigning trust in God’s provision and secure in that 80%, I suddenly found myself around $2100 below my actual budget needs.
Now, look, did God change the numbers on me? No. My inability to understand taxes is what messed up the numbers. But I asked Him to teach me to trust in His provision and here I am. If I had done the budget correctly, we would still be short the amount we need, but would I have moved to Austin? Well, that part I’m not too sure of. Here’s what I do know — I have two weeks to find 21 more partners to commit to supporting Janelle and I at $100 a month for 24 months.
Does God answer prayers? Yes. But too often I fall into this trap that if He answers my prayers then it’s going to be a comfortable thing. But our God sits as a refiner’s fire, to mold us and shape us into the image of Christ that we may come to know Him in fullness in glory. Every time I pray one of these dangerous prayers — prayers where I ask God to shape and mold me — He answers. And it hurts. Sometimes it hurts because your ankle gets broken (that’s another story entirely), and sometimes it hurts because you’ve just packed up your wife to move to a new city where, unless He raises up supporters in a very short amount of time, you’re going to be eating nothing but Ramen for a while. This isn’t because He’s some 9-year-old boy frying ants with a microscope, but because He purges sin from us like venom from a wound.
So, here we are, forced to rely on God’s provision. We have until September 20 to find 21 more supporters who want to see the gospel take root in Austin, TX. We need 21 supporters who will be coworkers in the truth by supporting us, just like Gaius in 3 John verses 5-8.
Will you support us? Check out the support page to find a link to the secure giving site. If you are already on our support team, please continue to pray for us, for Austin, and for the churches here and pass this blog on.