Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Power Of A Fleece

Ever heard of a guy named Gideon?

He shows up in the Bible at a critical time in Israel's history, when the country was without strong leaders and was besieged by its enemies -- mostly the Midianites. Gideon is called by God to fight, but points out (correctly) that his clan is the weakest. He apparently doesn't get much respect, either. Why in the world would God want HIM to lead the battle?

Then Gideon does something interesting.

He asks God to affirm His instructions by wetting down a fleece Gideon has laid outside on the threshing floor: "...if there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You have said."

The next morning, he squeezes out a bowlful of water from the fleece. But that isn't good enough.

"Then Gideon said to God, 'Do not be angry with me...Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.'
         And God did so..."

Gideon goes on to defeat these powerful enemies -- but just with 300 men, whittled down by God, based on, among other things, how they drink water from the stream. Read about it for yourself in Judges 6-7.

     It's one thing to test God -- to demand answers to the difficult questions and decisions we face in life. How arrogant we humans are, to announce to the Master of the Universe that we know what He'll answer -- and it will be what WE want.

It's another to ask Him for guidance. Quietly, humbly -- because you honestly don't know which way to turn.

     Enter the idea of putting out your own fleece.

This one's via Etsy.

For one thing, you'd better not be asking to violate His laws. Murdering that obnoxious sibling, stealing money needed to make a loan payment, etc etc.

For another, you should be living as clean a Christian life as possible. "Do not repay evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible. If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone." (Romans 12: 17-18)

Having said that -- is it bad to ask God for help regarding even smaller decisions? Demanding, perhaps -- arrogant, sometimes. But if your attitude (and desperation, quite frankly) is right, putting out that fleece can guide a whole raft of decisions.
     Fortunately, God makes it clear in the Bible that He wants us to talk to Him. It's called prayer. His Son Jesus reinforces that, over and over again. And I am so grateful, especially considering the life events we've had in the past few days, that the Master is listening. 'Trust me,' He says. 'In all your ways, acknowledge me, and I will direct your paths.' (Prov. 3:6)

So what if you're not sure about those paths?

When the Brick graduated from the University of Michigan in 1984, he knew he wanted a Master's in Engineering. (I'd finished my M.A., just before we married.) He was accepted at four schools, in Wisconsin, Texas and Colorado. But which...and where?
     We had a motorcycle, $850, a tent, gear and saddlebags. (And eventually our own fleecy sheepskin, to cushion sore backsides). And wanderlust. We planned to spend the summer following Lewis and Clark's trail to the West coast, and see what happened after that. Both sets of parents (worried about us -- I can see that now) planned to meet up while on their own trips. We would visit other family members, including cousins in Oregon. Nothing else was firm.

    "Then what, God?" I prayed. "Where do you want us to go after that?" No answer -- only the conviction that we should go on this trip.
     The day before we left, a friend from our Ann Arbor church said, "You should stay with my sister...she lives near Boulder." (One of the Brick's acceptances was the University of Colorado.)
     We had a wonderful time on the Motorcycle Summer. We camped free wherever possible, and lived on hot dogs and canned chicken noodle soup (and a horrible box of 'nutritious' Roman Meal cereal that we mutually loathed, but couldn't afford to throw away). We saw some incredible places, and learned to trust and depend on each other in ways we still use today, some 30+ years later.

     It was early August when we pulled into Colorado, in the middle of a protracted monsoon...miserable when you're on a bike. Our money was gone, except for a little left for gas. We'd stayed at Mud Springs the night before, and felt as bedraggled and dirty as we looked. Would this stranger really put us up?
    "I'm out of town right now," she said, when we called. "My friend is there, though -- she can let you in." Fortunately, the friend trusted the people under the dirt. After a hot shower and bed (which I had trouble sleeping in, after weeks on the ground), the questions began.

     "Is this where we're supposed to stay, Lord?" we asked. "Is this where you want us to be -- or should we go to Fort Collins (the Brick was accepted at CSU), or head down to Texas?"

     We didn't know. 

     So we took a big step. "If we're supposed to stay here, Lord, You'll provide a place for us to stay -- and a job offer for Cindy. Before we leave town in three or four days."
     Pushy, huh? I can remember thinking how presumptuous we were, to make such statements. There was no way either of those things was going to that solved the problem. Right?

Except -- 
    *After a frustrating search on our own, we stopped in at CU's Housing Office and were offered an apartment, if we'd commit to it within 24 hours. A beautiful corner window-filled second floor place, with a balcony shadowed by a leafy tree. (We'd been 27th on the waitlist.)
    *I had not one, but two job offers: one from CU, and one from the Daily Camera, Boulder's newspaper (which I accepted -- and had a huge influence on my writing future).

That was 34 years ago. In spite of economic hard times; the Brick's leaving engineering to work in the school system; my work for a magazine (and then myself); two girlies born, both natives; and several homes lived in --
     The Brick and I stayed in Colorado. Which was the right decision, all those years ago.

All because of a fleece.

Since then, we have had other situations where we had to make a decision -- and quickly. With a little trembling and hesitation, we put out other fleeces. Although God has not always been specific ("Wait"), He has never failed to guide us.

I thought about this again a few days ago, after our grandnephew's death. (There are a whole raft of trust issues about this, to start with.) The Mama was urging us to come to Michigan -- and she'd pay for it. But I had agreed to a dogsitting job, and there were other commitments to be met. It seemed clear that one of us should go...and that someone was probably me. The Brick could handle the dogsitting and other duties. I could do the writing needed while I was at the family farm.

 But what about the money? Our savings would be needed for February's property tax payment; we only had a few hundred dollars extra. Plane tickets to Grand Rapids generally start at $350, and go up to as much as $900 or so...particularly for a last-minute trip. The cheaper option was Chicago -- but with an Amtrak or bus ticket thrown in, the price was still too high. No one would have the time to drive six (or eight) hours roundtrip to pick me up.

"Okay, God," I prayed. "It does seem that I'm needed there. But we don't (or won't) take money from The Mama. If I'm supposed to go, there will be a plane ticket we can actually afford."

Ha -- fat chance. I opened up Kayak, plugged in the numbers...

And found a roundtrip plane ticket, DEN-GRR, that was less than I'd seen in decades of flying to Michigan:  $176.00.

I turned to the Brick to ask him what he thought. (Okay.) Thought about it some more -- now it was my turn to hesitate. Refreshed the page.

The ticket price went down to $156.00.

Easily what we could afford...and yet another answer from the Gracious Master.

By fleece.

Yet again, I was humbled by His guidance. Try it for yourself, if you're one of His followers.

       It works.

 "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse - your whole nation - because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,' says the Lord Almighty. 'Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,' says the Lord Almighty."
                                  -- Malachi 3:8-12


Virginia Berger said...

Always thrilling when God so specifically answers prayers.

Cindy Brick said...

It's also humbling, Virginia -- that such a great God cares so much for our small affairs.

thanks for writing.

Another Mom Moment That Fits

Which may have led to this: Did I ever do that to our girlies? Naahhhh....