You Can't Out-Give God - A True Story
Martha was a single mother, raising her now teen-ager since she was just a year old. During the darkest time of her life she got pregnant and without knowing how, decided she was capable of raising the child on her own. Her circumstances were NOT her baby’s fault. Though she had opened a child support case when her daughter was two, her Dad hadn’t ever paid as ordered, and not a cent for the last two years. The economy was bad. She’d lost her job, so understood times were tough. With arrears totaling six figures, he’d done everything to keep dragging her through court to avoid paying. This was so costly, as she couldn’t risk losing her job over filing her own court papers. An attorney was a must! Martha finally conceded to his motion to terminate his own parental rights. Of course, her attorney suggested she petition the court, using his petition as a responsive admission of the criteria. Though the termination was awarded, there would no longer be future child support; not that it mattered. Martha had put her faith in God to provide for them.
Yes, she’d lost her job, lived on unemployment, short-sold her home and had to down-scale back to renting an apartment in a different city. Thank God He provided her job in the nick of time, even though it was thousands less per year. Living on less would be just fine, except that the unexpected expenses continued to mount (i.e. $1,000 in car repairs, etc.). Not even a year later she had accrued $7,000 in debt. The one thing she feared most was losing her job again, while owing so much money. It’s bad enough having her credit score gouged by the short-sale, but a bankruptcy, too? No. She prayed God allow her to keep her job long enough to get her creditors paid in full.
This past weekend, she did what she could to be sure her daughter could try out for America’s Got Talent® in San Francisco. Martha’s grown daughter lived in the ‘Tenderloin’ of the big City with her husband and five-month-old baby (Martha’s JOY). While that area is so bad, there was recent news that the Housing Authority was going to move them to a larger place in a nicer part of the City! God is so good! As Martha and her teen daughter met her son-in-law at the BART station and walked into the heart of the Tenderloin, the poorest of the poor were standing in the food line, just outside their apartment. One of the women looked straight at Martha and shouted, “You got one week, bitch, with those blue eyes!” Martha's heart hurt for the people as she walked by, and yet she realized that woman was probably right. How would she ever survive in such a place, not having lived among them on the streets?
There was a homeless woman staying with Martha’s grown daughter, son-in-law and baby named Prada. Prada was going to try out for America’s Got Talent®, too. Martha’s two daughters and Prada went to the auditions for the day and got home around dinner time. Everyone wanted pizza. While the others ordered in, Prada told Martha about her favorite Greek pizza she was craving. Martha decided to go with Prada to get the pizza. Martha didn’t mind paying for the pizza ~ boy, did it look and smell awesome! As they made their way home, walking by the hungry on every side, Prada saw an old friend that went to the youth recovery program with her. He begged for some pizza, but she said she would buy him anything he wanted there at the corner Subway®. His face lit up as he sported his leather jacket, given to him by another friend. He felt so blessed. Prada used her food card to buy him whatever he wanted. Martha’s heart just melted as she saw the compassion the poor had for the poor. “That’s truly the heart of Jesus,” she thought.
After leaving Subway®, Prada told Martha she only had an eighth-grade education and was taking classes to get her High School diploma. Martha was proud of her, hopeful she would one day have a better life. As they continued walking back to the apartment, Prada’s glasses kept falling apart. She would take them off and try to piece them back together. She had super-glued them where they couldn’t be glued anymore; then, she taped them, but the tape wouldn’t hold. The feeble, broken frames couldn’t even bear the weight of her heavily layered prescription lenses. Martha’s heart welled, knowing she had always been taken care of by the LORD. Her life was so blessed, in comparison! She so wanted Prada to have a good pair of glasses. She thought to herself, “Prada gave out of her need; I want to give something to her that she needs – glasses.” Martha then asked, “Prada, where did you get your glasses?” After finding out it was at the local LensCrafters®, she said, “Tomorrow, we’re going to get you brand new glasses!” Prada couldn’t believe it. “Really?” Martha was so happy to see the heart-felt joy Prada felt. Yes, Martha knew she had debt, but could only think of God’s message to Prada: “You gave out of your need and I will bless you above and beyond to provide what you need.” Oh, God is good!
The following day, they went to LensCrafters®. It was going to be a costly sum, since Prada needed an eye exam, new prescription lenses and quality frames to hold them. As the ‘chi-ching’ sounded in Martha's mind ~ $350 plus this and that….$400…she had fleeting thoughts like, “This really isn’t your problem. You didn’t have to fix this.” Nevertheless, she thought, “This girl gave when it hurt; it hurts to give, but it’s the right thing to do. Even if I lose my job and can’t end up paying off the credit cards, Prada will have her glasses!” Martha confessed to the LORD it hurt to give, but she was going to trust Him.
Prada was SO HAPPY when she got her new glasses. She could even see better than before! Martha’s heart over-flowed with joy. On the walk home, another stopped to ask for food ~ this time, a newly pregnant mother. Martha asked her if she knew of the local food line. The pregnant mother responded she had eaten there before, but it made her very sick. Prada agreed; the food was horrible there. Martha knew she had already bought a pizza, paid for glasses and now, there was yet one more mouth to feed. One thing she learned is, you never go to a poverty-stricken area unprepared to give.
They all walked to McDonalds® and Martha told the pregnant mother she could get whatever she wanted. Only $9.00 of food? See, she wasn’t greedy! She was needy!! Martha wondered about the baby and asked if she would be able to care for it. The lady said, “No. I’m going to abort it.” Reality hit, that even if she did give birth to that child, it would probably be a crack baby and just another street kid that grows up to be homeless and hungry. Nevertheless, Martha told her that she could adopt the child out. She could receive money for doing so, too. Martha and Prada assured the lady that Jesus LOVES her and her baby. The pregnant mother asked if there was a church nearby. Almost in unison, Martha and Prada told her that the Church is IN her, if she believes. Jesus would be in her and with her. She seemed comforted by that message.
It was a long afternoon and sure enough it was time for Martha and her teen-age daughter to catch the BART back home. As they left the Tenderloin behind, Martha felt a sense of relief and grief, all at the same time. She thought of how repugnant it felt walking on those streets ~ kind of like a ‘hell’ of sorts. “Home” surely felt like heaven, in comparison. Then it dawned on her that The Holy God, came to this unholy earth to die for us, so He could live in us and be with us throughout our lives of trials here. What great compassion! That is the heart of Jesus!!
Martha took the next day off work to get some much needed chores and errands done. The following day, she went to work while her teen attended school. Since it was late winter, it was dark when she drove home. Still, she had to get the mail, waiting on that one last tax form. Sure enough, the tax form wasn’t there, but there WAS an envelope from Child Support Services. “What could this be?” she thought. “Another notice of a continued hearing for arrears?” She opened the envelope and realized it felt like a check. They hadn’t sent checks for years. In fact, any money was supposed to go on the electronic debit card she’d kept in the filing cabinet (always empty; never full). Straining to see in the dark, she made out a 6 then a 9 and a 1. “What ~ $6.91?” Wow. As she walked into the light, she couldn’t believe her eyes: $6,901.00!!! Her debt is PAID!!!
Martha’s thoughts raced, as the quiet voice of the LORD reminded her of what she heard in her heart for Prada, “You gave out of your need and I will bless you above and beyond to provide what you need.” This time, it was for HER.
You know, Martha never ‘tithed’ to any ‘church’, but she gives from the heart, as God leads her. This is a true story. I pray you have been deeply touched by Martha’s testimony. She learned so much from visiting the Tenderloin of San Francisco, watching the needy care for the needy, giving with joy that trumped her discomfort of adding to her debt. She knew it was God’s love and God’s direction to provide for Prada. Obedience is better than sacrifice (rituals) ~ and you know what? You can’t out-give God. Amen.