Broken Hallelujahs

Broken hallelujahs escape my lips.

My husband, who has barely slept in days, looked at me this morning and asked, “If God chooses not to provide for the Senegal mission trip any other way, then are you okay if we aren’t reimbursed for the personal money we have already invested?”

As my heart answered “not really,” I struggled with how much I had already given to this trip. In three days, David is leading a group of about 25 high school students to Senegal, Africa, to work in the capital city Dakar and out in the bush for nearly two weeks. For months, his attention and focus has been directed toward the logistical nightmare that a trip like this entails. Many of our after-school conversations consist of updates regarding whether or not he was able to find the 2 gallons of Karo syrup the missionaries requested, whether or not a student’s weird reaction to the typhoid and yellow fever immunizations had subsided, whether or not the 20 extra suitcases or so had been tagged and weighed. I’ve already given so much (time, prayers, money, marriage), and I want to be excited this morning – the passionate prayer warrior of a wife encouraging my leader husband. But, several hundred more dollars? Must I, Lord?

I stumbled out of bed sometime past 1 a.m. last night to find David sitting in our lit livingroom. “I finally figured out the discrepancy,” he muttered. “I know where the missing $650 got lost in the budget.” Ever since the Accounting Department notified him yesterday that he didn’t have quite enough money in the Senegal account to cover the huge check needed for trip expenses, he had been agonizing over how his numbers didn’t match. For my perfectionist planner of a husband, this situation is exactly what he spends countless hours trying to prevent.

He was haggard this morning. It didn’t help that last minute trip details like two weeks of substitute lesson plans, final trip supply packing, and grading still need to be attended. It certainly doesn’t help that his anti-malaria meds are already making the little sleep that he does get quite interesting.

As the sun and our stress levels slowly began to rise during our commute to school, I began to read. Slowly. With reverence. In desperation.

Romans 4-5. The Message.

If you’re a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don’t call your wages a gift. But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it’s something only God can do, and you trust him to do it—you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked—well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.”

Sheer gift, Lord? Really? How? How this morning will you part the Red Sea and let Your children walk on to that airplane Saturday morning?

“That famous promise God gave Abraham—that he and his children would possess the earth—was not given because of something Abraham did or would do. It was based on God’s decision to put everything together for him, which Abraham then entered when he believed. If those who get what God gives them only get it by doing everything they are told to do and filling out all the right forms properly signed, that eliminates personal trust completely and turns the promise into an ironclad contract! That’s not a holy promise; that’s a business deal. A contract drawn up by a hard-nosed lawyer and with plenty of fine print only makes sure that you will never be able to collect. But if there is no contract in the first place, simply a promise—and God’s promise at that—you can’t break it. This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift.”

Pure gift. We simply have God’s promises to rest our weary, desperate hopes in. It’s not a business deal. We can’t manipulate the King of Kings. We can only embrace what He does. What He will do. With mission trip finances. With infertility. With depression. With children who don’t behave. With family members who seem to die before their times.

“Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do.”

Make something out of nothing. Not based on my earthly vision, but focused on Christ’s Heavenly vision.

“Abraham didn’t focus on his own impotence and say, “It’s hopeless. This hundred-year-old body could never father a child.” Nor did he survey Sarah’s decades of infertility and give up. He didn’t tiptoe around God’s promise asking cautiously skeptical questions. He plunged into the promise and came up strong, ready for God, sure that God would make good on what he had said.”

Plunging into promises. Not on tiptoes. Believing. Ready for God. Ushering in the miraculous.

“By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.”

My hallelujahs are broken. Where are the wide open spaces where I am to shout His praise? My doors thrown wide open. His doors already swinging wide for me.

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!”

My feet traced a worn path around the school’s indoor multi-purpose rec room this morning. Scuff marks from thousands of basketball shoes mix with the ghosts of sweat, tears, victories, and losses. I’m one in a million who has begged God for answers in that gym. Begged God to show up. I’m begging still.

The lyrics of Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” played over and over again as I circled. “Please, Lord, come through today. Strengthen my husband. Envelop him with Your Peace. Fill me with gratitude and surrender.”

Quickly exchanging worn Mizunos and jogging shorts for the more appropriate dress of a teacher, I gave in. God was going to provide a way, even if that meant that my budget was the “manna” broken to provide for someone else. How could I say “no” when so much is continually given to me? Provide as you are provided for. Give as you are given. I believe. I accept. I will obey.

During first period I received this IM from David, “One of the trip parents just walked in and wrote a check for $500. God is so good . . . I want to find a corner and just cry.”

My manly strong husband reduced to tears? The goodness of God overwhelming his battle-worn body?

It is gift. Sheer gift. Pure gift. Embracing the promises.

Singing my broken hallelujahs.


*All photographs from last year’s Senegal Mission Trip

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