Not a one of us “gets it right” all of the time, do we? We all err, and we all fall short. That is a fact of life. But sometimes we forget our limitations and God’s limitlessness. When things go “wrong” (by our definition) and we choose to play the blame game, we can pass judgment on God and ourselves.
For a few years, I had opportunity to assist local families, who were purchasing Habitat for Humanity (HFH) homes, to acquire the basic furnishings that they needed for their homes (a service that is not part of the HFH program). My role became that of intermediary, matching families’ needs with available donations.
Family after family, I witnessed God’s faithfulness in His provision to meet or exceed each and every need. Time after time, every “T” on the checklist of the family’s needs would be crossed and every “i” dotted, as exactly the right items arrived without duplication. I, among others, amazed by what God had done in the past, came to expect (trust) God to simply fulfill “our” plan for each new family.
Then came the test. Who did I really trust, and in whose plan was I really operating?
The test centered around the bedroom decor of one young girl, who dreamed of a room containing blues, purples and horses. The request from her heart seemed simple enough. But as time passed, not a single appropriate item containing blue, purple or horses arrived. As the family’s move-in day approached, my faith in God’s provision began wavering, and I began outlining possible plans in my head regarding what I could “do” to “remedy” the situation. The plan that unfolded, however, was definitely not mine.
One day, an hour from home, I suddenly remembered that I needed to make a quick purchase before going home. So my husband pulled into the parking lot of a Walmart store that was unfamiliar to us, and I darted inside the store. As I hurried down an aisle toward my destination, a bolt of fabric sitting atop a pile of other fabrics caught my eye. Printed on the fabric were large stars and galloping horses on a bold background that contained blue and purple.
The fabric was not one that I would have immediately considered for a young girl, but it fit the bill. Hesitating for only a split second, I snatched up the bolt, thinking that “my” problem was solved. But my delight was diminished when I realized that there was only enough fabric on the bolt to make simple window treatments and, possibly, a pillow sham. We would still need a coordinating bed cover. But having a multitude of colors in the fabric from which to choose, the “problem” seemed to be over. I was elated. Surely we would receive a bed covering of one matching color or another.
But we didn’t. In the short time that remained before move-in day, which was the week before Christmas, the only bedspread that arrived was a pink floral, a decidedly “no match.” To make matters worse, in the busyness of the Christmas season, I put off sewing the window treatments and pillow sham until the night before they were needed. That evening, as I began to sew, my sewing machine jammed and would not be righted. I couldn’t sew a thing.
Immediately, I began berating myself, second-guessing my apparently poor decisions. Why had I not been more proactive in obtaining the simple items that the girl had requested? Why had I not at least done the sewing earlier, so that I would have something to offer the girl? I was responsible (as I saw it) for a little girl’s disappointment that she did not yet know existed. But I knew it, and I felt horrible.
The following day, the girl’s mother was all smiles as she and I first arranged her other daughter’s room. We made the bed, hung curtains and added a few special touches, all in the theme and color that had been both requested and donated. God had provided, just as I had seen Him do so many times previously.
Why, then, was I empty-handed regarding the other girl’s dream? Why had God not shown up?
I showed the horse fabric to the girl’s mother and confessed my not having anything to offer her daughter, except for the pink floral spread. As we smoothed the spread over the bed, the girl’s mother tried to console me. But as I looked at the empty windows, my heart sank even more. I felt only guilt and shame. I could not undo the “mess” that I had made. We finished the room, working with the little that we had, and then we headed to the kitchen to unpack boxes.
Shortly thereafter, an aunt and uncle of the family arrived to place Christmas presents under the tree that stood in the living room. While they were there, the girl’s mother gave the aunt and uncle a quick tour of the home, and then they departed, leaving us to finish unpacking.
As we worked, the girl’s mother (still bubbling with the excitement of being a first-time homeowner) told me that the aunt had been surprised to see the pink floral bedspread. Thinking that the girl needed a bed covering, the aunt had purchased one for the girl for Christmas, and it was now sitting under the tree. The aunt was concerned that her gift would be neither needed nor wanted. But the girl’s mother reassured the aunt to the contrary, explaining that the pink floral spread was only temporary.
Now that the aunt was gone, the girl’s mother (and I) couldn’t wait to peek in the package containing the bed covering. A twinge of hope arose in me that maybe––just maybe-–-my negligence could still be redeemed in some small way. If we were “lucky,” the new bedding would coordinate with the horse fabric.
But those who think that they need luck, don’t know God.
Not yet surrendered to that truth, I held my breath as the girl’s mother carefully pulled back the tape and unfolded the paper on one end of the package. Then, together, we bent over to peer inside the wrapping. Staring back at us were the eyes of galloping horses on a background of blue and purple. The comforter was an exact match to the fabric that I had purchased! Our jaws dropped in astonishment as we looked at the gift and then at each other. Unable to contain our excitement, we jumped up and down with joy.
Neither the girl nor her desire had ever been forgotten by God, and the fulfillment of her dream had never been up to me. I had done my part in God’s plan––no more and no less, exactly as He had intended, without me even being aware that I was doing so. The only real “problem” that had existed was my doubt of God, thinking that the outcome depended upon me alone.
While I would have been satisfied with (make that “proud of”) my sewing handiwork and a stranger’s donation, God had something much more meaningful to give to the girl through her aunt, who loved her. Nothing that either I nor any other stranger could have offered would have measured up to that. My role and my offering were secondary to the aunt’s, as they should have been. Yet God had gifted me with the opportunity to participate in helping to make the girl’s dream come true, giving me delight in doing so.
The true gift, as God had planned, would be revealed on Christmas morning, delivered in the way that God had always intended for it to be delivered: in love. The gift, as all gifts should, would stand as a reminder of God’s eternal love for each individual, the love with which He wrapped the Gift of His Son on that first Christmas morning long ago, enabling each of us to receive His love that our hearts so desire.
God is truly the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), letting us know that we are each individually important to and loved by Him. He provides us with far more than the necessities of life, delivering comforts in ways that far surpass our expectations. God is always present, always providing, always caring. He is just as concerned with and involved in the details of our lives as He is in the big picture.
My shortcomings (as I tend to view them) aren’t always what they seem to me to be. God can and does use me exactly as I am, fulfilling His Plan, His Way, in His Time.
And that gives me comfort, no matter what happens.
God is the ultimate Comforter.
“And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” (2 Corinthians 1:7)
THOUGHTS ON “THE LESSON OF THE COMFORTER”
Jerry on February 16, 2013 at 3:25 pm said: “Very nice. I think we all “operate” as you described, and if we do our best, and then have faith in God, things turn out so well. Thanks for sharing.”
DeBorah on February 15, 2013 at 1:57 pm said: “I’m soooo very glad Cathy Butler shared this with me…this is beautiful…I haven’t read a devotional that held my attention like this in a long time. It was a practical, down-to-earth lesson in the love of OUR FATHER for HIS children! Thank you and God bless.”