A Gift of Friendship

I got jolted last week. And in came in the form of a check.

On Monday night, Steve answered the phone and it was a friend of ours from church asking if he could come over. This struck us as unusual, for one thing it was a weeknight and while we have socialized occasionally with him and his family, we don’t see them outside of church on a regular basis.

Our friend arrived with an envelope in his hand. We sat down in the living room and made small talk but it was obvious that the reason for his visit was in the envelope so we opened it.

Inside was a handwritten note saying that he and his wife knew that our business was struggling and that we had been on their hearts and that they wanted to give us an expression of their love and care. In addition to the note, there was also a check for a significant amount.

Steve and I were speechless as a rush of thoughts flooded our minds. “I can’t believe this”¦this is so unexpected. Oh my gosh, thank you”¦we’re stunned,” was about as articulate as we could be. Our friend jumped in to explain that as they have sensed a need and God has laid it on their hearts, they have helped people around them with financial gifts, whether it is fellow church members, coworkers, or complete strangers. He talked about how God has continued to bless them as they give and that their resources seem to be like the Bible story of Elijah and the widow’s oil ““ they are always replenished.

We talked a little about our situation; 2007 was a tough year for our business (as he obviously already knew) but that our home equity line had provided a cushion during this time. We talked about our fears and frustrations and the lessons we believe God is teaching us through this refining process: dependency on Him and faith in His plan for us. As we’re saying this, we’re both feeling that if this is the case, then why do we feel so uncomfortable about being given this generous gift?

We wanted to say, “Thank you but we can’t accept this,” right then but that would have been completely insensitive. They had not arrived at the decision to give us this gift lightly. Something this significant deserves more consideration so we told our friend we needed some time to pray about it. We each gave him a big hug and he left.

In the days following his visit, I wrestled and prayed with what being given this gift meant to me. Did I think about keeping it? Sure, for a couple of minutes. But arriving at the decision to give it back was easy compared to thinking about why they had given us the gift in the first place.

Out of the many people this generous couple encounters who are struggling financially, why did we seem to be so much in need? We only see them for a few minutes once a week. How did they get a message from us that we are in desperate circumstances? After all, we are healthy, we have a house and cars, we don’t dress too shabbily, and we have a business set up to sell our skills and talents.

The only answer ““ and this is painful to admit ““ is that our faces, attitude, and even posture convey a message that the burden of our financial stress is so heavy that we have lost hope.

That is pretty humbling when I consider myself a Christian. Isn’t it basic to my belief, as our Pastor said in the Easter sermon this morning, that no problem is too big for the same God that raised His son from the dead?

What do I really have to be burdened about? I don’t think anyone would argue that a family’s financial situation shouldn’t be taken seriously. But to put it in health terms, I’m acting like I have terminal cancer when we actually just have the flu.

As the days have passed, the purpose of the gift has become clear. It wasn’t given to us so I could send MasterCard a bigger check this month. It was a very creative way for God to give me a wake-up call to recognize the blessings I do have. To underscore His point, within two days, we got two emails from fellow church members who are truly in need.

We’re getting together with our friend and his wife later this week to return the check and tell them how it blessed our lives in an unexpected way. It truly was a gift.

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