Around 4am on October 15th of 2015 I lay, as one might expect, soundly asleep. Silas, who at the time wasn’t yet sleeping through the night, was gracefully asleep, as was Kaile. Without any prompt, I was awakened-and it wasn’t a midnight snack or bathroom visit that I needed. It wasn’t Silas crying out or Kaile bumping me that woke me. I’m a frustratingly deep sleeper, as anyone who knows me well will attest.
So there I was, awake.
And, I believe, it was all God’s fault.
To provide a brief background to the Fall of 2015, I had recently finished seminary and was working part time at a church doing music primarily, and part time at a Christian mental health hospital caring for adolescents from broken homes. During that season Kaile was staying home with Silas. But she had recently expressed that she was going to apply to several graduate programs for drama therapy, a program only three school in the United States offer. One was in Manhattan, one in Boston, and one way out West in San Francisco.
After Kaile told me she was applying, my heart was immediately not at ease. The weight of possible transition and change was heavy upon my soul. We had recently purchased a home and invested time furnishing it; we had amazing friends in the area; our families were both nearby.
Change? Now? And what about my vocational journey? We knew not a soul in any of the places Kaile was applying to for graduate studies. And there was so much gravity keeping us in the greater Grand Rapids/West Michigan area.
For much of the first half of October, I was not at all centered. I prayed fitfully, wondering about how to participate as a co-leader in my family. I spoke with a couple people about things. I peppered Kaile with questions she could not answer [how will grad school work financially? what about Silas? we have a house now, remember!?]. This went on for some time, not at all helping our marriage or relationships. I was stressed. And, quite honestly, I do not have an anxiety-prone mind. To a fault, I can be too easy-going.
But the stress remained.
Until October 15th at 4am.
Snap back to the beginning of this little tale, and there I was, asleep when *wham* I am awakened. No amount of careful verbiage will convince you that this experience dripped with the power and presence of God, so I’ll save my words. Plenty of folks, even Christians reading this may doubt me-and I understand why. What I’m saying is bold! But, I’ll remind you, this kind of stuff doesn’t often happen in my life.
Never before had I sensed God intervening in the course of my existence in this particular fashion.
Anyway, after getting up, I felt a push to go to my room and write in my journal. The theme was centered in my deep sense of peace. The tumult in my spirit was rapidly dissipating, and I felt a supportive sense of God’s presence.
Goodness, it probably sounds like I’m writing fiction right now. Hang with me!
After journaling for about twenty or thirty minutes under my desk light, I finished my task. Then I read a Psalm. I think it might have been Psalm 40-I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined and heard my cry… I will sing, sing a new song…”
Then, I couldn’t sleep, so I read a book I had been assigned during ordination that tracked a missionary couple from the early 20th century [it’s ok-you can laugh!]. Within minutes, I was crawling back in bed.
The next morning, I woke up and told Kaile that I sensed God had given me peace. She told me, “well it’s about time!” and moved about her day. My worries had genuinely dissipated, and I stopped concerning myself about possible change on the horizon. I kept moving with my studies and my work.
I had peace, now, but no particular direction.
It wasn’t until mid-November that we had realized two things: 1. the best school for Kaile was in San Francisco and 2. I learned that I also had a tiny connection there.
At the end of November, I interviewed for a pastoral position at City Church, where I now work. I spoke with Fred, the senior and founding pastor. It was a pretty terrible interview, especially looking back on it. But at the end of Fred’s West Coast day, he had sent an email with an invitation to fly out for an in-depth interview on December 12th. The next morning, I received it early in the morning, having gotten up before Kaile for work.
I wrote her a good old-fashioned note letting her know we were going to be heading to San Francisco for a possible job opportunity. She texted me back that day and let me know that her [possible] graduate school had invited her to an open house-on December 12th. Probably a coincidence, we thought. Couldn’t be an answer to prayer, could it?
After the dust settled from the interview, our time in San Francisco proved deeply meaningful. But the job hung in the balance. The school hadn’t let Kaile know whether she was accepted. And, at the end of December, Kaile conceived our second child.
Then, things began to come together. Mid-January, I got the job. Later in the Spring, Kaile was accepted into the drama therapy program. In March, our house went on the market the day we left town to find an apartment in San Francisco. When we touched down, I got a call from Dave, our realtor, letting us know we had a solid offer on our house. I then disagreed with him [the only time I’ve done this] and told him maybe we should wait until the next day before moving forward. And the next day, sure enough, two more offers came in; a small bidding war ensued, and we ended up getting significantly more money from our bungalow home than we had asked-and well beyond what any of us expected, Dave included.
So there’s those details-maybe it’s coincidence? You be the judge.
[I always include a picture in my blog posts, so here’s your image-it’s from a day trip we made this summer. We traveled south on highway 1 in a friend’s Subaru to the beach towns Pacifica and Pescadero].
With our second child
two three days overdue, Kaile and I are left with some time to process our lives and how everything has come together. Just today we spoke over lunch at a favorite local spot, Sweet Maple [strange name, I know] about the strange increase of answers to deep prayers we have witnessed in our lives. We have bothered God for a long time with our relatively minor and middle-class concerns, and we are both confident to insist he has responded.
It isn’t at all typical in Kaile’s life or in mine to experience a season of such lavish gifts from God [or, for the skeptic, strategic coincidences that resemble acts of God?], but honestly, really, sincerely: it’s a season of profound answers to much prayer. It’s almost impossible to list the answers to prayer we have received since moving out West. And apparently it’s not stopping.
In a few weeks, our family of [hopefully!] four will be moving to a two bedroom apartment in a much quieter and family-friendly corner of the city, thanks to another family moving out and leaving us with a good landlord and a great deal on rent.
In ancient times, people who experienced God set up altars [like Abram in Genesis 12:7].
In the 21st century, when an altar built outside our high rise might irrupt the neighborly vibes and compromise city ordnances, it might be more appropriate to let life events of this grandeur be engraved deeply on our souls, to blog about them, to talk and process with others about them.
I’ll return, in the future, to pounding on the *doors of heaven* as it were. I’ll return to bothering God with small issues. I’ll return to waiting and wondering. No doubt I’ll experience more of the spiritual dryness that has sometimes marked my journey. No doubt I’ll lose friends, let people down, miss opportunities, get sick, experience tragedy, have an accident. No doubt I’ll be frustrated with God, disappointed, crying out Psalms of lament as I long for answers. Can’t be sure, today, whether tomorrow will even come for me-
But for now, I’ll say thanks-and remember.