Rachel's Raft Excerpt:
A Summer Morning in June 2010
The next day was Bible study, and I was in desperate need of it, so I got the kids dressed and drove to our church. My eyes a little puffy from the previous night, I walked in late and sank down in the seat next to my friend.
“You okay?” she asked.
“Not really, Michael isn’t getting paid, once again.”
A few eyes turned to look at me.
I looked at her prayer request list and saw “The Kelleys” already on it. Ruth, who was sitting behind me reached up to give me a hug.
“Oh well, at least they already know.”
Then my teacher, Ally asked,
“Rachel, how’re ya doing this morning?”
“Oh, not that great. Michael isn’t getting paid again.”
I could not stop the tears that were already coming--it was all I could say--I couldn’t get one more word out.
“We’re gonna pray for you guys this morning,” she said.
They did, and she continued on with the lesson, while I continued to fight the tears. I couldn’t concentrate; my mind went from wondering what we were going to do, to what other jobs Michael could apply for, to the balance in our account and growing debt. And questioning God as to why He would not fix it.
When the class was over, I reached for my purse, put my Bible inside of it, and walked toward the door. As I did, two ladies, Rozena and Jeanette, stopped me.
“Rachel, do you think it’d be okay if we stopped by for a little while?”
My gut dropped.
Sometimes, I didn’t know if people were going to help or if they were going to give advice. Beforehand, I thought financial issues could be solved simply by getting another job or asking for a raise. But what I was discovering was that it was not that simple. If God was not moving a certain direction, there was no changing Him.
“Uh, sure, that’s fine.”
“Okay, we’ll be by in a few minutes.”
I picked the kids up from the nursery and drove home. A few minutes later they arrived, so I invited them in, and we sat down in the living room.
“Kids, y’all go play outside for a few minutes,” I said.
“So, tell us how you are doing.”
“Well, not that great. I feel like we stepped out years ago and have gone from one crisis to the next. I just don’t understand what God is doing. Or why He won’t help Michael provide for his family.”
“What’s going on with his paychecks?” they asked.
“The school’s funding something or other. No one’s getting paid regularly. . .from the President, down. And the shows have almost dried up all together. I feel like we are failing.”
Then every so sweetly and gently Rozena said,
“Try not to think of this as a trial, Rachel, think of this as a test. You are not on trial in front of God, He’s giving you a test.”
Contrary to what I was starting to believe, I was not sitting in the courtroom with an angry judge, wondering what crime I had committed and if I would be forgiven. I was sitting in a classroom, with a loving teacher, being asked to take a test, to show that I was learning from a faithful Instructor. And at times, I felt I was failing miserably. Other times, I felt closer to God than I had in years. He was bringing me to my knees and sometimes to my face, in desperation.
And with that, Jeanette, who was sitting on my right, pulled out a piece of paper, and said,
"Okay. Tell us everything you need at the grocery store."
And she meant everything--even down to the spices in the cupboard. She made a very long list of food and toiletries then said,
“Alright, well, we’re gonna go to Wal-Mart, why don’t y’all come with us?”
"Good, also. . .there’s a consignment sale goin’ on right now. We’re gonna go over there and get whatever y’all need. Shoes, pants, dresses, even if Michael needs things, we will get ‘em. Why don’t we go there first, then the grocery store?"
“Oh you guys, you don’t even know how much this means to me. Really, you have no idea,” I said, my voice cracking, “Thank you. . .words can’t even describe.”
I gathered up the kids and grabbed their coats.
“Why don’t you drive us to the consignment sale, and then bring us all back to your house for us to get our car?” Jeanette said.
“Okay, great,” I said.
That should have clued me in on their next move. Before we turned into the church where the consignment sale was being held, Rozena said,
“Turn in here.” Pointing to the gas station.
“We’re gonna fill up your car.”
If Christ appeared to me that day, it was in the form of two sisters from my Bible study. And when they bought our family of five clothes, food and gasoline, they became a tangible force of grace and provision in my life. For with these actions, my two sisters followed this verse perfectly:
"What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." James 2:14-17