God’s purposes will ripen fast
Unfolding every hour
The bud may have a bitter taste
But sweet will be the flower!
The house fell through. That’s the first thing you need to know. The second thing is that we’re going to have another baby.
When Gideon was confronted by an angel with the task of throwing out the Midianites, he asked for a turn of Providence to make his path clear: He’d throw out a lamb fleece with a challenge: one night, make the the dew fall on the fleece, but leave the ground dry. The second night, make the ground all dewy, and the fleece dry. There’s been a lot said lately against the use of “fleeces” in determining the will of God, but I find that, understood correctly, a fleece can be a very useful thing. In Gideon’s case, attacking the Midianites would have been a very, very foolish thing – apart from a miracle of God. So asking for a little token miracle in advance seems quite reasonable. Of course, most of us aren’t putting our necks on the line for a miracle, so asking for a sign on the same order of the miraculous would be a little presumptuous.
But what’s wrong with taking a few hints from Providence? For instance, if God makes a path clear for you to buy a house, it seems reasonable to conclude that you ought to live there for a year or two. In fact, only sheer bullheadedness would make you even consider taking up a chance to move. On the other hand, not buying a house… makes mobility more of an option. So it is clearly possible by a house to be fleeced.
As I was saying, the house fell through. The FHA inspector required new paint and new flooring for approval, and we required some evidence of a foundation. The seller agreed to the paint and floors, balked on the foundation, and asked for a deadline extension to run the numbers. A week or so later, the very day I was considering calling it off because I was so tired of the whole thing, I got a call from my realtor. The seller had killed the deal. No more options; no more negotiations; off. It turns out that new paint and flooring was going to cost $10 thousand. Add that to a possible $15 thousand for foundation work… $80 thousand house…. a no-strings auction starts to look pretty good.
And no hard feelings for us – two weeks later, we’re signing applications for an apartment. Move in date: mid-October; $620 rent; minimum 7 month lease. Simple and blessedly straightforward.
Except of course, it isn’t. Or maybe it could be, but I need careful counsel.
Five years ago, when I asked my wife to marry me, there were several certain understandings. The first was that we wouldn’t marry until she graduated. The second was that she intended to pursue a career in medicine. The third was that, if ever she should change her mind and wish to be a homebound heroine, I would move heaven and earth to make it so. If she only wished it, her children would never go to school.
And so we waited to get married, and once married she pursued career, and here we are at the third point. My wife has a good job, with salary, and benefits, and hopes of advancement, and many, many after-hours commitments. Two weeks running, she put in 45 hours plus. Last week she did 40 by taking half a day on Friday. In 8 months or so, she’s having a baby. My heroine wants to come home.
On the other side of this silver dollar, I’m earning exactly the same as what I was 10 years ago. I have sworn to move earth and heaven and bring my baby home, but methinks I need a longer lever, and a better place to stand.
I’ve been being very pithy up to now, in order to convey a lot of information quickly, memorably, and lightly. I could just as well have laid out our situation in such a way that made it seem very dire indeed. But I have faith in the providence of God to care and provide for whom he has chosen. I’ve seen that providence working my whole life. But it’s beginning to feel as though we are being deliberately hedged in by Providence to make choices that we would never have before considered.
To keep our school obligations current, we need a little less than $1000 every month. Making that payment, via the strange mechanism of tithe, childcare, housing, food, car repair, gas, etc., comes to a needed income of about $50 thousand every year. On a two-income lifestyle, we have the additional advantage of seeing our son at least 2 hours a day during the week. And as our family gets bigger (necessitating a higher day-care cost), Valerie’s job extends later into the day, essentially requiring our children to be raised by relatives and strangers.
All this makes the “nuclear option” look increasingly attractive. Currently my salary amounts to $22K per year. We need around $50K (!) to get by. 2009 Monthly base pay for a full-time army officer, sitting on the lowest rung of the pay scale, is $2655.30. The monthly housing allowance for said officer, residing at Fort Bragg, NC, comes to $1110.00. Yearly, that’s just over $45K. Subtract the cost of day care, the cost of car upkeep…
In other words, by pursuing a full-time army career, in nine months I could be supporting my family. On earth as it is in heaven…
Tipping the other side of the scale, we have been profoundly blessed by our church in Knoxville. The friendships and the pastoral care that we have received here have been far beyond the normal run. I know there are wonderful churches everywhere, but finding a truly great church is something on the order of finding a wife, and I’m loathe to pull my wife and children out of an environment where I can clearly see the long-term benefits of staying in the lives of other folks who’ve been here longer than we have. And yet… these numbers…!
Now time is running short for these kinds of decisions. We delayed while we waited for a decision on the house. But now, I’ve already signed up for Reserve Army enlistment; I have only until October to change that to Career Army Officer. Valerie will need to stay in town at least until the baby comes in April; we need to set the lease terms appropriately for her to move with me after that. I don’t think any actual lifestyle changes would happen before January, but the actual decision process needs to be measured in weeks, not months.
So – any advice? Is it better for us to stay for reasons of family and community and stability, slogging through this transition while whittling away at debt, changing careers as we can, or is the narrowing canyon sensation that we’re experiencing actually the hand of God, leading us in a way that otherwise we would not go?