I am a life long recoverer. I am seeking everyday to be a more devoted Christ follower, a more loving husband and father, and a better contributor to my part of the world. I am a life coach and counselor. I write. I speak to churches, retreats, men's groups. And I play with Jon-Mical and Jakson every chance I get. Doris and I live lives of quiet serenity in Middle Tennessee. We are blessed by God, graced by our daughter-in-law, made proud by our sons, and OWNED by our grandsons.
It was cold. Much colder than I’d thought it would be. I was only wearing a t-shirt and zip-up sweatshirt. I had been cold since I left my hostel in London that grey and rainy morning. I made my way to Waterloo train station and asked for a ticket to the next place a train was headed. The lady at the ticket window expressionlessly handed me a ticket to Brussels, Belgium without being the least bit impressed with my spontaneous sense of adventure. Even though I was excited, I was still exhausted from jet lag and quickly fell asleep on the train. A few hours later I was jarred awake by two uniformed officers yelling “Reisepass” at me. I was terrified and trembling because I had no idea what they wanted until I realized they were pointing at my passport. I showed them my passport and then began to gather my things. I stepped into the Brussels train station with my giant backpack and guitar in hand. I was still cold and now hungry. I made my way to an ATM to withdraw money so I could get some food and then take a taxi to the nearest hostel. When I put my card in, it was declined. It troubled me for a moment because I had called the bank just a few weeks ago and they said that I’d have no trouble using my bankcard in Europe. As I walked away from the ATM I began to take account of my situation. I was cold and hungry. I had absolutely no money that could be used in Belgium. I had no place to stay. And I had a cell phone with a dead battery (although I had no idea who I’d call since I didn’t know anyone within a 3,000 mile radius). I began to pray (after panicking.) I then found a 2 Euro coin on the ground which was just enough to take a bus to the nearest hostel. I praised God! And when I arrived at the hostel and found out they accepted credit cards, I praised God again! My excitement and relief was shortly lived because the girl working at the desk quickly informed me that there was no vacancy. I was back to square one of being cold, hungry, broke, homeless, and friendless. And that’s the night that I learned about faith.
The three men who taught me about faith were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, better known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Their’s is a familiar story. They defied a king. The king then commanded them to bow down to a statue or be thrown into a furnace. This was their response to the king, “…we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” That is one of the most beautiful statements of faith I’ve ever heard. But I’m not talking about the first part, the “[H]e will rescue us from your hand” part. I’m talking about the “but even if…not” part. I think another way of saying it is, “even if not, He is still God.”
These men taught me about the foundation of faith that up until that moment sitting homeless in Belgium, I had not understood. Faith begins and ends with God. I would put my faith in outcomes or my own understanding of God. Therefore, if the outcome was different from what I wanted or if God did something I didn’t understand, my faith was rocked. These men taught me the foundation. God is God. If the outcome doesn’t come my way, He is God. If I don’t understand what’s going on, He is God. That is why we sing songs that state, “A Mighty Fortress is our God” and “On Christ the solid rock I stand”! He and He alone is the only foundation stable enough for our faith to rest upon.
I went out into an alley behind the hostel and made a bed out of cardboard boxes I found in a near by dumpster. The sun had been down for a while and it was even colder. I walked back into the lobby of the hostel and asked the girl if I could just sit there a few more minutes and get warm. She said that was fine. I began to pray and ask God to give me strength to make it through the night and for his protection over me as I slept in an alley in a strange country. When I finished praying I grabbed my backpack and guitar and started to walk out the door. As I was walking out, the girl at the front desk was on the phone and began waving for me to walk over to her. She was speaking German on the phone so I had no idea what was going on. When she hung up, she told me that they just had a cancellation and that one bed would be free. As Wesley once said, “my heart was strangely warmed”. It took me being on the brink of homelessness in a foreign country to hear what the Lord wanted to teach me about faith through a story that I heard hundreds of times as a kid. I’m ashamed for that level of stubbornness in my life, but absolutely thankful for a Lord that loves me so much he will not stop trying to teach me of His love.
Father, as Beth Moore says, “you are who you say you are”. And I fully believe that. Thank you for your lessons that continually show your faithfulness. Forgive me when I begin to lose faith because of circumstances or outcomes that I don’t understand. Just as you did with Peter, please lovingly remind me to fix my eyes back on you. Help me to center my faith there. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but I know who hold tomorrow. You are my Mighty Fortress. Thank you