Stepping Out On Faith
Many of us say that we live by faith, that we have faith in God to do what He says He will do. But when it comes time to answer that call, to live that life that He calls us to live we fail to completely trust Him. It is hard for us to depend on Him to take care of us. To trust that HE will provide for our needs. We just don’t believe that He will care about us enough that He will provide even the little things we need in our lives, some pastors will even say that God expects us to take care of ourselves. But my Bible teaches that HE will provide for my needs if I am doing what He wants me to do. Just as He provided for Eilijah’s needs so will He provide what we need to carry out our service to Him.
My first assignment 35 years ago was to an inner city parish in Wshington,D.C. Money was stolen from my room; the garage mechanic said my gas tank may have been sabotaged, destroying my engine; one weekend we had 34 windows broken in the school. When a new pastor was sent,the parish held a party and some teenagers left and started a rumble. The civil disturbance unit of the Metropolitan Police had to be called out. One of my priest classmates going to the hospital to visit a sick parishioner, had his car stoned at a stop sign. A group of us in the parish realized that we were either going to make the church into a fortress - more bars on the windows, etc. - or we were going to reach out and try to change the lives of the young people who lived around the church. So we announced a retreat weekend in the country. It was going to be free to any teenager who wanted to attend. The announcement was an a stepping our in faith on our part, since we actually had no money for this event. We simply trusted God would provide the means. Our hearts were touched by the generous response of people. A bus company donated transportation. A priest classmate donated some funds. A group of monks gave us food, etc. The retreat team meanwhile was praying and studying together. We each wrote and reviewed witness talks. The big weekend came and we all found ourselves at this beautiful church camp on a wide river. We enjoyed dinner together; had recreation; a witness talk, prayer session and then "bed time". I fell sound asleep. Many of the teens got up and created chaos. They raided the kitchen and had raw hamburger figts. They threw heads of lettuce at each other. They flooded the bathrooms and broke out screens. The boys raided the girls cabin at 2:00 AM. Next morning the adults were devastated; and a lot of the teens upset. We decided we would have to call the bus back immediately and leave before the place was burned down. Then one man said, "Let’s separate the boys and girls into their cabins and talk to them. It was the only positive suggestion. I will never forget the look of the boys when I walked into their cabin with a parishioner. Their faces looked like hardened steel. They had lived with violence and heard every kind of reprimand. They were ready for anything. At a loss for words, I said the most intelligent thing I may ever have said. I turned to the layman who made the suggestion and said, "Go ahead, Bob." He looked at me, the priest, puzzled; but then he spoke. "You men did a lot of horrible things last night. You upset the women and the girls. You destroyed food shared with us by poor people. You destroyed property that good people trusted us with. You created a mess. But there is one thing you didn’t do and one thing you can’t do." This got their attention. They wondered what they hadn’t and couldn’t do. He continued, "No matter how badly you act, no matter how much grief you cause, you can’t make me stop loving you. I care about you. When you need me I will be there. Nothing will change that." The boys expressions changed completely. They had no defense against this unconditional love. They begged to stay. They promised to be good. We gave them another chance. They spent the afternoon working with the maintenance man. We had no more problems with conduct. We received complete cooperation. The retreat turned out to be very grace filled - all because one man knew what it was like to love others as God loves us!