A few years ago, I experienced something transcendent, and it changed my perspective about God and church completely. God wanted me and not my money. He literally had to break the internet for me to see that.
Every year, our church does something called a “Journey” where we all focus on the same topic for six weeks and get in groups to talk about it. I was a bit spoiled from the previous one, so I had super high expectations for another encounter with God. But when the Journey prompts brought up money, my sphincter clinched up (a phrase I borrow from our senior pastor).
Part of the process was to identify which “C” prevailed in our lives—comparison, control, or comfort. Mine was control with comfort as a close second.
Early on in the Journey, we discussed Matthew 6:19-21 in our small groups, which read:
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
By the third week of the Journey, we were challenged to be more generous in our giving—to let go of our control, comfort, or comparison and “store our treasures in heaven.” Really? It’s going to be about money?
At the time, I was trying to catch up on a campaign commitment I had made three years prior and felt overwhelmed with debt. The fourth Sunday was the day we would commit to any additional giving if we felt called in that way (though definitely not required).
I asked God to help me reach my financial goals and that I was going to trust Him. I listened for a specific number but did not receive any feedback other than the sinking feeling that I could do more in my stomach. Tithing was even brought up as a goal to work towards, but it seemed so unreachable to me, especially considering the already burying debt.
The day before we were to commit, I talked my mom into going to a concert with me at the end of the month, which I offered to pay for. When I went online to purchase the tickets, I was not able to. I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I tried, but nothing worked. I used multiple emails, requested lost passwords, tried to make new accounts with new emails and passwords—nothing worked.
Eventually, I said, “OK, Jesus, I hear you loud and clear.” I knew this was one of the areas in which I could sacrifice, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t upset at the time.
When I went to church that following day, I had a number in my head to commit to (a step in the direction of a tithe). I don’t remember feeling a strong presence of God or even “hearing” a different number, so I wrote it down.
Over the next three days, I had excruciating heartburn, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. On Tuesday of that week, our Journey Group met for dinner, and we talked about the commitments and how we felt about the service that week. I shared my feelings of frustration and anxiety and my present heartburn. Jen, the leader of my group, shared her experience tithing and how she felt God pouring more blessings into her life after she committed.
Despite what I heard from others, I continued to struggle internally. Why did this Journey become about money? Why isn’t God answering my prayers? I emailed my dad asking him his thoughts, and his response was an absolute gem.
“I don’t think Jesus wants to pressure you. It needs to come from your heart. Then you will be good with it.”
OK, Jesus, my heart is big, and I am good with it (or so I thought). The following day I went on the Crossroads app to make a large contribution, and it wouldn’t work. I tried everything; my phone, my desktop computer, my work computer. Error after error. I remember getting angry and saying, “You want me to give, and here I am trying to give, and you won’t even let me.” I tried EVERY SINGLE DAY for the rest of the week to no avail.
At church that Sunday, the last day of the Journey, I witnessed a gentleman sitting next to me donate on his phone. I saw the “Donation successful” screen and thought, “YES! It’s working now!” So I immediately tried on my phone and got an error again. SERIOUSLY? So I sat through the rest of the service, angry and confused.
I thought He wanted me to give more, but aside from handing someone cash or a check, all those doors had been closed. At the end of the service, they were doing baptisms, and the community pastor indicated there were a number of people who planned to get baptized but that the opportunity was open for anyone and everyone. I had been baptized as a child, and I remember thinking, “Yeah, eventually I’ll do it as an adult, but today is not the right day. I’m frustrated. I’m not dressed for it, and I have plans after church.” Then they made another invitation.
Again, I thought, “Today is not the right day,” but this time, my heart started to pound, and I became very uncomfortable. Then he said it. The pastor said something along the lines of:
“If you’re sitting in your chair and your heart is beating out of your chest, and you’re making excuse after excuse about not being dressed appropriately or that you have plans after church—I think that God is inviting you to come down.”
His words were echoed by the thought in my mind: Control. Let go of your control and STAND UP.
I began sobbing because I knew He was talking to ME. While I was waiting in line downstairs, Jen saw me on the big screen and came down to be with me. Right before it was my turn, the band began to sing my favorite song, “Good Good Father,” which was no coincidence. Now it was a full-blown sob-fest. At that moment, I knew God was with me and was proud of me for taking this step. I was overwhelmed with emotion and truly felt the Holy Spirit within me. “Do you commit your life to follow Jesus?” they asked.
The choice I made that day was the most important choice I’ll ever make in my life. The time didn’t seem right, but I recognized the signs and answered His invitation. The red carpet was rolled out for me down to my favorite song. It was imperfectly perfect.
Following the baptism, after I was able to compose myself, I told Jen about the app glitches and said, “I guarantee if I try to give right now, it’ll work.” Sure enough—donation successful.
God was telling me He never wanted my money. He wanted me. I had it all wrong, and I think He literally broke the internet multiple times for me to see that.
This is exactly what God wants for you too. He wants you to see that you are special and worthy of His time and attention and longs for you to accept his invitations however that may manifest in your life. Sometimes you just have to get out of your own way and give up control (or comparison or comfort) in order to see the life that He wants for you. What is God trying to say to you right now?