Miriam wasn’t an angel, but sometimes the Lord does things in ways that we just can’t understand. He lets us reach the point where we need something, anything, to happen, and then He reminds us, “I am the LORD, and I am here.”
I was a typically destitute student. I ate in the school cafeteria, so I wouldn’t starve. If I got really desperate, I could call Dad (reversing call charges, of course) and beg, and he’d send some money. But it wasn’t as if Dad was rich, and he and Mom had done quite enough. I wasn’t going to burden him more unless I really, really had to.
An unplanned car repair had drained my funds. I was completely penniless. The petrol tank (well, in the U.S., so gas :)) was empty. I’d walk to church — L.A. area, rain wasn’t a problem, a mile or two wouldn’t hurt me, and some kind soul would give me a lift home if I asked. I wouldn’t ask. It was all survivable, no big problems, but a little discouraging. My friend says I’m too stubborn to be discouraged, but he wasn’t around.
Sometimes, when you are sort of down, even little things can get you really down. I went to the campus post office, opened my box, and at the front was a slip of paper — a “postage due” notice. I had an unknown item with insufficient postage, and I needed to pay fifteen cents to get it. It was probably a parcel (a package from home with goodies?), because no one would get the postage wrong on a letter.
A bill for $1000 probably wouldn’t have bothered me. That would have been too big to worry about, something the Lord would have to handle somehow. But fifteen cents? Really? I couldn’t pay postage due of fifteen cents? Depressing. I could see my care package cookies grow stale as I walked the streets for weeks looking for a dropped quarter. 🙂 I wouldn’t borrow from a friend if it wasn’t a need — and it wasn’t, really.
I reached back in the box, and way at the back, a card envelope — internal campus mail (no postage). Great. A friend sending a “BE ENCOURAGED” card just when I did not feel like being encouraged with cutesy sentiments – blech. Must be some girl — guys just didn’t do the card thing.
It was from Miriam. I knew her, but not really well, a friend of a friend. It was a “thank you” and contained two dollars. She wrote apologising for not repaying the two dollars she borrowed from me in the snack shop months before.
I’ve always had a good memory (it does leak a little as I’ve grown older). It is very unlikely I would forget loaning money to Miriam. If I did forget, I certainly would remember when she reminded me. I never loaned that money to Miriam. I just didn’t.
This really did depress me. I had money to get my care package, but I couldn’t use it. I found Miriam and said she didn’t owe me money, it wasn’t mine, and I couldn’t take it. She said I had to, because she had borrowed it from me. If I didn’t need it, I could put it in the church collection, because it wasn’t hers and she couldn’t take it back.
Miriam was not a daft person. I would have called her steady, dependable. She wouldn’t make stuff up, or be easily confused. I definitely had friends who could have done something like this and I wouldn’t have been surprised at all, but Miriam wasn’t like that. It didn’t make any sense that she would remember in great detail something that didn’t happen, and it didn’t make any sense that I would forget it even after the details were mentioned. It just didn’t make sense!
I walked away, thought about it, and decided if the Lord had given me two dollars, I’d better use it. I went back to the campus post office to get my care package.
It wasn’t a care package. It was a letter from my home church — and a cheque for $500 as a “thank you” for my preaching and teaching in the church over the summer.
“Coincidentally,” the Lord brought so much together, some of which was hardly believable:
- Caused my car to break down the week before so I would be completely out of money.
- Caused Miriam to think I had loaned her money. (I still don’t get this.)
- Used someone who no one would have thought was a little daft or easily confused.
- Caused Miriam to delay paying back a debt. (That didn’t make any sense, either, she wasn’t the type to do that.)
- Moved my home church to send the cheque.
- Caused postage to be insufficient. (How do you get postage on a standard letter wrong? Hardly believable.)
- Caused both items to arrive on the same day.
- Caused that day to be when I was completely out of money.
- Caused me to get the postage due notice first.
- Allowed discouragement (unusual for me), knowing I would learn better that way.
In trials we learn patience, and in patience we learn experience, and in experience we learn hope. God knows that through this process His love floods our hearts, that we learn His love best when we’ve experienced it in times of trouble.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
Think about the people who love you. How do you really, really know they love you, and when is your love for them strengthened? It is when they have loved you in the times of trouble, when you’ve experienced their love. That’s the way God’s love is.
This will post on April Fools Day, but we act like fools all the time. We complain about times of difficulty, of trials and tribulations, but that is when we really learn of His love for us, and learn to love Him in return. That’s when His love floods our hearts.
Miriam wasn’t an angel. Maybe SHE saw one. Maybe if Satan can appear as an angel of light, an angel can appear like me and loan two dollars? 🙂 God doesn’t need angels for things like this. It’s not about angels — they are just servants. God did it somehow. Call it a miracle, call it providence, call it what you want, but I know Who to honour.
There have been other times where doubt has come, when I’ve wondered if / how God is going to meet a need. I’ve had other “Miriam Moments,” which I suppose just shows I am a slow learner sometimes.
I have that note from Miriam filed away. I’m not sure where — I mentioned my “Miriam Moment” in a sermon a few weeks ago, so I went looking for it. I couldn’t find it, but I’m sure it will turn up. If I need it, the Lord will bring it to hand again, because His message remains the same: “I am the LORD, and I am here.”