A Stewardship Reflection contributed by Jose Rodriguez
For most of my adult life, I have tried to live with gratitude. Growing up, I used to hear a term in Spanish, “gracias a Dios,” which translates as “thanks be to God.” When good things happen or after a meal, it’s common to hear someone say this. We say this often, in our house.
This past summer in late June, we were one of the many Metro Detroit houses severely affected by the summer storms. In our case, I walked downstairs that morning into our basement to 6” of water and a small bathroom rug slowly floating in the water. Due to my work, I know what a flooded basement looks like. It’s one thing to see this in another house, but it’s downright surreal, when it is very real for you.
Later that day, when our neighbors’ water receded but ours didn’t, it became clear that something was very wrong. Very quickly, we realized that we couldn’t live in our house. In time, we were able to bring in our plumber, who had to excavate. When him and his guys gave us the news that the water was gone and that the underlying problems were fixed, we both cried tears of gratitude. When the restoration person cleaned and sanitized our basement…we shed our final tears of gratitude. We didn’t return to our house. We returned to our home.
When I had to temporarily vacate our house for the repairs, I had my faith to anchor me. I had my Bible and Book of Common Prayer. I had the e-book for the Forward Movement daily readings. Saying my daily prayers and meditating on the daily readings, gave me spiritual relief from the daily struggles of figuring out what to do next and how we would do it.
When things are going well, faith seems easy. However, when things are hard, it can be challenging to believe that God will make things better or deliver us past our challenges. After all, when do things happen in “our time?”
I think about a scene from the movie, Rocky Balboa, where he talks to his son. Rocky said,
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently, if you let it…But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward…”
During these times, where we get hit hard, this is when we need to further embrace our faith and leave things in God’s hands. There comes a point, where we can do nothing further to keep moving forward. When we can do nothing else, if we can get out of our own way, we could leave it to God.
During that time, I was unable to make any pledges to our beloved Christ Church because we were hit pretty hard. I knew that neither God nor Emily nor Pastor Anthony would have held it against me that I had to focus on figuring out how to make our house once again livable. After the water went away, our house became once again livable and there were no more major expenses, I could once again return to pledging to Christ Church because of my gratitude for God helped me to get past those challenges.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Matthew 13:12,
“To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich…”
I focus on the “more will be given part.” Somehow, God made it possible for us to be able to address each issue with our house. Besides the means, there were people that watched Nico. There were people that came in, who helped to clean out our basement, including our germophobe friend. This is real friendship. There was our neighbor, who brought us pizza for us, when people were over to help us clear out our basement. There were the loved ones that shared their homes with us, while we worked to recover ours. There were our work supervisors, who essentially said, “Do what you need to do. We will cover you.” We received so much help to bring us here. Here was our richness.
Once that I was able to get back on my feet and able to resume pledging, one of the first things that I did was to get set up on Realm. If you don’t know, it’s on our site and it does some really nifty things. It’s another way of connecting with each other.
Also, it’s a great way to do your online giving, which is my preference. It let me easily know where I was year to date and how much I have left to reach the guesstimate that I provided last year. I may fall short of my target. Again, I don’t think that neither God nor Emily nor Pastor Anthony would hold it against me. However, I will do my very best to reach the goal that I set because I am grateful for what God has done for me, for having discovered Christ Church-Detroit and to help support its great work. I do this out of choice…not out of any obligation.
In closing, I don’t want you to think that it should take a catastrophe to remind you of how you’ve been gifted. Let’s be honest. There is almost nothing in your life that isn’t a gift. I know that this is true for mine. I live my life grateful for each day: for health, for means, for opportunities. As I shared with you, life can switch very horribly. However, it can, also, switch very beautifully. After all, we come here to give thanks, spend time with each other and speak to God in the hope that we will be gifted with more, so that we can provide for ourselves and to leave our world better than when morning greeted us.
When it is time for you to decide for yourself how much that you can give, I hope that gratitude leads your heart. There are blessings that you have been gifted, so why not share those blessings with others? Your pledge or any other gift that you put into the world is one of the most beautiful prayers that you can say. One of the simplest prayers that we can all say is “gracias a Dios.” Thanks be to God.