“24-25 But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.
26 The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.”
Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.”
27 The man said, “What’s your name?”
He answered, “Jacob.”
28 The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through.”
Genesis 32: 24-28 (emphasis mine)
I want to start this off by saying, first and foremost, I don’t believe we can change God’s mind. To believe that would be to believe that God is wrong in His direction or choices in my life and that He is NOT Sovereign. And frankly, my God is never wrong. Neither is yours. Don’t get that confused.
I’m glad we got that out of the way. Now for the story.
In December 2015 I was in the fight of the century. A battle royale with our tenant. He was perfectly nice. A wonderful tenant. Actually, we probably should have built memorials in his honor. And well, I wanted him the heck outta my house. We did not anticipate returning to my husband’s previous duty station, so we signed a lease with said tenant. Then, the Marine Corps being the Marine Corps, had different plans. Well …
If we’re going back to my house …
The house we built …
It simply doesn’t make sense to have it rented out while we live there. That’s pointless! I’m not going to do it! I’m sure we can get him to move out! Ya’ll … I began petitioning for prayers on Facebook. My prayer journal was chockfull of a whole bunch of “Lord Jesus, please please pleases” and frequent phone calls with my Dad and husband asking for more advice. The property manager was my best friend. Surely I can get this guy out of the house!
For roughly a month I negotiated with our tenant. Who decided he would move out early, but not early enough for us. As he was building his own house. He couldn’t move until April. We needed him gone by February at the latest. More negotiating. More wrestling. Every single day a new email or phone call, more tears, more pleading. My husband standing there saying, “I don’t care where we live. If YOU want to live in the house we can figure it out.” I was getting desperate. Asking for advice on Facebook … scraping the bottom of the barrel here, people!
The fighting continued. I pushed. I pleaded some more. I offered free rent for the final month and paying for his storage unit. I continued to post of our woe are we’s on Facebook. The sympathy abounded. I wrestled, but was just so simply confident that our God would take care of this for us!
He was. Just not in the way I wanted.
Finally! Our tenant decided he’d move out. Later than we wanted, but we would deal. Praise Jesus! Post it on Facebook! Our God is Sovereign! Hallelujah! A few days later on December 23, 2015 I receive an email from Cherry Point Base Housing, “Dear Mrs. Ba…… I’m happy to let you know that we have housing available for you! We’d like to offer you … ” Email back, smiling because my God made sure His sweet, delicate flower wouldn’t have to live on base housing, “Thank you so much! We should have emailed you sooner. Our tenant is moving out for us so we will not need base housing after all.”
Moving time came and after a month of shuffling back and forth between Pennsylvania and Maryland (which was still awesome because they were hit with a blizzard) we pulled into our house. I was so happy. It was a little worse for wear, but man God brought me home! Time to catch my breath!
Three weeks later our first electricity bill arrived. A little higher than I was expecting, no big deal. I’ll adjust the heat. But it kept happening. The bill just kept creeping up. I knew that it would be even higher in the summer, so I grew nervous. I asked my husband if we should talk about moving on base. “Sure, if that’s what you think is best.” I felt a brief feeling of peace wash over me. And then I talked myself out of it. Because this is the house that God provided, you guys.
More utility bills. More money. We were getting behind. We had to enter a payment plan. My husband deploys. Things are paycheck to paycheck. I am wondering how on earth we will get ahead of it. I’m barely able to scrape together enough money for groceries at one point. I spend $38 on a financial planner. I fill out all of the information for our bills.
“15 bills? Who has 15 bills!? Man, the way we are backed up with utilities it won’t be until this time next year that we are caught up. Wait … no … we still have more usage accruing … ”
The day after we drove to base for an appointment. As I’m driving to exit base, it hit me … Like a ton of bricks. Fifteen bills.
I knew what I had to do. I pulled over, I got base housing’s number, and within 24 hours we were on the waiting list for SNCO housing. A quick email to my husband to let him know what was up, his tremendous support to follow. It was done. No going back. I emailed our property manager and told them the house needs to be relisted and rented out.
And then … Pieces just started falling into place.
- They listed the home on their website. Five days later we had a signed lease and deposits in hand. Five. Days.
- Base housing called to offer me a home. But not just any home, a beautiful one right next door to our friends. Actually, honest to goodness, right next door to our friends. It has a wood burning fireplace. It’s near a park and the water. We take it.
- The move date is set on the calendar. I need to come up with the money to pay for the uHaul rental and the little things to get the house ready for our renters. I begin to list things for sale. They all sell. I have enough money to pay for every single thing, down to the actual penny.
- The move went swimmingly. Neighbors pouring out of their homes to help the wife with a deployed husband move their family on her own. (Because thats my Marine Corps family after all … ) My Dad completely shocked by all of this.
- Within three months we were out of debt minus our house and student loans.
Nearly nine months later and we’ve never felt more peace. Even when things are sometimes hard, this house has been a blessing.
When I talk about this journey, I get teary eyed. Because I know in my gut that I wrestled with God for a house. A house that, while I lived in it for almost a year, never felt like a home. I was isolated and lonely. It cost us too much. My kids had no friends to play with. My husband had to commute back and forth. Sure, the counters were granite and the kitchen huge. And yeah, we built it when we were first married and it had those memories. But out of all the houses we’ve called home in seven years, the one I built was the loneliest of all. It wasn’t a home. It was a burden. It wasn’t a safe haven. It was an assault in it’s own right.
I wrestled with God for an entire month. He was trying to protect us. He knew that we could not afford it. He knew that it wasn’t where our family needed to be in the upcoming season of our lives. He knew that three weeks after my husband checked in he would leave for a six week training, quickly followed by a six week class, and then followed by a six month deployment. He knew that my kiddos wouldn’t have friends their ages to play with. He knew that I would be isolated without another military spouse close by. He knew that things would be so financially straining that simply going to my grandparents’ funerals (only a month apart) would eat up our grocery budget. He knew all of this because He is Sovereign, all-knowing, and good. And in that goodness He tried to protect us from our house. He took care of it. He provided a tenant who loved our home and babied it. He provided housing for us on base.
And I wrestled.
Give me my blessing, God!
Give me my house!
And goodness, as the tears flow, if He didn’t hold up His holy hands and say … “Take it, child. I’m here. I’m here when the limping is too great. When the hip finally breaks. I’m still Good.”
When enough was enough. When I couldn’t cling to the granite countertops anymore and released my grip. When the limping by became too great, I looked at that house on Craftsman Drive and I decided I was done. And I walked away. I placed it in the lap of the One I fought so hard against in the first place.
He could have given us any dumpy house on base and I would have made it a home.
He could have made the process painful as a permanent reminder to not fight or out-will the Great I Am.
He could have … but He didn’t.
As I write this I’m sitting next to an open window as a cool, late summer breeze blows in my window. There are sunflowers in a vase next to my wood burning fireplace. There are three large trees in my front yard that provide perfect shade. The comforting sounds of jets whirl overhead. This morning I stood outside for an hour and talked with one of my best friends and neighbors as our kids ran around in their pajamas in our culdesac. On Fridays, when it isn’t too hot, the Moms stand outside and chat while the kids play. The uniformed dads filter in, kisses on the cheek to their wives, tired and relieved to be home. We stand and lament the woes and blessings of this life. We celebrate when one comes home from training or a deployment. Hug another when she says goodbye for months at a time.
God could have given me a refrigerator box on base and I would have been happy. He gave me a home full of “hygge” and community instead.
I wrestled with God, and I’ve come through.
Are you wrestling with God?