The following is an excerpt from Start With Amen by Beth Guckenberger.

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In 1997, my husband, Todd, and I moved to Monterrey, Mexico, to serve orphans and vulnerable children full-time through Back2Back Ministries. Living in a developing country for a long time means you exponentially increase your odds of being robbed. It’s not unusual, and you take extra precautions, but the risk is still there. I say this because it was a ridiculous purchase. As a missionary, I had long carried purses that looked like a combination of army backpack and bohemian sling bag. Why  I lusted one day for a purple Coach purse in the window of a Texas outlet is still a mystery to me. That light-lilac suede was so impractical. I didn’t even wear much purple, but I am sure it symbolized something to me about another world I could live in if I wanted.

I was at my son’s soccer game when it was stolen. Someone shattered the window in my car and snatched it a few feet from where I stood. I should’ve panicked about the credit cards that needed to be canceled or the cell phone I could’ve used to call for help or the pictures of my children I carried in my wallet. But I immediately started grieving the loss of the purse.

After making some police reports, I went home and commandeered my nine-year-old daughter’s dress-up purse and used it for the next month, knowing soon I would be flying into the United States and could replace it with something more practical. I vowed never again to the purple purse.

I flew into Cincinnati, Ohio, weeks later and had only one hour before a speaking engagement, so I searched a nearby strip mall to see if I could quickly pick up a new purse.

My only option was a luggage store. I stepped in and saw a rack with cool leather backpack purses, a bit of a hybrid between my earlier choices and the Coach. I had never heard of the brand, but it looked nice and sturdy, so I took it to the counter.

“That’ll be $276,” the lady said, ringing my purchase into her cash register.

My eyes went wide at the price, I muttered, “No, thank you,” and left the store. I didn’t think about it again, as now I was late to my engagement. I pulled into the place where I was meeting the others, grabbed Emma’s ratty purse, and told the Lord I understood my roots.  I knew he didn’t value or care about purses, and neither would I.

Finally, the evening’s event was over, and I headed to my mom’s house, where I was staying for a few days. I settled into my childhood room and looked over mail accumulated since our last visit. I’d had a birthday since my previous trip to the States, and I sat on the edge of the bed, reading cards. At the bottom of the mailbag, there was a package from my college friend, who had remembered my birthday and sent a gift to my mom’s house. I thought fondly of her as I opened the box, and then threw my hands to my mouth when I saw what was inside.

It was my $276 leather backpack purse. Exact. Same. One. A flood of thoughts came over me as I held it.
She and I had never exchanged gifts so generous before. She didn’t know about the theft, did she?

Is this for real? God picked this out for me before I wanted it today?

I was so sure he didn’t care about designer purses. I had spent a month disciplining my thoughts so I wouldn’t grieve something as silly as a purse. Yet here he was, reintroducing me to himself all over again. I care about everything you care about, he seemed to say.

That night, before I fell asleep, I thought about all the wasted time I had spent wringing my hands over something God already had in the works to redeem. What if when I didn’t like what was happening (a lost purse, broken relationships, poor health, traffic accidents, unexpected bills) I prayed in anticipation of the Lord’s hand, confident of his sovereignty? What if instead of second-guessing him, my prayers sounded more like Amen. So be it. This happened. It’s all good. I’m yours. Change my heart. Take captive my thoughts. All I have is in your hands. Bless the thief. Dear Jesus . . . ?

In this case, I can stretch and pray for the person who took my purse or remind myself mentally of my blessings. I can stretch and be grateful I wasn’t assaulted or trust for future provision. What do I gain from worry or, worse yet, fury?

That night, I committed to Jesus that I would rest in the God of Amen.

From now on, I would start our holy conversations by anticipating his hand.

“Amen,” I began before any other words followed.

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About Beth Guckenberger

Beth and her husband, Todd, live with their family in Cincinnati, Ohio where they serve as Co-Executive Directors of Back2Back Ministries. After graduating from Indiana University with degrees in education, the Guckenbergers moved to Monterrey, Mexico. Since founding the international arm of Back2Back in 1997, they have hosted thousands of guests on the ministry campus. Between biological, foster, and adopted children, they have raised ten children. Beth is the author of Reckless Faith (Zondervan, 2008), Relentless Hope (Standard Publishing, 2010), Tales of the Not Forgotten (Standard Publishing, 2012), Tales of the Defended Ones (Standard Publishing, 2013),Tales of the Ones Led Out (Standard Publishing, 2014) and Tales of the Ones He Won’t Let Go (Standard Publishing, 2014). Beth is the recipient of the the 2013 International Network of Children’s Ministry Legacy Award and the Cincinnati Christian University Salute to Leaders Award for her and Back2Back’s impact on children internationally. She travels and speaks regularly at conferences, youth gatherings and church services. Her style is based in story-telling and she draws from her vast field experience as a missionary and parent of nine children for illustrations of biblical concepts. – See more at: http://www.bethguckenberger.com

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