The journey to acquire our own building for Bethesda Workshops surfaced many challenging issues for me. I am sure that even if we hadn’t gotten the property, the process was well worth the headaches and investment because of the lessons learned. At the core, one key question was, “Is this an exercise of faith or a path of folly?”
The faith part of me leaned into a belief in God’s goodness and God’s desire to bless God’s children. That part had, at times, an almost cavalier attitude about the financial realities of what we were considering. My thinking ran along the lines of, “What’s a million dollars to God?” The benevolent God who can part the Red Sea and heal the sick and feed 5,000 people with a child’s meager lunch can surely help Bethesda Workshops raise the money we need to buy this building. “Just go for it!” the faithful part insisted.
Most of the time, though, the doubter was more prominent. I often heard my father’s voice saying, “Sometimes, it’s hard to know if God is leading or the devil is tempting.” I was plagued with fears of making a foolish decision and enticing other Bethesda Workshops leaders to join me down a path of folly. I rehearsed a long-standing internal speech about responsibility, prudent stewardship and not getting “too big for your britches.” (If you’re not old enough to recognize that mantra, you might substitute “don’t bite off more than you can chew.” If you don’t resonate with either saying, well, surely you get the gist, which is, “How in the world are you seriously considering making a financial commitment that you have no tangible way of paying for?”)
It was interesting to walk at times with an odd detachment about the deliberations. I was both the person wrestling with how to proceed, and simultaneously the person observing that process. It’s a common experience for those who have learned to live deliberately, and I expect many readers are familiar with what I’m describing. Fascinating, yes, but ultimately not helpful. In fact, this dual perspective was only more confusing as the experiencer and the observer danced around the dilemma time and time again.
Until a moment of absolute clarity. Astounding, really, when I think about it. I was explaining this faith-versus-folly debate to a dear friend, and he calmly responded, almost off-hand, “Well I don’t think the devil tempts us into something that’s going to glorify God.” Wow, of course! I was thunderstruck with the simple truth of that theology.
I definitely wasn’t intentionally setting out to be foolish or fiscally irresponsible. I know with an eternal certainty that God brought Bethesda Workshops into existence and called me to be God’s voice and hands and heart and feet through this healing ministry. All of my being wants to honor God, which is one of the most precious gifts of transformation.
I remembered a spiritual proclamation that had rocked my entire perspective 25 years ago when I was first entering recovery. Another dear friend had gently assured that God doesn’t measure us with the yardstick of success or failure. God isn’t nearly as concerned with the outcome of some specific decision as much as God longs to be welcomed as the central One in the process of our lives. There isn’t a “wrong” choice if our heart’s desire is to be connected with God in a deeply personal relationship of grace and trust. When that is the path, either fork will take you to the right destination.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek God’s will in all you do, and he will direct your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
Oh, the freedom of being removed from the tug-of-war of faith versus folly! Bethesda Workshops is buying a building!
Marnie C. Ferree