Last year, we bought a new shower head. A nice one. A big one. A powerful one. It was a Groupon special. It was a “deal,” meaning we got what we paid for. It started to crack after six months. I don’t know if you know anything about shower heads, but that shouldn’t happen. I started looking for a new one. They aren’t cheap. Makes sense—we do shower everyday. While I didn’t want to fork out $100, we had the money. it wasn’t a problem. I just had to pick one out.
About this same time, we got a letter and package from National Grid—our electric and gas company. Last summer, we upgraded our furnace and AC to high-efficiency. Electric and gas companies love this and often provide a rebate for upgrading. We got a $420 rebate. The letter and package that followed months later were a “thank you” for upgrading and participating in the rebate program. (I thought the rebate was thank-you enough.) I opened up the package. Do you know what was inside the box? A shower head and a couple sink aerators. I smiled. “You gave us a shower head,” I thought silently to God. No one else was around. Carly was upstairs feeding Titus. I went to Titus’s room, looked at Carly and held out the shower head. “What’s that?” she said. “It’s a shower head. From National Grid.”
“Jesus gave us a shower head!” Carly said joyfully. Yes, he did.
I’m not the type who says that if you give to the Lord, he always “pays you back.” That’s not true. God calls us to give—money, time, energy, life—with no promise of an equal return this side of heaven. However, this shower head was a gracious sign that God would take care of us. It was as if he said, “I have provided financially for you to buy this. You could’ve gone to Home Depot. But I sent this to you to remind you that I’m a good Father and I’ll take care of you.” I thanked Jesus and forgot about it. Little did Carly and I know that a shower head would foreshadow God’s gracious provision.
About the time of the miraculous arrival of the shower head, Carly had been starting to eliminate certain foods from her diet as she nursed Titus. He had blood and mucus in his stools, symptoms of food protein intolerance. We didn’t know what was doing this to him, so Carly eliminated nearly every potential bothersome food. Eventually, her diet consisted of ground turkey, broccoli, and Cape Cod-brand potato chips. For every meal.
We came to the end of our rope. We needed to switch to formula. Unfortunately, the only formula that would help Titus was $45. A can. These are not big cans. They last for 3-4 days. I’ll do the math for you. That’s in the neighborhood of $500 per month with tax. That’s more money than everyone else in the house eats per month. We would need to do this for at least six months. Probably more. We were looking at $3,000+ on formula. It was overwhelming.
Thankfully, this is why we have health insurance. Other families have had this type of formula covered by insurance. Our pediatrician wrote a letter to our insurance company, informing them the formula is medically necessary. Our insurance denied coverage. We went to an allergist. Titus tested negative for allergies (food protein intolerance is different than an allergy). The allergist wrote a letter confirming the pediatrician’s recommendation.
We then started Titus on some formula we purchased ourselves—we were desperate for his intestines to heal, and for Carly to eat a balanced diet again. After one week on the formula, all his symptoms had vanished. The formula hit the reset button. We then went to a GI doctor. No imaging or colonoscopy necessary because Titus was healing up. So, the GI wrote a letter as the pediatrician and allergist did. Our insurance denied coverage again. We appealed. They denied, stating that this formula was not medically necessary despite the informed opinion of three medical professionals who had physically seen our child and were acquainted with his condition and improvement once he started on the formula.
A couple elders who knew of the situation wanted to help ease any financial burden we might face. Carly and I were ready to pay for this—it’s our responsibility as parents to provide food for our son. Yet, these two elders assured us that Titus’s food need would be met, somehow, by the church. “Even if you weren’t a pastor here, this is what we do,” one of them said. Our elders were ready to meet the need, both personally and with help from our church’s deacons’ fund. God had provided. Again. It was the shower head, magnified.
We started to receive checks from people and were scheduled to receive regular checks from the deacons’ fund. But we had sent an application to the formula manufacturer assistance program and were waiting to hear if we would qualify for financial help. On Good Friday, we found out we did. The manufacturer would cover 100% of Titus’s need. In fact, they would send us a few cans more per month than what we needed. God provided. Again.
We decided that the checks we had received should be returned. I talked to the couples who gave us money, and they happily refused to receive back their checks. Use it for something else, they said. This past Monday, the day after Easter, the radiator in my 2001 Honda CR-V cracked. The repair? $744. The amount of money provided in those checks? $700. God provided. Again.
Why are you anxious about shower heads? Rain falls on the streets to wash away the muck and mire. Don’t you think your Father cares much more for your body than the streets? Why are you anxious about car radiators? He gives the birds wings to fly and fish fins to swim. Don’t you think your Father knows you need to go here and there? Why are you anxious about formula? God provides even baby animals what they need to grow strong and healthy. Don’t you think he cares much more for you and your children? Life is more than meals and engine coolant and showers. But God knows you need these things. And he’s happy to provide them. Concern yourself with the things that are on God’s heart and he’ll take care of the things that are on yours.
My wife beautifully made this same connection on her blog. (I told Carly I was going to write this post, but she beat me to the writing punch!) I’ll make the same point she made. Why does God provide for us in these kinds of ways? To give us little tastes of his greater provision that his only Son was given up for us on the cross so that we might his children. Shower heads and formula are not the point. These are good, material gifts to point us to our supreme, spiritual need: God, himself.
At the same time, God is not a genie, and sometimes—for only reasons he knows—he doesn’t provide what we physically need. What about those times? Is he not as good as we thought? No. He is. In not providing, the reason is the same. He doesn’t provide materially to deepen our reliance on him as the best thing. He wants our hope and joy to rest in him, not other things. In those moments he’s asking us, “Am I not enough for you?” If God has provided eternal life for us through his Son, we can face anything because, ultimately, nothing can harm us. Therefore, in God’s giving and in his withholding, he is good to us and he is enough for us.
Whom, then, have we in heaven but Jesus? And there is nothing on earth we desire besides Jesus! Our shower heads, our radiators, our health, our food supply, our insurance, and even our flesh and bones may fail us, but God is the strength of our hearts and our inheritance forever. Him. Just him.