Don Miller tells a beautiful story in his work Through Painted Deserts about God’s provision. He’d climbed down the Grand Canyon with a friend, a feat of which the mental, physical, and emotional toll was nearly unbearable. After a particularly grueling day, his friend asked him, “If you could have access to anything right now, what would it be?” Miller replied, “Tortillas and scrambled eggs.” An odd answer perhaps, given his more immediate needs, but he went on to explain how strongly the meal reminded him of home and family. When the pair emerged from the Canyon, they resumed their trip but didn’t get far: their jalopy broke down near a diner. They decided to go in and eat, and guess what was remarkably available for breakfast? Yep, tortillas and scrambled eggs. And guess what was wrong with their truck? Nothing; it started up the moment they were ready to leave. Miller says it brought tears to his eyes, realizing how personal our God is. Even something as simple as breakfast food becomes important to God when it’s important to us. Knowing how much pleasure tortillas and scrambled eggs would bring Miller, our Daddy-God orchestrated a plan for him to have them.
I have never climbed the Grand Canyon and completely lack the desire to try. I do, however, understand the concept of an experience that reduces you to a helpless mass of flesh dependant on a great big God. The last two years have brought enormous challenges in every area of my life: academic, relational, physical, personal, spiritual. One such challenge was my master’s examinations, which I successfully completed yesterday. Spaced over a two-week period, there were four parts, two written and two oral, based on a list of more than 200 works in French. The most terrifying component of the exam came last: the orals. The panel could ask me literally anything from any work on the list, starting with the Revolution. To say this is “terrifying” is an understatement of gargantuan proportions. Not only are you worried you don’t know enough about the individual works, but you’re also wondering whether you know enough historical context, whether you can remember what you’ve read, whether your nerves will hinder your mental capabilities during the exam, and so on. In a word, it’s nerve-wracking.
It’s no wonder, then, that I woke up Friday morning with a stomachache and tears in my eyes. And a huge craving for doughnuts. Huge. You’d think I was pregnant. My brain and heart were so worn out from the stress of the previous two years—and, of course, the task in front of me—that all my nervous energy zeroed in on one desire: a doughnut. Irrationally, I thought, “The only thing in the world that could calm me down right now is a doughnut.” When Jeff asked what he could make me for breakfast, I said, “A doughnut. I want a doughnut.” I didn’t get one. It was almost more than my distressed self could take. “No doughnut?” it asked me quietly. “But that’s all I want.” I tried to calm it, saying, “Some way or another, I will get you a doughnut. But you have to shut up now with this nonsense so I can practice my presentation.”
As we were heading out the door, Jeff realized he had to make an emergency run to work to drop something off for his boss. “Want to come?” he asked. I’m always up for a drive, even if it’s only fifteen minutes, so I happily obliged. When we got there, he promised to return quickly so as not to make me late for my appointment. I was surprised, however, when he returned in less than five minutes, knocking on my window. I rolled it down and was handed…a still-warm glazed doughnut. “I don’t know where these came from, but they were sitting out on the desk,” he said with a shrug. Tears sprang to my eyes for what must have been the eighty-eighth time that morning. I gratefully ate my doughnut and was reminded of Don Miller’s tortillas and eggs. God was providing for me, something so silly and so irrelevant, but something that showed me how personal he can be. Right then I knew that if my desire for a ridiculous little doughnut was important to God, then my need for success on the exams was that much more so. I knew that, as Isaiah promises, he’d be with me and would help me and hold me up in his victorious right hand (41:10). My human weakness doesn’t matter in the face of such an almighty God.
One July night in 2009, a week before Jeff and I moved, I was telling God how nervous I was about what lay before me. He showed me the first chapter of Joshua, and I knew in my spirit the words were for me too.
Wherever you set foot, you will be on land that I have given you…I will be with you. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will…possess all the land I swore I would give…Be strong and very courageous…Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything in it. Only then will you prosper and be successful in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (1:3, 5-9).
God had already prepared the way for me to succeed. Nothing that I was asked to do at school surprised him. Nothing about my program or my professors or my exams came as a shock. God never had to reconfigure his plan for me because something didn’t happen the way he expected it to. In fact, he was and is so much bigger than anything school could throw at me. And if he was on my side—which the whole Bible promises me—then what could ever cause me fear? So I went in the exam room being strong and courageous, knowing that God had already given me the “land.” And a doughnut.