Friday, March 6, 2015

Read the Fine Print

“Then Gideon said to God, ‘In order to see whether you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said, I am going to lay a fleece of wool on the threshing-floor; if there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will deliver Israel by my hand, as you have said.’ And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water. Then Gideon said to God, ‘Do not let your anger burn against me, let me speak one more time; let me, please, make trial with the fleece just once more; let it be dry only on the fleece, and on all the ground let there be dew.’ And God did so that night. It was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.”    --Judges 6: 36-40

I’ve always looked a little askance at the audacity of Gideon. Here he’s just asked God to perform a miracle to give him an unequivocal sign and God has done just that. But then Gideon says, “Well. Um. That’s great and all, but, like, could you maybe—and don’t smite me for asking or anything—could you do it again? But slightly differently this time. So, you know, I can be really sure I’m not going to get it handed to me by the Midianites and their allies?”

Seriously? You’re looking at an absolutely clear sign and that’s not enough for you?!?

So yeah, um, I’m feeling a bit like Gideon right now. Because, you see, I had just made the monumental decision not to go back to school at Luther Seminary because the money didn’t come through and anyway, I had no business doing school full time with the demands of my family and my life in general. I was just waiting for the confirmation letter for the lesser (but very generous) scholarship I had already been awarded before I called the seminary to let them know I wouldn’t be coming. That it just wasn’t time.

The confirmation letter came yesterday and I opened it this morning. I don’t know what possessed me to read it thoroughly. I already knew that the scholarship was contingent upon me being a full time student at the seminary, which would simply not work. But I read it anyway. And saw the words “There is no minimum course per term requirement.”

I’m sorry, what?

“There is no minimum course per term requirement.”

I took a deep breath. I put the letter down. I took care of a couple of tasks in the house. I sat back down by the computer and picked up the letter.

“There is no minimum course per term requirement.”

I called the seminary and talked to my admissions counselor. “So I got the confirmation letter, and it says I don’t have to be a full time student.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Are you kidding me? This whole time I’ve been laboring under the delusion that the only way I would get scholarship money was to go full time. I was planning to call you as soon as I got this letter to let you know I wouldn’t be coming.”

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I hope I didn’t give you that impression. The only scholarship that requires full-time attendance is the Presidential Scholarship. In fact, by not receiving that, you’ve been given a whole lot more flexibility.”

Well that’s a horse of a different color. I thanked her and told her I had a few more conversations to have, but I would get back to her early next week with my final decision.

Yeah, God? You know that drenched fleece you gave me? Well, you sure did make it absolutely clear that being a full-time seminarian was just not for me. Oh, and about not getting the full ride scholarship? Um, yeah, thanks for that, okay?

Just like I hadn’t consciously set out that first fleece on scholarship weekend, I hadn’t consciously set out a second one in deciding to wait for the confirmation letter before terminating my enrollment. I really hadn’t. I had fully accepted that seminary was just not going to be possible. So, you know, it wasn’t quite the audacity of Gideon: the whole, “Are you sure, God?” The analogy isn’t perfect. But I’m sure as heck happy to have been wrong. Because with a little effort—and some divine help, seminary just might happen after all!