when hope comes with an ultimatum

Written by Shelly Miller

Editor, Living the Story Shelly Miller is smitten with the art of story to transform a life. She writes about her own struggles as a child of divorce and alcoholism, and the way God redeems it all as a clergy wife raising two teens. With experience as a full-time missionary, advocate for orphans in Rwanda and leader of women’s ministries for small and large congregations, she is passionate to help people realize calling despite circumstance. When her husband H isn’t leading a church planting movement in North America, they drive five minutes across the street to take a walk on the Atlantic, with a camera strapped to her shoulder.

October 7, 2013

rb31daysdeephope

I remember 1987 as the year of desperation. It was also the year I graduated from college.

Working part-time as a hostess in a restaurant to pay for tuition, I realized I was employed by the primary industry keeping the economy alive in Tulsa, Oklahoma during a severe economic downturn.  Juggling long days of classes and homework, I walked miles over the same stretch of tile and carpet; seating people at tables and cleaning up after them, while most people slept at night.

It was the year Oral Roberts locked himself in the prayer tower, refusing to come down until he raised one million dollars. His antics kept newspaper reporters busy and recruiters away from his university campus. I was looking for a job in Marketing without prospects.

I guess we were all pretty desperate.

Oral cancelled our graduation speaker and inserted himself behind the podium at the last minute, despite pushback from students. He used a day of celebration for hundreds as the pulpit for another sales speech. After all, he had a captive audience.

I sat on the front row fuming red-faced, wagging my blue patent leather shoe over my leg like a mallet hitting a base drum, the golden tassel hanging from my cap swinging in tandem. High above in the rafters, the charade on stage gave my father confirmation. Evidence about why he chose not to pay for my college education. I was indeed attending a school “like that.”

That’s when hope kicked in.

That summer, while I was wiping tables with a sour bar cloth, carrying steaming plates behind ponytails and chinos, I was dreaming about where I could move. Creating scenarios in my mind about the potential of my future, hope rose into my chest, pulsing with possibility.

I narrowed my prayers to three places: Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix. I’d never visited any of those cities but I was ready for change and adventure; to pry the cap off fate.

Providentially, a few days later, a friend invited me to move with her to one of those places on my list. I had two days to make the decision about driving across the country in my Honda CRX.  I sat down on my mother’s couch and gave God an ultimatum.  The first of two times I’d ever addressed Him with that kind of bold confidence.

I’m not getting up until you show me if this is right. It’s up to you to keep me from making the potentially worst decision of my life.

That day hope became more than a lofty emotion, it was a pathway to perseverance and trust.

In the The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown says, “Hope is a combination of setting goals, having the tenacity and perseverance to pursue them and believing in our own abilities.”

While I agree with that, more than believing in myself, I believe in the power of Christ working on my behalf.

In a peaceful leaning, I filled my suitcases the next day. It was a prelude to the worst winter storm in decades. Streets, tree limbs and roofs on houses turned into skating rinks, everything covered in thick layers of ice. Dark and quiet eerie stillness transformed the landscape. Icicles let go of dead power lines shattering like glass on vacant streets below, interrupting the stillness; a metaphor for life’s fragility.

The power was out for hundreds of thousands but my tank was full of gas, my trunk stuffed with hope.

Join me later tonight for part two of the story at Redemptions Beauty, where I’m writing 31 Days of Letting Go in the Deep End.

Have you ever given God an ultimatum?

15 Comments

  1. Kris Camealy

    I love this, Shelly. So much. This is a deep season of growth for me personally, and I am learning to come to God with a bold confidence that I haven’t often felt comfortable doing in the recent past. The most amazing thing is, through my down-right honesty with Him, and my refusal to give up hope, He is stretching my faith (and my vulnerability) to new levels. I feel Him smile when I am really ugly-honest during my prayers with Him. he already knows what’s inside of us, but there is something to really laying it out there before Him and asking Him to speak, and then of course, being willing to wait for His answer. 😉

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      I’m thankful to be able to capture a glimpse of the way God is stretching you and encouraging you to risk and then trust Him more deeply. It’s beautiful to behold.

      Reply
  2. Missindeedy

    Yes. I can so identify with this. Those ultimatum moments come with a brazen confidence that I don’t usually feel in my quieter moments with God. But, like Kris mentioned, it’s in those moments when I feel Him stretching me. Filing away the rough edges of a decision into a smoother more peaceful acceptance of the answer – that’s what I often take away from the one or 7 ultimatums that I’ve thrown up.

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      I think sometimes my circumstances back me into a corner, it’s when I’m desperate that I use the ultimatum. But it feels a bit presumptuous of me, so I don’t do it much. Well, just two times I guess. Thanks for being here.

      Reply
  3. Christie Purifoy

    Hope as a pathway to trust … yes, yes, yes! I’ve never thought of it in quite those words, but they are exactly right. This must be why hope is so painful but also beautiful. The risk is huge, the rewards unfathomable.

    Reply
    • kelli woodford

      Those are the words that grabbed me, too, Christie – hope as a pathway to trust. If we demand a world without paradox we will miss the most terrifying elations of all – the kind you mention here – those that are painful but also beautiful. Such apt words.

      Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      One of the things that touched me deeply in Brene’s book Daring Greatly is her chapter about hope. Those people who show the most hopefulness in their lives are those who have weathered adversity. Adversity is necessary for hope to do its work. It completely changed my paradigm.

      Reply
  4. Dan King

    I kind of feel like I’m giving Him an ultimatum right now over some things. I’m in a strange place where the pressure is on to make certain things happen, “or else.” And opportunities, really good ones, are popping up… but I need to be certain that those are the roads I should be traveling… without boring you with the details right now, I definitely feel like He better come through and give me the direction I need…

    Can’t wait to read part two of this story!

    Reply
    • Kris Camealy

      Praying for His answer Dan. He is faithful.

      Reply
      • Dan King

        Thanks Kris! You are a good friend!

        Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      I echo Kris Dan, praying for you. And I’ve already sensed some of this regarding what you are saying without the details. Not surprised really. Glad this resonated.

      Reply
      • Dan King

        Thanks Shelly! You are a good friend too! And I want to emphasize that much of this is GREAT stuff! But there’s a LOT to weigh out and consider. My wife and I were talking the other night about how some of what we’re considering right now is kind of a good problem to have. I’m excited for the possibilities!

        Reply
  5. Ashley Tolins Larkin

    Shelly, this certainly resonates. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey. I love that: hope is “a pathway to perseverance and trust.” It can certainly be difficult to “grasp” hope, but I love how you express it as a means to hear from God, believing you will indeed receive an answer. I do think of hope as a way and wrote about it as a doorway recently, so I think you and I are thinking similarly about this. All this helps me along as I pray specifically about some pressing things in my own life.

    Reply
    • Shelly Miller

      Glad it helps Ashley. It seems we are often on a quest for answers doesn’t it? But I think that is good, it means we are moving forward and not stuck with where we find ourselves.

      Reply
  6. pastordt

    Boy, would I love to hear the rest of that story! Rich reading here, Shelly. Hope blooms in the midst of bleakness, time after time. Thank you.

    Reply

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  1. When Hope Comes With An Ultimatum {Part 2} - Redemptions Beauty - […] shared Part One of this story on my column Living the Story at BibleDude.net. Click here to catch up…

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when hope comes with an ultimatum

by Shelly Miller time to read: 3 min
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