I’ve had fun writing out some fun and humorous stories lately, and as I woke this morning I remembered a great story that isn’t funny but would have fit in great with the conversation my friends and I had last night, so enjoy.
When I was a young adolescent, ages 12 to 14 or so, I had trapped myself into this weird pattern of thinking that I had to work really hard to eventually break. I had noticed that when I thought something was going to happen a certain way (something very specific, too, like someone opening a door for me at a friends house or what room my mom would go into first when she got home), it wouldn’t happen that way. So eventually my young mind began trying to shape the future by thinking of every possibility that I didn’t want, but I could not think of the possibility I did want. What I found was that I could not possibly think of every scenario in any upcoming situation, so what I didn’t want to happen still happened in a slightly different way than I tried to predict, and then when you add that to the fact that I would try my best to keep myself from thinking about what I did want to happen and would kick myself if I would, I stressed myself out greatly. Eventually I broke this for the most part. But one thing that stuck with me is not expecting the things I hope to happen to actually happen, and I would still get stressed because I would try not to hope for them in fear that I would lose that chance. This became so familiar to me that I didn’t question it for a very long time. So when I started coming around to my church in Carbondale and actually learning to pursue Jesus, and my pastors would tell us to expect the Holy Spirit to move, to expect Him to change our hearts, and to expect him to fix us, I would get confused and stressed out. I wanted my heart to be healed and changed, but I “knew” that if I expected it to happen, it wouldn’t.
That’s a very long introduction to this story, but I’m hoping that it will help one understand the profound experience of God showing me how much in control he really is.
When I first moved to Seattle, I lived with four guys, in their basement. For three months. I set a date to be out by November 1 (2006), and I was. I moved into a studio apartment just a few blocks from their house in Seattle’s Central District. It was cheap for a studio in a major city (especially for its size), but that didn’t mean it was easily affordable. I was still a temp at my job, so I wasn’t making much, so I had to adhere to a very strict budget and cook my lunches for a whole week in advance, and only light the pilot light on my stove when I needed it, and never turn on my gas heater, and only have on my space heater overnight so that it wasn’t too cold to get out of bed in the morning, and try to somehow make $20 last for a week in a big boat of a car, and so on and so on. I eventually got a small raise when I came on 100% with my company, and that made some things a little easier, but I still was pretty far from living a life of ease and luxury. All of these things considered, though, I liked my apartment. I had no complaints.
In January of 2007, my friend Ben Cole permanently moved back to Seattle from Carbondale to both work for Boeing and be a part of Blue Sky Church. He lived with a couple of different people for a few weeks while looking for a place to rent. It was brought up that he and I could get a place, but I had a lease until the end of August 2007, and since I could barely afford to live there, I couldn’t come close to paying costs associated with breaking the lease early.
Eventually, Ben started looking for a place with our friend Luke Gray. After looking at a few places, and being thought to be a gay couple more than once, they found a place that would work perfect, but they needed at least one more person to make it affordable. I wasn’t first on their list of people to ask, but they did eventually ask me if I would be willing to see if I could get out of my lease and live with them. We did the math, and my cost of living would drop by nearly $100 per month, plus I’d live with two friends and Christian guys in a safer neighborhood.
The dates are very important for this story, so I’m referencing a calendar to make sure I get them right. The day Ben and Luke asked me about moving in with them was January 17, a Wednesday. That night I was very excited about this possibility, and I did pray that God would come through and somehow help this work out. Since there were so many things that could go wrong, I found myself, as usual, trying to keep from thinking that it would work out. But then I felt God kind of kick me for that, and it felt like He said, “If I’m going to do something, it doesn’t matter in the slightest bit what you’re thinking about or not thinking about, so stop stressing yourself out and expect this to happen.” Well, I wanted to have faith, so I forced myself to relax about it, if one can actually force themselves to relax.
Over the next couple of days, I began trying to devise ways to get out of my lease. My building manager was gone for a few days, as he often was, so I had some time to get some things figured out. I spoke to my supervisor at work and she explained that I had to create an “unsafe” situation, so I tried to come up with things. I couldn’t bring myself to blatantly lie about something, so I resorted to trying to blow something out of proportion. I once locked my keys in my apartment, and the “maintenance” guy didn’t have the master set, and the person who had them was going to be gone for a few days. I couldn’t afford a locksmith (they’re like $100 minimum out here), so me and this guy (who wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box, if I may be so cliche’) tried to wedge a few things into the latch, but eventually we just ended up busting the door in. He did some quick patch-up repairs and said it would be completely fixed in a week. Well by the time Luke and Ben came to talk to me, it had been a month and a half and no repairs were done. I began researching some things and found that repairs had to be done within a certain time frame, or else the lease was null and void. The only catch was that the request for the repairs had to be submitted in writing. So I started trying to write up a request for the door to be fixed, hoping that they’d take more than 72 hours to get to it (if that’s how long the limit was; I can’t really remember) and then I’d be free to leave without penalty. Well, by Friday the 19th, I was hanging out with Ben and a couple other guys and I told them about my plan, and Ben had actually done some asking around of his own. He found out that in Seattle a landlord has to let a tenant out of a lease if they want out, but the tenant is responsible for rent of the unit until it’s either re-rented or the time frame for the lease comes to and end. Eventually, Ben just suggested something that had already been stirring in my heart, “Maybe you should just be honest with your landlord, explain the situation, and see if something can be worked out.” Him saying that forced me to realize that I was trying to make this happen on my own and not trusting that God would actually come through.
So, the next day, Saturday the 20th, I was able to catch my building manager and I leveled with him about the whole situation. Before speaking with him, I had thought about what kind of “miracle” could take place. Maybe he’d say, “Well, what a coincidence! We have a full building and I just put someone on a waiting list for a place!” Maybe any number of things! God’s coming through for me on this one, right? So I speak to him, and he sighs, “You’re the fourth person this month to want to move out of the building early.” Darn. He proceeded to explain that two guys on month-to-month were leaving, and one girl was breaking her lease, as I was trying to do. He let me know that, according to my lease, I had to give him 20 days notice before the end of the month before moving out. Since it was already January 20th, this notice counted for March and not for February. Fine, I knew that and expected that. He let me know that I have to keep paying rent for the unit until he re-rents it. Fine, I knew that, too. He assured me that he would have little trouble having it rented by March, but I was 4th in line for it to be shown. He also reminded me that a certain portion of my security deposit was not refundable. Since that was the case whether I stayed the term of the lease or not, I also expected this.
The next day at church I told some people about what was going on. Okay, I told like everybody. I am Braden, after all. I told them that one of three things could happen: 1) He re-rents the unit quickly and I coast through the month of February; 2) God decides to make me sweat a bit and the unit doesn’t get re-rented until the last minute; or 3) The unit doesn’t get re-rented by March and I have to be prepared to pay rent in two places for one month, maybe two. I believe it was Becky Feicho who tried to assure me that possibilities 2 and 3 were ridiculous because there’s no lesson that God could have for me in those. She and I joked that, “hey, maybe it’ll be rented in a matter of days!” That night, when I got home, I noticed that my blinds were open. I never left my blinds open when I left the place. That was a little creepy. Maybe my landlord had been showing the place? That was probably the best analysis. But, since I’m so full of faith and I trust God so much, I decided it best to not let myself think about that for too long.
On Monday, January 22, I had finished worship practice and then proceeded to the CLAM to hang out with some people. Due to all the stuff happening, I had this sneaking suspicion that I needed to be home, but I didn’t listen to it and didn’t get home until 11:30 p.m. or after. When I arrived, I saw a piece of paper sticking out from underneath my door. It was a note that read, “Lucky you! I have a couple interested in unit 5 [my apartment]! Let me know if it’s okay to rent for February and they will bring the deposit by tonight!”
I was completely speechless. Really, I was speechless. Me! I could do little more than pace back and forth quickly, kind of laugh, and find myself terrified and excited at the same time at how real God really is. I finally texted lots of people “I got home to a note under my door saying my apartment is rented already! WOW!”, and all but two people replied with something to the effect of, “God is amazing!” The two people who replied differently were Brandon Feicho, who said, “Awesome!” (but I knew he got it, too), and Flyn, who said, “Who is this?” And I found the thing exciting and amazing me the most at that moment was how God just did this awesome, expectation-exceeding thing for me, and he turned it into worship for himself. That was cool.
So by Wednesday the 24th, this new couple had signed a lease that started February 1, and by Saturday the 27th, I was out of my apartment and in the new place, and in a matter of weeks I had all I was able to get back from my security deposit. I like that story.