In December 2012 I had an encounter with God where I learned He was real. It's nostalgic remembering what happened after. I didn't know what plans God had for me, but very shortly afterwards, He began to really work on me to change who I am by examining my heart and making me go through a six month period where He taught me tête-à-tête.
I believe the first thing God saw was how hard my heart was towards giving. I mean, I would give but never really felt the generosity of giving. What I believed about money was to hold on to it and I saw it as my money. I controlled it and I could decide what to do with it. Giving it away was not my plan.
The new year 2013 just begun. God worked quickly by starting His work to change my heart. I was walking to work during the morning of January 2nd and something happened to me. There was a man standing at the door of the Tim Horton's coffee shop that I had to pass. He was usually there, holding out a paper cup for money. I would never give him anything. This time I had a crazy conviction in my heart and mind and I could not walk past him without giving him exactly $3.00. I stood on the pavement examining my head. I kid you not, I physically could not move forward until I took out $3.00 from my wallet and put it in his cup.
The next day, the same scenario was played out. I was unable to move forward until I had $3.00 in my hand and put it in the cup. This continued for days, weeks and months. I was a slow learner. It took a long time to shatter my hardened heart and soften it up a litte in giving. Eventually over time I at least clued in that I should have the $3.00 in my pocket. I would automatically walk up the street and deposit $3.00 in the cup, not making eye contact with the man nor speaking to him. He was like a thorn in my side as I learned my lesson.
One day I had an encounter with him. He was waking up from sleeping on the subway grill. It snowed and rained the night before. He spoke to me and showed me how wet his clothing was. I gave him more to buy a meal and told him I was sorry he had to sleep this way. He didn't want to go to a shelter because he didn't like it there. Since that time I would greet him when I gave to him.
One evening I was getting ready to go to sleep. I heard God telling me to take some of the bedding out of my closet and put them into four bags. To that, I had to add my two favourite coats. He wanted me to wake up very early the next morning to drive to work. I had to give these bags to the homeless. I struggled a bit in my heart about giving away the coats, but by this time I knew better and chose to obey God. I added some water and fruit to the bags.
It was deep winter. I left home by 5:30 am to drive to work. God told me which route to take and what to do. I kid you not, there was not one homeless person to be found. I thought it would be easy to find them and just get rid of the bags. Eventually, as I got close to work I saw a couple of people sleeping on the streets. I quickly parked my car and gave them two bags. I walked a bit and found another person. The last bag was very heavy. I decided to split it into two. I walked around and could not find a person. God took over and directed me where to walk, a bit further away from the office, through a small park and voila, there were 5 people huddled together sleeping on the street. I crossed the street to leave the last bags. I put one of the bags next to one of the men, then put the other one next to the adjacent person. My heart really went out to them. I opened my wallet and my eyes saw $5 first. Instead, I took out $20 and put it beside one of them. I did the same for the other person. One of the men woke up and I apologized for leaving the bags with the women's coat with them. He could not stop thanking me. He was so grateful. Another man woke up. I asked them why they were here as it was bitterly cold the previous night. They said they were not able to get into a shelter, so they huddled together to stay warm. I gave the first man some money. His hand touched mine and it was so soft. I will never forget how his hand felt, soft, tender, warm. This caught me by surprise as I expected it to be hard and rough. Eventually I emptied out my wallet and gave them what I had. That morning I learned humility, compassion and love in addition to the gift of giving freely. They kept thanking me over and over. I walked back to my office. It was still very early in the morning, just after 6 am and no one was in. I sat at my desk and sobbed very hard and very loudly. I believe I had learned my lesson.
About five months later I was going to work and I had the money in my pocket. As I was walking up the street to where the man usually was, there was no one on the streets. I blinked and a woman with very curly salt and pepper hair appeared out of nowhere and into my sight. She walked south as I walked north. I could not take my eyes off her because her hair was so distinct and she was tall. She had an extremely confident presence about her and was well dressed. She walked right up to me and stuck her hand right up to my face. In her hand was a paper cup. I must have been on automatic giving mode. I deposited the $3.00 into her cup. She pulled her hand away and began to walk away. I heard her saying loudly to herself "Weeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!" with glee. I had my eyes on this woman as she walked away. She didn't turn a corner. I blinked and in the same way that she appeared, she disappeared. I realized in that moment that I was being tested by God to see what I would do and I might have very well just encountered an angel. I have never seen her again. I was getting the drift of giving, which would eventually include my lesson in tithing.
Six months later I was on the train going to work. I heard quite loudly in my head "Hold the tithe". It was so loud, it sounded like the person next to me was speaking to me. I thought I was losing my mind. I questioned God in my head "What do You mean, hold the tithe? Am I hearing you right? Is this Satan? Why would you tell me not to give money? Every day I am supposed to have $3.00 ready to give because You want me to give it. Hold the tithe? I must not be hearing right." I proceeded to disobey God and put the $3.00 into my pocket. I walked up the street as I usually do and the homeless man was no longer there. I never saw him again.
By this time I was already giving in other areas of my life wholeheartedly and not questioning God. Little did I know that this gift of giving would be where I would experience the truth about Luke 6:38: "Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." In Malachi 3, God says you are under a curse if you do not bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. These taught me to take my tithing and giving very seriously. I have always been blessed in return.