My husband always regretted not finishing college.
But his scholarship had run out, he was struggling academically, and we were in love. I mean in luuuuuv. When his pastor told him he didn’t need a degree to be a minister, he took it as God’s direction and quit school.
He found a job, we got married, and by the time our daughters came along, finishing school was the last thing on his mind.
Contrary to his pastor’s advice, however, the lack of a degree dogged his steps for 20 years. Churches were more than happy to let him teach a Sunday school class, lead an AWANA program, or preach occasionally, but they always hired ministers with a degree for their permanent positions.
Twenty years into our marriage, my husband raised the subject of going back to school. “I’ve always regretted not finishing,” he said, “and it’s continued to hinder me.” His alma mater, Liberty University, had just opened its online degree program. He could take classes remotely and continue to work full time—a must, because I was a stay-at-home mom.
And then his courage faltered. “If I take one class at a time,” he said, “it will take me FIVE YEARS to finish. Do you know how OLD I’ll be in five years if I go back to school?”
“Do you know how old you’ll be in five years if you DON”T go back to school?” I responded, and he was convinced.
Except for one problem—we didn’t have money for him to go back to school. Every month we had just enough to pay the bills, buy groceries, and tuck a little away for an emergency. Each class cost $500, plus books—a small fortune to us.
But David felt led to step out in faith, fairly certain God was calling him back. “We’ll take money out of savings to pay for the first class, and if God is really calling me, he’ll provide the rest.”
Unbeknownst to him, I’d been squirreling away coupon money, rebate checks, and birthday cash for several years. When I counted the money in my stash, I was delighted to find I’d accumulated $500. I immediately called our church office.
“I’d like to give some money to help my husband pay for his first class, as an encouragement,” I told the financial secretary, “but I don’t want him to know it’s from me.” She assured me I could bring the money by, and they’d mail him a check from an “anonymous donor.”
I smiled all the way to the church.
Two days later, he received the envelope. An anonymous donor has given $500 to help you with school expenses, the letter read. May God bless your studies.
I’ve never seen my husband laugh and cry at the same time, but I saw it that day. We sent off the check, and he went to work on his first class.
I wonder what we’re going to do when it’s time to register for the next class? I thought. There’s no more money in my stash, and registration will be here before we know it.
“The Lord will provide,” my husband said when I raised the question. “If he’s called me to go back, he’ll send the money.” He was convinced. I wasn’t so sure.
Two days later, he received a letter in the mail from the college. Dear Mr. Hatcher, it read. We are crediting your account $500. An anonymous donor has paid for your class.
“There must be a mistake,” he said and called the finance office. “Why are you refunding my money?”
“Because an anonymous donor has paid for your class,” the secretary replied.
“I know an anonymous donor paid for my class,” he said. “I got the check in the mail, and that’s how I paid my tuition.”
“Well sir, I don’t know anything about the check you got in the mail. All I know is that an anonymous donor sent us money to pay for your first class, so we’re refunding your money.”
“You mean I have TWO anonymous donors?” he said, turning to me with disbelieving eyes. I was more shocked than he was, and I knew it was time to come clean.
“David,” I said, my words tumbling out, “The first $500 came from me. I sent it to the church and asked them to send it to you. I wanted to encourage you. It was money I’d saved for something special.” Then I paused. “But I don’t know anything about this other anonymous donor. I think it REALLY WAS the Lord.”
This time we laughed and cried together.
Later, alone in my bedroom, I confessed my disbelief to the Lord. Lord, I’m so sorry. I doubted you could provide for David to go back to school. I was afraid he’d be disappointed and discouraged and want to quit. When I gave that money, I wasn’t trusting you. I was trusting myself. Please forgive me. And thank you for teaching me what my husband already knows, that when you call, you also provide.
Although David had been a struggling student the first time around, 20 years of growth, maturity, and common sense made him dedicated and hard-working the second time through. Reminiscent of a kindergartner showing off his first report card, David grinned from ear to ear when he showed me his grade—a beautiful B.
And then it was time to register again. He selected his class, using the credit on his account to pay the tuition.
A week later the school sent him a check for $500.
Wondering if his past academic struggles had come home to roost, and he’d been put on academic probation, he called the school office.
“Why was my tuition refunded?”
“Because you have a credit balance,” the secretary replied. “An anonymous donor paid your tuition.”
“I know an anonymous donor paid my tuition,” he said, “but that was last semester. I registered for another class this semester.”
“I don’t know anything about last semester,” the secretary said. “All I know is that an anonymous donor has paid for this class.”
“And to keep us from having this conversation again next semester,” she said, “you need to know—this same donor has authorized us to bill him or her for every class you take until you graduate.”
We laughed and cried again, marveling at how God had worked in response to my husband’s faith.
Every semester my husband registered for a new class, and every semester his anonymous donor paid the bill. This unknown person donated over $17,000 in tuition money over the course of five years.
“Did you ever find out who sent the money?” people sometimes ask him when we tell this story.
“Oh, I know who sent the money,” he says. “The Lord.”
David and I learned several lessons from this adventure. First, we learned that sometimes we have to step into the water for God to part it. Second, we learned that God can take seed money, watered by faith, and grow a miracle. Third, (I know you saw this coming), we learned that when God calls us to do something, he will provide what we need to accomplish it.
In December of 2008, my husband received his Bachelor of Science in Religion degree from Liberty University. And yes, he was five years older than when he started.
Thirty-one years ago today, David and I were married. Happy anniversary, Hubby. I love you more than ever!