You know better

22 10 2012

You know the persistent song-in-your-head phenomenon?  It’s not always a song you like, but it’s on loop. These two lines have been my loop this week :

“I’ve let go the need to know why,
For you know better than I.”

Are you with me in finding these hard lines to sing truthfully?  I always know better – don’t you?  It started young for me and  I can remember the vibes of frustration from my parents when I doggedly stuck to my point of view and refused to pay attention to theirs.  I knew better then; I know better now.

Then there’s the “why” question.  That starts young too, as anyone who’s ever met a three year old knows. And I have a theory that three year olds don’t really want an answer their “why” questions. And to be honest, we run out of steam and don’t want to give the answer.(Question: why do I need to wear a coat?  Answer: Because it’s cold outside. Q: Why? A: Because it’s winter. Q: Why? A: Because it is. Q: Why?… you know the scene.)

What does the child want with the asking?  It’s a way of maintaining engagement with the adult, drawing them into their world, seeking to build the relationship. But when I ask “why” of God, it’s often just the opposite. It’s a selfish  “why me?” question – sub-text “you don’t care, it’s not fair, I hate you.” It’s that kind of “why” that we need to let go of. And God? He wants to maintain the relationship. He is always good. He knows better than I.

So what about Joseph, King of Dreams?  The Bible narrative doesn’t let us inside his private world. Though the Dreamworks film gives him the song to sing, exploring faith and hope, it’s only a guess about what may have been going through his mind.  It’s not until Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers that we get a hint of his faith – “God sent me here” (Genesis 45:5-7).  That’s a confident faith statement to the family who had exiled him into slavery. It’s a big picture view that must have allowed Joseph hope in the dark times (“But maybe knowing
I don’t know is part of getting through”), and confidence of his being God’s man in Egypt.

Joseph’s faith results in status and prosperity and although there must have been the temptation to taunt his brothers with, “I told you so,” he has grown out of that cocky know it all attitude  into the man who is used by God to provide for his family and, in the broader scheme, to preserve the people of God.

Were the tough times worth it? I think Joseph would have sung a definite “Yes”. I’d like to learn to sing with him.


How could you do this to me?

15 10 2011

I love this story which Don Miller relates in his book To own a dragon.

‘Every evening around six, Terri would set dinner on the table, and the family would sit down to eat. And every night, almost without fail, the kids would start to whine. Unless it was chicken nuggets and French fries, there were going to be problems at dinner. One evening, Cassy, who was quite good at lobbying the family for what she wanted, lay down on the kitchen floor and rolled over in frustration about having to eat whatever it was Terri had prepared. John stood at the corner of the island in the kitchen and watched her, trying not to laugh. She twisted and turned and moaned and complained, but John stood silently, not letting her manipulate him. Finally, Cassy belted out the now famous line: “Dad, how could you do this to me?” John and I covered our mouths and looked away in hysterics…

…Looking back, it struck me how often I have wondered, sometimes out loud to God, “How could you do this to me?”…

…In the situation with Cassy, John had some choices as a father…Giving Cassy what she wanted rather than what she needed should not be confused with good parenting. If God was withholding something I wanted, it meant I could trust him rather than cry out, “How could you do this to me?”‘

Buy Don's book here

Two black eyes and a leaky bucket!

13 10 2011

Most people at some time or another pray.  The remarkable thing is not that most people pray, but that some people keep at it.  Why?  Why does anyone keep praying when there’s often so little to show for it? 

“Prayer is a leaky bucket,” writes Eugene Peterson. “You go to the river to get a pail of water and by the time you get home the water is gone, the bucket empty, and all there is left to show for your effort is a damp trail soon to be wiped out by the sun.” 

Does that ring any bells?

Jesus obviously thought that persistence in prayer was something that his followers would struggle with and so he tells the story of the widow with ultimate pester power (Luke 18:1-8).  She nagged and badgered until she got justice from the judge.

The judge is an unsavoury character but in the end the threat of two black eyes forces him to give the widow the justice she demanded. (I’m not great in the Greek department, but apparently “wearing me out” in verse 5 translates as “beating me black and blue”.)

So what’s all this about?  Here are a few thoughts –

  • God’s silence is a common experience for all who pray
  • People who pray ask, “Why?” and “How long?” a lot (check out the Psalms for evidence of this)
  • I don’t know the whole story of my life
  • Persistent prayer is not about my stubborn willfulness trying to bend God’s ear…
  • It is about relationship, a trust that God is good and has my best interests at heart

Is this enough to encourage me to keep praying, to not give up, to not lose heart?  Will Jesus find faith when he comes to visit me?

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