This is a long introduction, but I need to provide a bit of background before I get around to my main point. If you know me, you know I like to read. I come by it honestly—my mom was a librarian, and I was indoctrinated at an early age. I don’t watch TV, I rarely go to movies, but I read several books a week. In high school, I exhausted the entire Orange County (California) library system, reading every single science fiction and fantasy book they owned. Heinlein, Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Niven, Arthur C. Clark, LeGuin… the list is long and I’ve enjoyed them all.
I believe that God always answers our prayers—the Bible is full of examples, plus we have verses such as Matthew 21:22: “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Yet, for many of us, our life experience tells us otherwise. Does that mean God lied? Is the Bible untrustworthy? Or, perhaps, is it our lack of understanding that’s causing the problem?
Many years ago, Pete and I dreamed of moving to someplace less urban than the middle of Silicon Valley. We were tired of the traffic, fed up with the smog, and yearning for a simpler lifestyle. We prayed, and it seemed as if God was saying yes, get ready, you’re going to move. Great! We’ve always enjoyed the northwest, so Pete spent several months investigating jobs in the Seattle area. Things looked positive, but then the doors started slamming shut. We were so confused. Hadn’t God given us the go-ahead? Had He changed His mind?
“God, what do you want me to do now?” It seems I’ve asked that same question over and over as I’ve lived my life. Years ago, I was a new grad, the ink on my degree barely dry. Suddenly I was faced with a major decision—what should I do with my education? It was tempting to apply to grad school, sticking with what I knew. On the other hand, I was so tired of school! Maybe I should look for a job. Unfortunately, my degree was one of those lacking a clear career path. I spent hours praying, lost in a sea of choices.
“You can’t steer a ship that isn’t moving.” One of our pastors mentioned it again last Sunday, “God can’t direct you if you aren’t already moving.” We’ve all heard this admonition so many times. We assume it’s true. Isn’t it in the Bible somewhere?
Our culture has a thing about keeping busy. If we aren’t doing something every minute of every day, we worry that we’re wasting our lives. We aren’t being significant. We aren’t making a difference. And of course, everybody wants their lives to count for something that matters.
According to twice-wrong Harold Camping’s most recent prediction, the world will end on October 21, 2011.
If that isn’t a good day for you, how about October 16? I was recently alerted (by a caring friend who was quite serious about this) to the impending destruction of the earth by a small, nondescript assemblage of ice and dirt that is currently heading for the core of the solar system. That’s right. On October 16, 2011, on its way out to space again, the comet Elenin will pass by Earth at a distance of “only” 21 million miles. (By comparison, Venus is 23.7 million miles away.)
I have a friend who’s been pretty miserable lately. This is someone I care a lot about, and I’ve been praying for her daily. As sometimes happens when we pray for someone, I’ve gained some insight into her situation. Perhaps the Spirit told me directly, perhaps I simply recognized a situation that’s all too familiar. Either way, it’s clear to me that she’s running from God.
Mind you, my friend is a Bible-believing Christian. That’s not the issue. Rather, God has asked her for something that she’s unwilling to give Him. Never mind that it would greatly benefit her to do so. Never mind that God will take better care of it than she ever could. Giving up something that is a deep part of ourselves is never easy.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
How many times were we asked that as kids? And how many kids announce that they want to be a “nobody” when they become adults? We want to be astronauts, firefighters and doctors, or perhaps president. In many Christian families, the goal is more spiritual: pastor or missionary. The bottom line is, everyone wants to be significant.
I was raised with the message that “I could be anything I wanted” when I grew up. Of course that’s ridiculous. I’m such a klutz, I fell off my stool in art class in 8th grade (and the social fail of it obviously scarred me for life). Clearly, I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete… or a whole host of other things.