in the way

When we get in God’s way
One of my favorite stories is of a husband who calls his wife at work about 2:00. He tells her that he’s sorry and he couldn’t help it. Somehow he invited his boss and a few coworkers over for dinner that night. Can she please help him pull this off?? She immediately goes into planning mode. She tells him to go home and start cleaning; she will go to the grocery store and get what they need. She does, and all the way home she is planning: what needs to be vacuumed, scrubbed, dusted, polished, or marinated for at least 2 hours. What needs to be put away and what can just be hidden in the laundry room. He has at least an hour head start on her, so she’s hoping to be able scratch through a couple of the things on this mental list as soon as she walks in the door. But what she finds is that, in his sincere desire to help, he has accomplished nothing on her list. He has removed the blinds from all the windows in the house and put them in bath tub to soak. He was trying to help, but he didn’t have the big picture…he focused on a minor detail that made matters worse. She adds hanging blinds and scrubbing the bathtub to her list.

The Bible shows us people trying to obey and who impose their own plan and complicate the problem, rather than contribute to the solution. Sarah was frustrated with God’s timing on the heir for Abraham, so she arranged to get Hagar pregnant. Moses felt the call to protect the Hebrews and killed an Egyptian. In Gethsemane Jesus separates himself from the disciples to protect them from the soldiers who came to arrest him, and Peter runs forward and cuts of the ear of the servant of the High Priest. We, too, get frustrated with God’s timing and impose plans to “help”. We speak what we believe they need to hear, not what God’s tells us to say. We can’t see his plan, so we create our own. We’d rather do something than wait on God, so we forge ahead without him.

One of the amazing things about God is that he is not stymied by our fumbled attempts to “help”. Isaac was still the heir who receive God’s blessing. Moses spent time learning about the desert, shepherding difficult animals before he had to shepherd difficult people in that same desert. Jesus’ last miracle before he died was to restore the ear of a servant who was sent to unjustly arrest him.

The only thing we are capable of doing that will prevent God’s will is to refuse to come to him ourselves. Nothing you can do will prevent his will in the world, but your choice to ignore him or to intentionally disobey will separate you from him. He can go behind you and clean up your mess; he can use your mess to continue to prepare you for what is to come, and he can use your mess as a testimony to those who are watching you. He won’t stop loving you, but he will honor the distance you insist on putting between you and him.
He wants your attention and your presence. He will give you the words to speak, the timing on moving forward, and the discernment to understand enough to obey in that moment.

The Bible rarely mentions times when God interrupts the life of one he calls and seems to give them no choice (Paul is the only one I can think of?). Most of the time he patiently leads his own forward, through or around their mistakes and sins, in spite of their weakness or “stiff necks”. His will for others is not dependent on us, but our relationship with him is often determined by our desire for him.

Seek the God who utterly loves you, who is bigger than your sin, more powerful than your weakness, and who is not inhibited by your short-sighted expectations and plans. He doesn’t need you to “figure things out” for him; he wants you to be a part of his activity in this world. Intentionally put yourself in his “way”, in his presence and word, so that he spends less time cleaning up behind you and more time leading you forward.

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