Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Last-Minute God

Do you ever get the impression that God doesn't mind letting you struggle? Perhaps by design ("builds character!"), or maybe just by accident?

Sometimes it can seem like Gods having to scramble a bit to take care of our basic needs? Like he maybe didn't really plan ahead and so like a procrastinating student he's having to cram his Providence in at the last minute, just before your life slides into the brink. That doesn't make much sense to me, but I see it nonetheless. He's the Almighty, with the limitless resources of Heaven at his disposal, and yet he so often seems to delay his care for us until the very last minute. And even then he usually ends up wanting us to do a lot of the heavy lifting. The suspense of following a last-minute God like that can really rattle your nerves.

It drives me crazy, actually. While I'm glad God has cared for me along the way, sometimes I just want to feel SAFE, to feel SETTLED. Instead of worrying about whether he'll come through I'd just like to be able to see that he's already thought through everything I will need.

Seems like he's always been that way. Take, for instance, the day that Jesus ran out of food with all those people. The crowd had gathered, the air was thick with the Holy Spirit and the time must have flown by. Suddenly the day had ended and people were fading fast. Nobody had eaten anything. Jesus turns to his disciples, apparently dumbfounded. Instead of doing something properly Son-of-God like and zapping some rocks into bread, he tries to hand the situation off to his 12 followers. "You feed them", he said (Mark 6). They tried to get him to wrap his mind around the situation. "Eight months' wages wouldn't feed this crowd!"

But Jesus didn't get it. He just wanted to know how much food they did have. He was apparently hoping that the crowd had somehow thought to bring along several thousand picnic baskets. Maybe he was stalling for time. Can you imagine how stupid you feel as a disciple going around asking people if they happen to have a lunch big enough to feed five or ten thousand people?

They came back with one lunch, from a little boy who hadn't eaten it yet. Jesus took the five rolls and two fish and turned his face toward heaven to give God thanks. Have you ever heard someone say thank-you in a way that made it clear that there was more to the story than you'd realized? Jesus gave God that kind of thank-you. And then he started distributing the rolls and the fish, breaking them off. And darned if that lunch didn't keep spreading until baskets of it had been spread throughout the thousands of people who were now watching in stunned silence.

By this point the disciples were the ones who were dumbfounded. They'd just experienced first-hand something that couldn't be explained. They'd handed the boy's lunch to Jesus, they'd heard the thank-you he gave the Father, and then they'd seen those little rolls and the dried fish somehow prove to be sufficient.

Sometimes I wonder what it would have felt like to be that little boy: "That was my lunch that Jesus took. I saw him do it--he broke up those rolls my mom made and started give them to the disciples. And he did the same thing with my dried fish!" The boy who'd probably resigned himself to walking home hungry now discovered what it felt like to be part of God providing more than they could ask or imagine.

What would that have felt like--to have been a first-hand player in a wonderful scene like that? I'm guessing that that little guy was never hungry in quite the same way again. Even if his belly emptied, I'd like to think that his hunger only served to remind him of the fact that food can be stretched to provide what's really needed. In fact he'd probably discovered something that can only be learned when you're hungry. And I'll bet he felt SAFE, even SETTLED; filled with the sense that God really has thought through everything.

All the things I'd like to feel like.

God apparently let him hunger in a way that would let him discover what it felt like to be truly filled.

I'd like to be like that boy when I grow up. In the meantime, here's my lunch, Lord.