JEHOVAH-JIREH – The Lord provides (Genesis 22:13-14)
I have been on holiday for the last couple of weeks. It was not what I am used to, two weeks in the sun doing very little except for reading, swimming and soaking up the rays. We went to Whitley Bay on the North East coast and I was anticipating a fortnight of rain-soaked, family outings! However, as usual, I was surprised that despite my preconceptions it was just what I needed and a real blessing from God, and Lesley who kindly loaned us her house. I was able to relax, spend time with my family, as well as enjoy the beauty of God’s creation and experience healing and revelation in the most unexpected of places. The other thing that was different is I don’t usually have any contact with friends while I am away. On this holiday, though, I really valued their occasional news updates and brief words of love and encouragement.
This has caused me to acknowledge how much I impose on God what I think He should do to meet my needs. Then when He doesn’t do what I want, I am disappointed and do a more rationally justified equivalent of a toddler tantrum or adolescent sulk. The truth is God meets all my needs but not in the ways I expect. This was always true of Jesus. Tom Wright says in ‘Luke for Everyone’, commenting on Luke chapter 2, verses 41-52, “Jesus doesn’t do or say what Mary and Joseph or the two on the road (to Emmaus), were expecting. It will be like that with us, too…Discipleship always involves the unexpected.” (p.29-30) Taking my friends as an example then, I can see He has given me different relationships that feed and nurture the many-sided facets of my personality and provide stimulation for the variety of interests I have. God is not just my provider when I have a bill to pay or an event to staff. He is the God who knows me inside and out and is constantly surprising me with the multiplicity of ways in which He cares for me.
I have been wondering if the same is true of church. We expect one expression of worship to meet all our varied and complex needs for intimacy with God and desire for fellowship. However, I have discovered that I can experience a rich diversity in God and the community of faith by engaging with different expressions of worship and interacting with groups of Christians who emphasise alternative aspects of witness and service. I have felt vaguely uncomfortable with this, wondering if I am just pandering to our “pick’n’mix” culture, choosing the bits I like and opting out of the bits I don’t get anything from. But maybe if I am genuine, committed and willing to go the extra mile for the relationships in these different contexts, then I will not fall into this trap. And actually I will have a greatly enhanced picture of God. It is as stark a contrast as having had a flat, one-dimensional image and now seeing Him in magnificent 3-d!
So on returning from my holiday, I am resolved to curb my natural inclination to tell God how to do His job. Rather, I want to spend time marvelling and rejoicing at all the creative and unexpected ways God is truly my provider, especially when His provision also challenges my prejudices! For, as Isaiah 55 verse 8 says, “’…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’, declares the Lord.”