My grandson Isaiah had dumped the pieces of his new Mickey Mouse puzzle on the floor and was calling for me to help him put it back together. As I sat across from him I realized that this was going to be a much more difficult task than I had anticipated. First, there were actually pieces of three puzzles mixed together. Secondly, I was looking at all the pieces upside down – without my glasses on. And probably most importantly, I had no idea what the completed puzzle was supposed to look like since the finished puzzle picture was nowhere in sight.
Problems one and two were easily remedied by slipping on my cheap pair of cheater glasses and sorting the puzzle pieces by their markings on the back. (At this time I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to the Disney puzzle makers for actually putting markings on the back.) Problem number three was also solved after an extensive, but successful search for the box lid picture.
In the process of all the sorting and searching it suddenly occurred to me that this predicament seemed vaguely familiar. And it really had nothing to do with Mickey Mouse.
Everybody knows that it is easier to work toward an end when you have a clear goal in mind. And yet, how often have I fumbled around in my life trying to find the corner pieces so I can fill in the rest without really knowing what the big picture is? And here’s an even bigger question – how can I know what the picture of my life is if I don’t actively seek out the One who knows the answers?
Over two thousand years ago a new star appeared in the eastern sky. It heralded the birth of a king. And those who had been earnestly watching and waiting for it followed after its bright light. Searching for answers, this learned and influential group of men traveled great distances to meet the One who had been promised by the ancient scriptures. They did not know the exact route on which the star would lead them, but they knew Who would be there at the end. According to Matthew 2:11 when they found Him, they bowed down and worshipped him.
When it comes to putting together the pieces of my own life I would do well to embrace the vision of the Magi. To wait and watch eagerly for the signs God has put before me to guide me into the plan He has established for my life. I don’t need to see the whole finished product, but must rest in the knowledge that God knows the good plans He has for my life. He alone has arranged the corner pieces. I need to stay close to His heart to fill in the rest.
“We can do this the easy way or the hard way. It’s your choice.”
My daughter Rachel was describing her interaction with my grandson Isaiah as she was trying to get him dressed. Like a lot of two and a half year olds he can’t be bothered with things like pants or shoes especially if it means interrupting his play time. She had given him plenty of forewarning that they were going to leave the house and that he must stop playing to get dressed. Finally when time had run out she gave him the choice of doing things the easy way or the hard way. The easy way meant he would cooperatively participate in putting on his clothes. The hard way meant screaming and thrashing around as she navigated his body parts into the proper arm holes and pant legs. After a moment of thoughtful pause he simply said, “The hard way.”
That totally cracked me up! The fact that he would choose to exert that much effort to resist the inevitable showed such strong will. But then again, that attitude seemed strangely familiar. Wasn’t that what I had been doing for the past year?
About a year and a half ago God called me into new ministry. He asked me to venture into the unknown and frankly I was terrified. And yet, believing the call was authentic I knew I had to say yes. Still over the past few months my response has been measured, as if I had some control over the outcome. I kept trying to figure out the path in a way that suited me instead of giving control over to Him. And God had been very patient with me. It wasn’t until recently I have heard God say, “Anne, we can do this the easy way or the hard way, but ultimately, my will is going to be done.”
Reality stepped forward front and center. Week after week I had stood before the congregation leading worship singing that I would go where He led me and yet my spiritual heals were caked with dirt where I had dug in hard to keep from going forward. What a hypocrite you are! I thought. You say one thing while you do another, choosing to stay safe and secure in a holding pattern. Suddenly I was the two-year old in this story choosing the hard way. I had been thrashing about with indecision and worry instead of acquiescing to the easy way where green pastures and still waters flowed.
And so I have made some hard decisions. Decisions that will lead me out of a wonderful ministry that I love into new areas of ministry opportunity. The funny thing is, I no longer feel angst about the future but am resting in peace. I still do not know exactly what the future holds, but I am O.K. with that. I know that God goes before me and will prepare the way. “The LORD is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.” Psalm 23: 1-3
This week my daughter Rachel sent me an audio recording of my toddler grandson singing. She had recorded Isaiah’s song as it echoed through the baby monitor. He’d awakened in his crib that morning greeting the day with his cherub warbling, “Glo-wee a God! Glo-wee a God!” (“Glory to God!” in two-year-old-speak.) On hearing his three note serenade I praised God that the same Holy Spirit who lives in me also lives in this little one Jesus loves.
As I listened intently to his sweet praises, the scenario recorded in Matthew 21:16 came to mind. Jesus had driven the money changers from the temple and had begun healing the sick. The little children gathered around calling out praise, while the chief priests and teachers of the law grumbled against him. “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”
How often have I as an “all-grown-up-card-carrying-adult” missed opportunities to praise Jesus because I have been distracted by the lesser things of this world? Sadly, there have been times when I have woken to grumpy thoughts that included only a lengthy and tiresome to-do list. Meetings and plans pop up in my mind like little text windows beckoning my attention even before I open my eyes. How much better would it be to subdue the day’s earthly agenda and instead christen each morning by following after the example of a child’s adoring praise?
“Lord forgive me for the times when I have failed to praise you with the enthusiasm and whole-hearted devotion You deserve! I am sorry for my self-centeredness. Each day, Lord, before my feet touch the floor beside my bed, before I open my mouth to speak a word, let me sing out Your praises as Your grateful child because You are worthy. “Glory to God! Glory to God!”
Yesterday when I returned home from school my husband informed me that he had Facetimed with our two-year old grandson. I was immediately jealous, of course, wishing he would have waited until I had gotten home. But when he let me listen to the voice message on his phone I knew why he couldn’t wait.
First my daughter Rachel’s voice, “Pop pop, we called because Isaiah wanted to talk to you.” And then a little voice piped up, “Pop pop, I see your face?” How could he wait to respond to such a heartfelt request?
There are so many times in my life when I long to see the face of Jesus. In the heartbreak of this world, the poverty of the children around me, the violence that threatens to overshadow the good, I cry out to Jesus, “Oh Lord, let me see your face!” And I can be confident that even when I do not physically see the face of Jesus, He is there. When I call out to Him, in His great love for me, He is moved to respond.
I am also aware that in this broken world, many are crying out that same request. They are looking for answers and in need of comfort. It is in those places I must listen closely to the call of the Holy Spirit to be the face of Jesus to them. In this weary world we cannot be like Moses and look upon the face of God on the mountain top. But as believers, we can be the hands and feet and the very face of Jesus to the ones who are struggling. So when they call out in an urgent request, “Lord, I need to see Your face,” we can respond in love and care.
Lord, let me follow closely so I can be the face of Jesus among those who need you most. Help me to use every opportunity to tell the ones around me that You are the love that they seek.