Well, in more ways than one.
So, yesterday, I got a LOT of letters in the mail. A hearing I didn’t ask for (translation: the Dept of Labor has found a way to make sure that I don’t get any money from unemployment), the discharge notice for the bankruptcy, my food stamp card (yay?), nothing about the hearing I did ask for (mailed another letter certified mail today) and a lovely letter that promises if I show up with my driver’s license, proof of income, proof of residency and something else I don’t recall I can buy a new used car (yeah, right).
It kinda hit me all at once and all I could think about was that I’ll soon lose the car (no way to replace it – the back unemployment was my only hope there), my bridge will fail, I won’t be able to get a job (no front teeth and no transportation) and I won’t have an income and wah, the world hates me – that kind of feeling.
So I went to the library, got my letters printed and somethings faxed, ran by DHR and let them know about one of the faxes and let them see that yes, I really live here (ack, I forgot one…!), got back too late to mail the letters (closing daily at noon? Really?) and went home. Spent thirty minutes chasing Rocket because he decided that really, the neighbors needed him to visit (they don’t!), met the neighbor in person finally to explain about the idiot dog – and their dog finally made it possible for me to catch the mongrel, left BOTH dogs in the backseat (I needed to get ONE thing – that was the only thing I came by for!), went inside, got cat (yes, cat) and reversed the whole process. Score 2 human, 1 dog – but the turkeys were both in the yard when I left.
Why cat? Specifically, which cat? Love, of course. I call her my therapy cat – she earns the title.
I knew I was feeling sorry for myself when I shouldn’t be – other people get Ben and Jerry’s – I get a small kitty riding on my shoulder and a trip to Tractor Supply. This was her first trip to the one in Millbrook – the clerks fell in love with her. She even rode on one of their shoulders. A little kitty TLC for the human and some cat food for the rest – not a bad deal, really.
Sometimes you need a little something to let you put things back in perspective. In two days, it will be the one month anniversary – a month ago I had a car and no place to live. In a short while (no one’s called yet but it can’t be much longer), I’ll have a place to live and no car. Given a choice – I go with B, hand’s down. That would be true if I were still in that awful little trailer – but instead I have a playground to live in!
I have wonderful friends to thank for that. But I also have a Living God Who loves me.
I got to thinking last night, maybe there is a resolution – at least one I can grasp. Ever see a field newly plowed? The last thing a farmer wants is a downpour onto a newly plowed field – the dirt he carefully prepared gets washed away and he loses both the dirt and the fertility. It’s a bad thing to have too much water too fast – soil erodes, plants drown, seeds are washed away.
Paul tells us some are used for humble purposes, others for noble ones. What if God used everyone for really big things – we all did something that the world would recognize as great? Wouldn’t that serve the Gospel – get the word out dramatically and quickly?
Yes – and no. Oh yeah, it would make a big splash – and just like the parable of the sower, a lot of seed would get washed away (okay, mixing the analogy a bit), a lot would spring up but have no root and what did root wouldn’t be in good soil – because a ‘big splashy dramatic’ Gospel is like a thunderstorm that lasts for days – it washes more out than it waters. Very little would take root in good soil – because that is undermined by all the flash.
Think about it – haven’t you ever been turned off by something that’s been over-hyped so much that you never even bother to check it out? Maybe a movie or a book – only to discover years later that it was as good as people said. But there’s something about hype – it can whet our interest and it can turn us away, especially when overdone.
God did ‘big splashy’ – check out Exodus. You can’t get more splashy than that – but the Israelites couldn’t seem to keep their eyes on the prize afterwards. Splashy isn’t always bad – but it doesn’t grow faith particularly well. For that you need time, trust, knowledge and enough sense to keep following the God that just parted a danged sea for you!
Faith. like crops, grows best when watered softly, not harshly. A thunderstorm or two might even help – it’s not either or – it’s both and. We need splashy sometimes to get our attention (and get us out of Egypt!) – but we also need gentle rain in order to grow. That, I thin, is part of why God uses big and small – humble and great – so that the field is both planted and well watered.
I think we sometimes see parables as the end of the story – but they can also be the beginning. The Prodigal’s elder brother was still moping outside when last we left him – did he stay there? Did he get mad and stalk off – only to come back later when he realized his Dad was right? If we aren’t dead, it AIN’T hopeless.
Pharaoh is another hard example – Scripture tells us God Himself hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not let the Israelites go. But that was after Pharaoh did the job himself, multiple times. There sadly isn’t much difference between God granting us good things we want – and God giving Pharaoh the strength to do the stupid thing he wanted. The Prodigal’s Dad knew giving his idiot son half the inheritance was a really bad idea, too – he also knew that yeah, sometimes they have to learn the hard way.
Pharaoh learned – it’s impossible to say what he did with that knowledge. I think maybe God chose him because somewhere along the line the little snot of a prince made it clear that he’d be that kind of a jerk in the right time and place. Now, I’m not refuting Paul (his writing is canonical – it wins any fight) – God clearly states He put Pharaoh in as ruler specifically so he’d do stupid stuff and let God glorify Himself. Pharaoh, for all his power, was an ignoble piece of pottery. God could – and would have had the right to – make Pharaoh that kind of a jerk, depriving him of any say in the matter.
Only Pharaoh seems to have been quite happy to be a jerk – just how many plagues does it take to care about your people enough to call it quits? Well, the first four weren’t enough – Pharaoh was doing all the heart hardening all by himself. Because God made him that way? Perhaps – or perhaps in a house full of young princelings, God could pretty much take His pick as to which one was likely to do just that sort of stupidity.
God has the right to make us as He pleases – Paul tells us so and he’s right. But God is also way smarter than we are and sees all the complex strings of relationships tying things together. He may chose to make a particular string stronger or weaker to serve His purpose and so save more people – Paul certainly thought so. Or He may just have a much better understanding of the complex rigging of life – and know which string to pull and when. This, I think, it most often the case.
So He raises the proud to let them fall and the humble to demonstrate righteousness. Each a drop of rain, some bigger than others, but each serving to water the field. Once dropped, their story isn’t necessarily over – God wouldn’t warn us about pride if we couldn’t avoid it or learn not to be proud.
God uses the good and bad alike to glorify Himself – and to bring us to His Son. It’s complicated beyond imagining – humans just do not play nice in the sandbox! We don’t always chose wisely. We mess up. We turn our backs – if it can be done wrong, a human will do it wrong! We’re sinful, fallen and more trouble than we are worth – but God loves us and wants us to chose Him and to chose life.
Yeah, I think even Pharaoh may have had a second chance.
Oh, and the other reason I’m blue? I’m one of those people – my closet is color coordinated. I finally got the blue stuff in!