Most weeks of my life are amazing. They are filled with joy and love and little mini adventures. I try to live that way, sort of a whimsical meander in and out of what lies ahead. I try to make a game out of discovering what each day has to offer. Other weeks are hard. I like what Kris Kristofferson said in the movie, Convoy. “My Dad said to always be like a duck, smooth on the surface and paddling like hell underneath.” I like it even though it is so much not how I am wired. My feelings? Right there on the sleeve, baby! I’m working on my duck act, even getting better at it. I am also working on my Duck beard. Hopefully by the time the second one comes in the first one will be fully intact.
When things are hard I find myself going over the questions hanging around my mind like so many paper lanterns. I find myself restless, itching to try something, anything. Business being what business is, often times it is not the glowing black inked beauty I envisioned it to be. The first rule of finance is when your outgo exceeds your income your overhead becomes your downfall. When the theory becomes my reality I get antsy for something, anything different to happen. When things become more difficult than first imagined and you cannot seem to pin it down to any particularly wrong decision you have made the burning itch of indecision begins to set it. The question turns over in the mind on a rotisserie of doubt, whether to remain steadfast and work through or to move on to greener pastures. Do I stay in to see the hole card or do I cash in the chips I have left? I’m not great at poker.
Frequently God works through circumstances to reveal His will. Elijah went camping at Cherith. There was a a sweet little fountain of water and custom food delivery. You can read all about it in the Old Testament of 1st Kings chapter 17. The word of the Lord didn’t come to Elijah in that moment saying, “Get thee hence from this place (Doesn’t God speak in King James English?) God does that from time to time. Sometimes He has done it for me though it seems not for a long time. Sometimes he just causes the brook to dry up to get me,to get you, or to get Elijah to get hence.
Sometimes a dry brook is God’s way of moving us on, but other times an empty net (like a dry brook) can be just God’s way of saying to wait around just a little longer for your miracle. There is just such a story in the Gospel book of John, Chapter 21, verses 1 through 14. Jesus disciples fished all night and hadn’t caught anything. They were skunked! Then Jesus showed up and said, “just one more time.” You could tell by their response that they were reluctant. They were likely struggling within themselves at that very moment. “Do we do what this guy says or do we take our tired butts home for some rest?” They did what Jesus said and not only received a miracle of providence but also got to have a face to face encounter with Jesus.
I often wonder what would have happened if they hadn’t let down their nets one more time. Would it have made it into the Book? How many times do we ever get any insight into all the times that people didn’t wait around for their miracle to show up? Do we get to see what happens to guys like you and I who wait around after the brook dries up, waiting and watching for a miracle that doesn’t come?
The difficult thing about the one dimensionality of written text is that we cannot see the path unchosen. Nor do we get to see into the inner struggle of those we meet between the contents and concordance. We do get to juxtapose our three dimensional realities interacting with the same God was is the same yesterday, today and forever. We only get to guess what went on in Elijah’s mind when the brook went dry; his inner argument. God had provided for him there. Should he move on. Shouldn’t he? What if the water is going to start flowing just after he leaves? What is out there? It’s still not too hard to imagine. I have lived through dried up brooks in the past.
Or how about the fishing disciples? Their backs tires, as well as their minds from a full night of labor. Have you ever labored through the night? It takes a lot out of both body and soul. Then who is this guy on the shore to say, “Drop down your nets one more time for a catch!” Letting down a commercial fishing net isn’t as simple as tossing out a fishing line. Deploying a fishing net is a long and back bending process taking time and energy. Should we? Maybe he knows something. But we are the professionals here and we haven’t caught anything all night.” It is still not too hard to imagine. I have lived through miraculous providence at just the last moment. Haven’t you?
What if Elijah had stayed? What if the disciples had called it a night? What about when the bills pile up and the customers are just not coming in? What about when attendance is down and the youth pastor quits to go to work as a roadie for some crazy rock and roll band? What about when the boss is cranky, sales are down, and your IRA is taking a beating? I have quit early and stayed too long in the past. Each time I thought and hoped and believed that I was making the right choice. I know how those feel in hindsight. I know the regrets. I also know the questions asked in the sleepless nights as well as the lessons learned.
I don’t really ave a good answer for you. I am not even sure I have the kind of answer for my self I would like. But what I do think and have lived is when you put your trust in Jesus and listen intently each and every day for the Holy Spirit to speak it causes either choice to work out on your behalf. I don’t want to give up just minutes before my miracle arrives, but I don’t want to wait for a dried up well either. Perhaps we don’t see the path not chosen in each story because God is going to show up on either path. I’m not sure how the theology plays out on this one, but I am sure that even when I clearly chose the wrong path I found Jesus waiting up at the first bend to guide me around the corner where I cannot see.
I guess the very best thing I can do is pray. I want to find God in all of this so I am going to look for His Face and listen intently for the sound of His voice as he gently calls out to my heart. I will listen to what He has to say through my friends. I might even listen to my wife! The point is that none of this stuff is unto death and everything done in clear view of the cross is to our benefit. If you knew each outcome it wouldn’t be an adventure; now would it?