The arrival of summer means the arrival of warmer weather. I don't care much for the heat but my sons do. My boys love the longer hours to play outside, the numerous day trips and really cool things like "Zoo Camp". Last night we ended up doing one of their favorite summer things...running around in the yard while I spray them with the garden hose. As God almost always does, he revealed something to me about how we often deal with God...here is that epiphany.
Elijah is my oldest and he is getting dangerously close to his 6th birthday. He loves to be wet. Swimming, Slip-n-Slide, puddles...you name it, he loves it. Judah is 16 days away from his 4th birthday and he hasn't always loved water like Elijah does but now he is really loving splashing and getting wet. But then there is Zion. Zion will turn 3 in August and he is not fond of water. Washing his hair is a huge chore as he reacts to news that you may wash his hair as though he has been given a death sentence. While his older brothers are busy jumping in the kiddie pool repeatedly, Zion is content to stand out of the way with a suspicious look on his face. It is as though he suspects the water may jump out of the pool and come across the yard to splash him.
So last night as the 2 older boys were in the front yard running about in their birthday suit, screaming repeatedly, "Spray me Daddy! Spray me!" I noticed Zion standing near the grass. He appeared to be contemplating stepping out into the yard...which is the danger zone. I thought I would have better luck asking a three legged man to walk through a mine field with snow skis on than I had of Zion wandering onto the playing field of our little game. So it was amazing that with great courage and apparent new found love for water, Zion stepped out in the yard. He boldly turned toward me and joined his brothers in asking for me to spray him. So I did.
He turned immediately and headed back to the safety of the sidewalk crying. Before walking up the steps and inside to dry off he turned to me with a sad face and said, "Daddy, you did something to me that was not very nice". I told him I was sorry and he seemed to forgive me and wandered inside...leaving his dripping trail of his perceived abuse in his wake.
I thought to myself, "If you didn't want to get wet why in the world did you ask me to spray you"? And then it hit me...God must be asking us the same thing, or at least me anyway. How many warm, fuzzy devotional moments have lead to zealous appeals to God to "take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to thee" only to turn around and ask God with a sense of bewilderment, "why did you disrupt my comfortable life"? How many times have our prayers been focused on our service to others only to crash and burn when our busy schedules erase any chance of us even noticing others, much less serving them? How many times have promises of a changed life faded in the midst of familiar friends, good times and cultural norms? It is as though we step into God's yard and proclaim our allegiance and devotion to Him and when God turns his hose of transformation and calling on us we are astounded.
When I joined the Army in 1996 I knew that raising my right hand and taking the oath I knew that doing so meant that my life would change forever. It radically changed for the next 6 years but in so many ways the experiences I had during those six years continue to have an effect on me today. When I married Brook and pledged to honor, serve and love her until I died, it obviously changed me forever. When each of our boys was born it obviously changed me forever. As important as military service, marriage and children are, they all pale in comparison to God. Yet I find at times my devotion to my family or my previous devotion to the Army seemed easier at times than my devotion to God. Why?
I think it is because when I was in the Army the rules were clear. I was given concrete objectives and tangible rewards or punishments. There wasn't a doubt in my mind what was required of me or anyone else. When I was married it was a bit harder but I knew the big things to do or not do...don't cheat, don't hurt her, do love her, do honor her. The same was true of children...but God seems so much more dynamic and so much more of a mystery.
Sometimes God calls people to build big boats for the coming flood...when it had never rained before. Sometimes God calls people to put their only son on the alter to sacrifice. Sometimes God calls one of his Prophets to marry an unfaithful prostitute. Sometimes people die when you pray for them not to die. Sometimes the people of God break promises they have made to you. Divorce, disease and traumatic events unfold and those events just weren't in our plans...so God seems dangerous. I am reminded of the best line about "Aslan" in the first Narnia movie..."Course he isn't safe, but he's good".
Isn't that what it is all about? Isn't our timidity wrapped completely in our desire for safety? That desire for safety reveals our fragility, real or perceived, and isn't that fragility framed out entirely by our desire for control, predictability and comfort? My military service was just for a time and I knew for the most part that certain parameters were in place that lead to some control, some predictability and a small degree of comfort (after the initial training anyway). My marriage is based upon common ideals of mutual love, mutual respect and certain guidelines that protect one another from shattered realities. My children didn't come with a "Rule Book" but there are still built-in expectations and norms that if followed will insure a degree of predictability. But not God...
My devotion to God and blindly following God's will may well lead to my death rather than my comfort. Agreeing to be about God's Mission in this life may well lead to ridicule, scorn and isolation. Speaking the truth in love may cause me to lead a lonely life that is largely misunderstood by others. Following God isn't for sissies or phonies. There is a reason why Joshua has to be reminded repeatedly to, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid for I, the Lord your God, am with you". Joshua experienced what Moses, Abraham, Paul and so many others have...weakness and fear. To which God responded with the charge to be strong and courageous.
God isn't safe...in so far as safety is defined by us. But God is good...which also isn't defined by us. Last night Zion, even though his Daddy delivered what he asked for, didn't think his Daddy was very safe. According to him I did something to him that wasn't very nice. This morning, as I was leaving for work, a half-awake Zion comes wandering up to me and instinctively raises his arms. I picked him up and he placed his sleepy head on my shoulder and trusted me to place him somewhere safe and warm...my bed. I did just that. His thoughts last night faded quickly when he knew that his Daddy would place him somewhere safe and warm...some place where his tired and sleepy body could rest. I was dangerous last night while holding the garden hose...but this morning I was good.
Maybe I can learn from Zion that getting sprayed by God is made so much sweeter when I raise my hands to him and rest on him...knowing that God will one day deliver me to a place of warm rest. He is good!