A group of comfortable chairs surrounds the coffee table at Ben’s store. Customers sit and visit, toss around a few stories, and take leave of the stresses of the real world for a few.
For as long as I can remember, there’s been this little box on the coffee table. It’s made of small, beautiful pieces of wood that are all interlocked in a mysterious fashion that, in the end, form the box. You can open it, but it’s not easy. It takes just the right series of pushes and pulls on different pieces. One wrong move and you find yourself chasing a puzzle rabbit that takes you way off the path to success.
I’ve watched a lot of newcomers take a stab at opening Ben’s box. I’ve tried it a few times, myself. The only time I got it open was when Ben showed me “the move.” And right now, I can’t remember what it was.
Sometimes praying to God feels like trying to open Ben’s box.
Even in the middle of my prayers sometimes, it occurs to me that I’m unconsciously trying to manipulate God to see things my way, to give me what I want. But it’s one second of mild terror followed by a chuckle deep inside.
The terror comes from the realization that I’m seriously trying to pull a fast one – to slip one past the Big Man Upstairs (I hate that phrase . . . if you mean God, for cryin’ out loud say it!). If we really believe in Him, the One that spoke the universe into being, are we so clever that we can push a few buttons and pull a few verbal strings and make some cosmic puppet dance?
And that’s where the laugh is.
What a patient Father He is.
So, laying aside the lofty verbiage and the gimmicks that might up my chances of getting the box open today, I resorted to the prayer of the needy. These usually start like this:
“ (Sigh) OK, so here it is . . .”
I believe God hears but because I believe it, it’s hard to process why things take so long to work out, why sadness continues to linger around those I love, why sickness and the threat of serious harm is present everywhere, why wisdom seems just out of reach, why one bad decision made with the most noble of intentions was so wrong, and why the fragile world seems like it’s hanging on by a thread.
I can barely watch the news anymore because all it does it remind me how easily things can go bad. And I mean really bad!
Economically speaking, I know nothing. But from what I can gather, the entire system is pretty frail and the highs and lows rest in the hands of people I wouldn’t trust to water my plants for the weekend. The weather in Texas and much of the southwest has produced record setting, life-changing drought and misery this year while other parts of the USA deal with the misery of record rainfall and flooding. But throw a hurricane or a good tropical storm into the Gulf of Mexico, and our troubles are over – or they’re just beginning depending on the power of the storm and how long it decides to hang around. Wow . . . it’s just a game of inches or a few miles sometimes. And the balance is delicate.
The song “From A Distance” used to wear me out. From my hyper-spiritual perspective I think to myself, “From a distance??? . . . Oh no! God is right here, in my face in my heart. He is not far, far away.” And I believe that part. But from another part of me, I have to trust that God is, indeed, watching us from a distance, taking all things in, seeing the big picture that none of us can ever see, and caring for His creation in ways we’ll never know.
So I must say Thank You. Increase my faith. Help my unbelief.