For the past two weeks my life has felt like some type of survival centered television show. My wife has been out of town and she left me alone with our two daughters to fend for ourselves. We have survived, but only through love and support for one another, and the blessing of frozen food.
Our oldest daughter, Lily, is twelve and is an invaluable help with her three-year-old sister. Lily has really stepped up in her role as the oldest female in the house this week. She does things a Dad just can’t do (at least not this one), like comb and style her sister’s long silky Rapunzel hair.
Last Wednesday night I was particularly busy getting ready for evening church service. Some friends offered to pick my girls up and bring them to church while I stayed and got some work done, I gladly accepted. I asked my oldest to make sure to fix her sister’s hair before church (otherwise reports might get back to my wife that things were going awry at home), which she did, but by the time she got to church, you couldn’t tell the hair had ever been brushed.
You see, our friends have a convertible and they all thought it would be fun to ride with the top down, which wreaked havoc on the newly brushed hair. When I finally saw them at church that night, the first thing out of Lily’s mouth was “I fixed her hair I promise!”
My friends told me Lily was very concerned and spent the entire car ride worried about what I might say or do. She couldn’t even enjoy the open air of the convertible, which is a shame because it was a rare cool day. In Texas this weather might never occur again, which makes a convertible ride a treat, but all Lily could think about is how mad I was going to be about her sister’s hair.
I wasn’t mad, and I can’t fathom getting mad about hair. I find my daughter is often concerned about the way I might react. My wife has assured me Lily’s fears are unfounded; I have never been anything but loving and forgiving to Lily. Yet, she often fears how I might react.
Pushing The Limit
In Genesis 18 Abraham finds himself in a similar situation. He is visited by the Lord, in the appearance of three men. It’s the famous passage where Sarah is in the tent and overhears God saying she is going to have a child of her own. She is almost 80 years old and the thought of being pregnant makes her laugh.
Abraham and God spend the whole day together just talking in the shade of a large old tree. When it’s time for God to leave, Abraham walks him out. They look down the valley below, to the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God wonders if he should tell Abraham about his plans. God says:
“The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” (Genesis 18:20-21)
The two other guys go ahead and Abraham is left standing alone with God. It’s kind of a surreal moment. I can’t help but wonder if Abraham thought twice before he spoke, because what he says is unlike anything we would say to God today.
“Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? [...] Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:23,25)
God has just told Abraham his plans, and Abraham questions whether or not it’s the right thing to do. Abraham questions God, insinuating he might even be planning to do something immoral. I can’t imagine talking to God this way. Think of the way he might react? I mean, he’s God, let him do what he wants.
What’s amazing, though, is the way God responds. He doesn’t get mad. He doesn’t question Abraham’s demeanor or attitude. He doesn’t condemn him as insubordinate. Quite the opposite, God seems to change his mind in light of Abraham’s concerns. As if new possibilities have opened as a result of this honest one on one conversation.
Others Get Frank with God
This is not the only passage where we see people daring to speak their minds to God. Moses tells God He is asking too much of him, and God responds favorably. (Numbers 11:10-14) Job accuses God of being unreliable and even a liar (Job 9). These people all spoke to God without holding anything back. And what we see, time and time again, is God responds.
Maybe we have been approaching God all wrong. Maybe we spend too much time worried about how God might respond, that we never actually give him a chance to respond. What would happen if we dared to talk to God honestly? To tell him how we really feel? What we really want? What we really need? Would God respond to us the way he has to Abraham, Moses, and Job?
Are we too afraid to find out?
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This post is based off ideas found in “Finally Comes The Poet” by Walter Brueggemann.
Photo Credit: Nikos Koutoulas, Flickr