God’s Version of Show and Tell

show and tellThere’s a woman whose daddy has been praying for her for years. All he wanted was to see his precious daughter healthy again, strong, fertile, free. How he longed for God to just tell him a little bit about the future, “Please God, just tell me that she’ll be okay!”

Now, she’s praying for him, “Please God, just tell me he’ll be okay.” Last week, her daddy’s hand was mangled in a workshop accident with a saw. He’ll live; the doctors did good work. But his heart is achy. All he wants is for God to tell him that he will still be useful and effective and capable.

Other hurdles have mounded in front of this godly family. A beloved elderly grandmother makes full days into over-full days, exhausting the daughter she lives with. An uncle suffers from unexpected heart problems. It’s wave after wave. Won’t someone just tell them it will be okay?

God, can’t you just explain the map a little bit? Can’t you point out the hope on the horizon?

I’ve been pulled into prayer lately. It’s magnetic, irresistible. More than the needs to pray, I feel compelled to know the heart of prayer.

God, I want to know how this works. I want to know why it works and why sometimes it seems like a crapshoot. God, I want to know why you care at all when our feeble voices wind heavenward like wisps of dissipating smoke, and why sometimes the floor heaven seems made of iron—impenetrable.

The only thing I know for sure, when my words seem worthless, God must attend His own Word. He is all truth, the essence of what is, the imaginer of all we believe real, so He simply cannot betray His own Word.

“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long,” Psalm 25:4-5.

I pause.

Remember “Show and Tell” in kindergarten? Who would have cared if all we did was describe our dearest treasure? Who wants to merely hear a story when the option exists to reach out and touch the subject?

As a writer, we are constantly schooled to, “Show, don’t tell.”

A familiar phrase echoes the halls of literature, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

So I hear God say, “I could tell you, but I’d rather show you.”

Why is it I want God to tell me the future, to reveal the fearful mystery of what I cannot yet see? Why do I implore God to inform me when all He really wants is to show me?

Colorful fingers tug at my own, “Come here, Abby! I want to show you something!”

Why disillusion her by insisting that she should just tell me what it is? Why pretend I have better things to do than follow that precious girl and praise her painting, such as it is—the full palate of colors splattered on paper?

What I would miss if I chose not to follow her! She wants to see my expression, behold my admiration of her creativity.

Maybe God is the same way. “I could tell you, but I’d rather show you.” To show us, God must walk a half step ahead.

To show requires present and presence. When we arrive at the future, hand in hand with our Shepherd, we behold those terrifying unknowns in the present and are comforted by the presence of the Prince of Peace.

When You Don’t Know What to Say

My sisters and I watched Mary Poppins more than any other movie growing up. If you get me started on one line, it’s likely I could quote the rest of the movie—at least I could 25 years ago! But even if you’ve never seen the movie, it’s a safe bet that you’ve heard the famous word:
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

It’s a made up word that Mary Poppins, the incomparable nanny, taught her charges, Jane and Michael, to say when they didn’t know what to say.

Most of the time, true to my female gender, I’m quite well supplied with things to say. However, there are those moments in prayer when I’m uncomfortably tongue-tied. Usually this happens when I’m grappling with that baffling request. You know the one. It’s the same request you’ve been presenting to God for as long as you can remember with seemingly no answer. You’re at the point when you wonder if God cares about this request at all, or if you mention it one more time, He might throw His hands in the air and say, “Enough already!”

Other times I lose my words when I’m struggling with how to ask God for what I want so badly to happen. Those are the times when I want someone healed or someone saved. I want a miracle, but tremble every time I ask God, and tack on the caveat, “But only if it’s your will!”

Recently, I have faced both of these daunting scenarios. I sat silent on my back porch, journal, pen and Bible open beside me and nothing to say. But in that hush, that God whispered to me. (Makes me wonder if I should be quiet more often!)

It was Jesus’ conversation with His disciples in John 12 that spoke to me. In verses 27 and 28, Jesus tells his listeners:

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

Jesus too, had come to that place where He desperately wanted God to do a miracle. Could the world be saved by a different method? He wanted to ask God to spare Him the suffering of the cross. But Jesus stopped. He didn’t plead with God, but neither did He recant the request or wonder what the will of God was. His response was simply, “Father, glorify your name.”

When I’m faced with those impassable questions: “What is God’s will? What will He do? What should I do? What can I ask for?”, the only right answer, the only plea I can know with certainty that God will answer, “Yes!”, is, “Glorify your name”. And I know that His glory and my good are one in the same. I can trust Him.

There’s also the problem of ongoing requests. There are people whose salvation I have prayed for for so long, that I almost gloss over the intercession, “God, you know.” The day after God whispered to me during my quiet time, He also provided the answer to this conundrum.

I stood in front of the mirror getting ready for church. Prayers echoed in my head as I listened to worship music. I came to a particular person and stopped. “God, I don’t know what to say anymore. I don’t know what to ask. It seems like you’re not hearing me!”

Quietly, but very clearly, I heard God respond. “I have been waiting for you to not know what to say. It is in those moments, however brief, that you stop trying to tell me how to run the world. You can rest; you’re not responsible for the outcome.”

A few days later, I sat again with my pen and journal, hopeful to capture the essence of what God had been speaking to me. As I waited, He framed His grace and future sufficiency for those baffling requests in the context of what Jesus did for me on the cross:

Have you ever wondered how Jesus faced the impending agony of the cross? How the Son prayed to the Father in the shadow of such a future? Have you wondered how Jesus woke morning after morning and spoke, touched, taught and healed with the foreknowledge of such forsakenness, agony, pain and abandonment?

Through Jesus, I myself have endured the agony of unwelcome answers, resignation to a will beyond a mind of dust, and walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I can identify with your questions and confusion and repeat the promises that, “All things work together for good”, and “I will glorify my name.”

Dear one, you cannot reach ahead and pull the burrs from tomorrow. You cannot reach forward and hang the sun over those future days to illuminate them. You’ve one day, one moment really and I love you more than all of time combined. I reached through and looped up all of time and life in one all-inclusive, redeeming act. Though tomorrow is yet unavailable to you, it is redeemed and you can truly rest. ~ Your Father