I am an average parent stacking up lots and lots of average days that are the shaping years of my kids lives. Sue and I want to at least interrupt those days with markers of God's provision, guidance and grace. Believe it or not, these two simple little questions, asked every day, have helped us to place plenty of those markers.
Sin leaks, and creeps, and repeats. The multi-generational narrative form of the Old Testament doesn't hide this from us, in fact, it paints it vividly in painful details of children living with the consequences of their parent's sins and, all too often, allowing those sins to form patterns that they live out themselves.
The redemptive arc of the Bible is long, and it bends towards the King, who came from the line of Ruth and Boaz, a line that endured the horror show of the end of Judges.
I have tried so many things in life to try and secure what looks like blessing and none of it has worked. Eventually I had to get to the point where I let a gracious God wrestle me into the dirt, reminding me there of His strength and my weakness, and yet it is there, in the dirt, when I didn't let go, that I finally got grace, and its associated limp.
God is our refuge and our strength. He is the one we can run to in order to find shelter and he is the one who fights for his people to keep our attackers at bay. God is a very present help. What a thought! He is very present, right here, available and loving.
Hezekiah took a threat, which was significantly more imminent, disastrous and real than anything I have experienced or am currently going through, and he spread it out before the Lord. That is a marvelous image of prayer, to spread it out before God as a sign of weakness and dependence and ask God to take care of it. We can fold it up tight and carry it around in our pockets and let it weigh us down and ultimately decay our peace, or we can spread it out, fold it flat, show it to God, and ask Him to help.
Job wasn't ready. You know when God starts a conversation by telling you to dress like a man that it is going to be good. God essentially says to Job, alright mate, put your big boy pants on, and pay attention. And then the questions begin, and they are God's questions exposing Job's limitations when compared to God's lack of those very same limitations.
When I re-read the story of Samson today, it was no less tragic but I could see some of the strands of grace. A man with low impulse control, who is remarkably gifted by God's Spirit but who cannot control his ego, his temper or his sex drive ends up being weakened and humiliated, and the only glimpse of redemption comes in the form of self-destructive revenge, and yet, God uses Him in the ongoing advance of His Kingdom, and gifts him grace and power, in spite of himself. That's just like God, to love and empower and work through really flawed people.
Jesus prays not because He is superhuman, but because He is human. It isn't a sign of His strength that He rubs our nose in, it is evidence of His dependence on the Father that He invites us into. His early morning prayer session isn't the separated hours of spiritual practice reserved for an unhurried monk, but rather it is the life giving retreat of a very busy shepherd.