By Elaine Pratt
I’m a bad Grandma.
(Don’t tell Christa and Jason. I’m trying to keep it under the radar.)
When Lily (2 years old) comes to Grandma’s house, she gets the royal treatment. Pretty much everything is “on demand” status, from books to read, snacks to eat, outdoors to explore, candy dish to take from. Lily wants it? Grandma is here to make it happen, pretty much instantaneously!!
Your response may vary from “That’s a Grandma’s job!” to raised eyebrows at my lavish indulgence which “will lead nowhere good!”
(And that’s fine. I won’t take offense. I’m very secure in my Grandma role.)
What I do find thought provoking is how much like Lily we are. And in tandem, how often we expect God to be like a make-it-happen-now grandparent.
I was struck by this as I recently read the OT account of the children of Israel and their 40-year wilderness wandering. I’m sure we could point out multiple similarities, but one especially caught my attention: remember how they complained, missing the lavish lifestyle of their previous captivity?! In response God provided their daily food by giving manna and quail which would instantly appear. This was unusual and obviously miraculous. It was also temporary. But it was instantaneous, with no work or waiting required of the recipients. They got their food instantly.
When I think of the regular needs that I bring before the Lord, that is most often what I am wanting too. I may not say it in my prayer, but basically, I want to wake up the next morning and have the answer lying at my feet. An instant answer! The trial over. The relationship mended. The money supplied. The stress lessened. The depression or anxiety quieted. The schedule slowed. The illness healed. The baby’s colic done. My husband’s irritableness sanctified.
In comparison with reality, however, (and this was true of the Israelites once they got into the Promised Land), most real-life provision takes time, effort and often is accompanied by our own initiative and hard work. Think about it: For the remainder of the Israelites’ lives, God provided their daily bread through regular means of planting, tending, watering, reaping, and food preparing. And this was anything but instant; it was “summer and winter, springtime and harvest”, as the songwriter accurately penned.
Simply put, the provision of God most often takes place over time via regular means of grace.
This gives much to apply in my Christian walk:
Though the adage, “God helps those who help themselves” wouldn’t receive a 5 start rating on a Google review for solid Biblical teaching, there is the Galatians 6:7 truth that one does reap what he sows. An example for me is my battle with melancholy and depression that has spanned most of my adult life. Though I have (and still do) pray for deliverance, I’ve learned the regular means of God’s grace help immensely; indeed, these are part of the answer to my prayer: regular sleep, physical activity, taking in God’s beauty in nature, habitual time in the Word, gathering regularly with others in joyful worship, hearing the Word preached, laughing with friends, and also purposeful alone time. In addition to this, I’ve learned the “secret” of God’s upside-down kingdom logic: when I reach out or invest in concern for another, I feel better.
So: I pray for God’s deliverance, and I lean into a lifestyle that isn’t manna on my doorstep, but is His faithful provision of strength and grace for each new day.
2. My personal prayers take on different expectations. Though I’m fully aware God
can (and may) respond dramatically with an instant answer, I also lean into obedience and perseverance and look for Him to show up there. When I do, I notice grace all around me: the caring text from a friend, the kindness of my husband, the hug of a granddaughter, the heightened value of God’s word I sense in my heart, or the sensitivity toward another that wasn’t there yesterday that looks a lot like God’s growth in my life amid the trial. I’ve learned to pray differently, looking less around me for what this life offers. Instead, looking long and upward, I steer my affections away from the temporal and toward the eternal. How can I glorify God even amid the baby’s colic, a husband that is irritable, and a budget that is depleted? Where does my crazy schedule offer opportunity for dependence on God, or that broken relationship allow me to love in faith because it’s still not healed? I don’t always like this perspective, and my heart often still wants the instant manna of the prayer requfest to be fixed. But God knows that, too. And He’s a good God. He’s gentle and lowly, His heart is for me, so I can trust Him to take care of me. Oh, how my heart is knit to my Father in these times.
Right now, Lily connects Grandma’s love with what Grandma gives. That’s ok. She won’t be 2 for very long, and we’ll have time to differentiate and understand the many ways mature love looks. (And I figure those harder lessons are primarily her parents’ job to teach her.) But even a Grandma wouldn’t want her to stay at a 2-year old’s level of demand & receive.
In our minds and in our prayer, is it “Instant or quicker, please, Lord!” when it comes to our requests?
I’d guess God does not want any of His children to linger too long there either.