Has everyone heard an old cheesy parable from the slightly odd-smelling older gentleman at your childhood church who used to pass out peppermints from his lint-filled pocket? (Actually, I can’t let him take credit for this one. I was watching The West Wing and heard a story that reminded me of the ones he used to tell.) If not, you’re in for a treat.
You see, there was a man who lived in a house by the river. Now, the radio had announced that day that the river was going to flood. “Lord,” he said, “I’m a religious man. I’ll pray and you will deliver me.” A man in a rowboat came paddling by (inadvisable in a flood, but bear with me) and said “Sir! The river is flooding! You’d better come with me.” “I’m a religious man,” said the increasingly moronic man, “I’ll pray and God will deliver me.” Later still, a helicopter flew over the house. “SIR. THE RIVER IS FLOODING. WE WILL TAKE YOU TO SAFETY.” “No, thanks, I’m a religious man! I’ll pray and God will deliver me!” Well, as you might expect, the house flooded and the man perished in the water.
The point of the parable is that the signs God sends may not always be angels swooping down from the clouds to deliver us from evil. They may come from our neighbor or friend. They may be subtle. They may not come at all. If not, though, we can assume He wants us walking in His truth and making faith-based decisions with our time here on earth.
I took the meaning a little further still. See, I believe our God doesn’t want His people to sit around and wait for instructions all of the time. In fact, the Bible tells us that He wants us to test Him. “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Malachi 3:10.
Now, I’m not saying to bring Him your kid’s math homework, or to bargain with Him. What I’m saying is that I think we sometimes forget His will is more fluid than rigid. If you make a wrong decision He’s not going to lock you out of His will forever. If you misstep He won’t let you tumble into despair. If you feel He’s been calling you in a new direction, take some steps that way. Interview for that job you’ve had an inkling about even though you fear rejection. Sign up for that trip you feel called to go on even if you feel you can’t afford it.
Knock on some doors and ask Him earnestly to slam shut the ones that are wrong or harmful for you. Ask Him to use your God-given passions for the good of you both. He’s big enough to do it. He’s faithful enough to do it. His promise is that He will do it. He will do it for you, the one for whom He left the 99.
“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.”
And for Pete’s sake, you guys, if the river is flooding, get in the rowboat.