Sunday, January 25, 2015

We Don't Know What Didn't Happen



I'm kind of impressed by the people of Ninevah.
For three days a man, who could very well be taken for crazy, goes around announcing that God will destroy them if they don't shape up and do it now.  
And they listen!  
The people begin to fast and put on their sackcloth, the king even orders a fast, and God changes His divine mind.

I feel like there must be more to the story because I think the majority of people, even in ancient times, would have written this person off as a mentally challenged lunatic and dismissed his warning.  I mean, the guy just claimed to have been swallowed by a fish, been in the belly of that fish for three days, and somehow survived that.  But they didn't.  They listened and things changed.  

It is so hard to get my head around that.
Not only that they listened and God changed His mind (which has all sorts of ages-old questions implied) but it also reminds me that we never know what didn't happen.  This boggles my mind.

The Ninevites, after the wrath of God was spared, did they know it?  I mean, nothing really changed from the outside.  Did they laugh at themselves or just blindly trust this random guy that they truly had been spared some pretty awful stuff?  Could they really believe that something didn't happen?  Do I believe that?

Prayer is a weird and funny thing.  We believe it can change things and yet we never really know what would or could have happened.  Heck, even in normal decision making, we don't know how different things would be had we taken that other choice.  Do you ever go back and think about that?  How things would be if we had taken that other route?  (Sometimes with profound gratitude and sometimes with a sigh, right?)  Even in the tiniest of decisions, it's true.  Despite what well-meaning people want to tell us, our decisions, little and big, have consequences.  We believe in guardian angels and that they have the ability to protect us from harm but we never really know the extent of that.  We believe in Providence and yet we believe in free will.  Their interplay is beyond our current understanding.  When you get deep enough into it, you realize the possibilities of what could have happened are truly infinite.  

Do you think we'll have this awareness in heaven?  I kind of hope so.  I hope we get to see the greater picture and understand not only how it all worked for our good but also see how the myriad of things that didn't happen worked for our good and the ways in which our prayers and decisions played into that.  Maybe I'm crazy for wanting to know something so infinite, and I'm certainly no philosopher, but I think it's interesting that the psalm refrain today is 
"Teach me Your ways, O Lord."
It's referring to the upright and moral life, yes.  But I also think it means that it's okay, in fact it's holy, to probe and seek to understand and question.  It means we're seeking the mind and heart of the One we claim to love.  
True love seeks to know the other.

Our prayer somehow changes things.  Our sacrifices change things.  Our actions, our little and big decisions, change things.  And we will never know, not in this life anyway, the extent of that God-given power and freedom.  It's all at once humbling, motivating, terrifying, and dignifying.  
Lord, may I seek to live my life at every moment, even in the littlest ways, choosing the best I can, glorifying You, and trusting in Your providence and mercy through it all.



{Sunday Scripture Snapshots}





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