Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Apparently I’ve become part of the weekly calendar for some people. “Crazy! Is it Wednesday already?” Lauryn yawned, sitting cross-legged on her bed, with her Bible spread across her lap. “No,” I grinned. “I’m off schedule.” My desire to bring the girls a whole field of red clover resulted in only a paltry handful, presented at the door as a peace offering for showing up uninvited at eight o’clock. It’s hard to believe the Sweetest Suite will go the way of the buffalo in less than a month. Sitting on the floor of Lauryn’s room, getting in on her preparation for a Wednesday night teaching from Philippians four. Helping April pick out her outfit or distracting her from homework or getting comfy on the futon as we pray. Or even working alone in the quiet while the three of them are at class.

Ministry lunches are not tops on my menu. Large crowds of noisy students and shallow devotionals from “The Message”, but if that’s what it takes to spend time with Miss Emily, I’m sure I can handle it. Zach resembled a pouting child, waiting for Emily, April and me on the back steps of Wilson, his backpack lying neglected at his feet. “Anybody see the stick yet?” he called, waving us over. Promptly we all shifted gears and headed his direction. Funny how a habit like instant obedience becomes a burden. A million times the light has dawned, “Just because he sounds like he’s in charge doesn’t mean I have to dance to his tune.” Just as we were about to give up on Taylor, he appeared and then we were five. April always voices what I’m thinking. With her it’s not doing whatever she suggests because she suggests it, but because I already wanted to do it. “Let’s walk in the grass” or “I’m going over the top of that pile of dirt”—the things I do when I’m alone…or have a confederate. No wonder people always think we’re up to something when we grin at each other across the room.

Buckling on my spider-slaying sword, I entered Amber’s house, prepared for a severe jousting match with the arachnid who’s been terrorizing them for weeks. “See it?” Amber pointed to a corner of the ceiling. I squinted up at the tiny, grey exoskeleton dangling like a hangman on a noose. “I’ll get you a stool,” she offered and vanished from the kitchen. “Where is it?” I asked, peering again at the ceiling as she returned. “I know,” she blushed. “It’s so tiny you can hardly see it.” She bustled past me to point and then stopped. “It’s gone!” One look at my guilty face and she gave me a shove as I opened the trash can and pointed to our eradicated fiend. Ah, but such valor left me bereft of energy and I nearly drifted into dreamland as Amber talked to me. A rude heroine, indeed.

Lizzy was waiting for me outside the gymnastics building when I pulled up. This is her first “for real” visit and I’ll admit to a little nervousness. More than a little I am guilty of, but refuse to admit. I’m still not exactly sure what Eileen is hoping for or expecting. Or what Lizzy herself is expecting. She cheerfully does anything I suggest or request, doesn’t question me as I sit here, busily typing about her, and tells me funny stories in her engaging way. Most teen girls say “like” like all the time. Lizzy’s word is “all.” “Mom called me into her room and I’m all, ‘What do you need?’” We started John tonight—just after Amber and I finished this afternoon. Behold my life as a hamster: forever on the treadmill of John studies. What a great way to keep me thinking about Jesus and what He’s done—and is still doing.

I can’t seem to move on in First Samuel. One verse is eating at my thoughts and won’t permit me to move on until I find a satisfactory answer. Eli, the godly priest of God who raised Samuel, had two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who were worthless men—stealing meat from the Lord’s sacrifice, profaning the Lord’s name and committing adultery publicly. It’s not so shocking to realize that, even thousands of years ago, the title “priest” did not make a man holy or even make him a servant of Yahweh. When Eli rebuked his sons, they ignored him, which is also not surprising, since wicked men stiffen their necks and harden their hearts against truth. “But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for Yahweh desired to put them to death.” And here I stop and shake my head to clear all my preconceptions, and reread and shake my head again. Did Yahweh prevent them from listening so that He could destroy them? What about His word through Ezekiel, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live”? Wouldn't He desire to incline their hearts to listen to Eli? Perhaps this is a story like that of Pharaoh, where these men had hardened their own hearts and stiffened their own necks until Yahweh wouldn’t even allow them to make a wise decision in turning from folly? That Yahweh wished to destroy them because their hearts were still wicked, and didn’t allow Eli’s words to bring them to a change of action because there was no change of heart? That the continuance of their sin would render God’s judgment on their hearts righteous and show Him to be just? Had they improved their behavior, the evil in their hearts would have seemed to vanish and men would have wondered at God’s wrath. Is this Yahweh’s sovereignty, not in causing men to be evil or to do evil, but in denying them the ability to bring forth fruits in keeping with a repentance they do not possess—or even seek? And though Yahweh desired to put them to death, that their sin might not spread and defile His people, He must still have taken no pleasure in pouring out His wrath upon these two rebellious men—sons of a man He loved.

Lord, wrath is hard to comprehend;
Thou must, by nature, punish sin,
So even all the grace Thou send
Does not extend to wicked men.

For, though Thou could, by sovereignty
Demand that all should follow Thee,
Thou shows us grace and bids us choose—
Who chooses self, himself will loose.

No comments: