Sometimes puzzling, never pointless

A man is planning to sue his parents for giving birth to him without his consent. Yes, really! He believes birth has zero value and “human existence is totally pointless”.* The report took me back to an encounter with the Lord during a not-so-ordinary coffee date.

On birthdays, Sandra and I usually look for a quiet coffee shop. We talk, pray, and add a slice of cake to sweeten the thought of aging.

One birthday morning (mine), I was reading Jeremiah 18, the Potter’s House chapter. Great, a perfect birthday passage! I looked forward to praying it at our coffee get-away; offering myself as clay in the Potter’s fingers, shaped as seemed best to him. But the Lord had something else in mind; I was to keep reading.

He gave a ‘this is it’ nudge as I hit chapter 20. Surely not! This is where the prophet curses the day he was born! Not a great birthday celebration passage. I liked 18 more, but…..

We found a quiet table at Love At First Bite, ordered coffee and talked about Jer’s meltdown. Not a happy prophet. His message drew persecution and insults, but becoming a silent prophet wasn’t on God’s option list. He was ridiculed, abused, opposed by religious leaders, rejected by friends and felt let down by God. So he vents; he curses the day he was born and asks: Why did I come out of the womb?

Actually, he already had the answer to that. In a life-value announcement (in chapter one), God told the prophet that he knew him and had planned his role in history…. since before birth. Then, at the right time, he was born into that purposeful story. Jer knew that, but he couldn’t see how his circumstances fitted with that announcement. Because he couldn’t make sense of his story, he stamped ‘zero value’ over his entire life and concluded that his birth was a mistake.

Jer didn’t stay down. By chapter 23 he was back again, prophesying hope: the Branch was coming! However, his meltdown shows us that the unpleasant puzzles of life can divert us from seeing the value God has put on it. It’s important to keep hearing his life-value announcement about us.

We prayed Jer 1:5. Over cold coffee cups, we revisited my first day. We recalled the enormous love, wisdom and thought that went into shaping the life-story I was born into. We celebrated the value he placed on my day #1, and his delight in giving it to me.

Then we stepped from that day to the present birthday, but with a fresh awareness:  the exact same depth of love and intention that gave me my first day is filling this one! The value of the day is an extension of his delight and purpose in giving me day #1.

The puzzling bits and stormy pages of our stories are unpleasant, but they cannot remove the life-value announcement the Maker-Redeemer has made over our days. We were wonderfully made – carefully, purposefully thought out – and we honour the gift by leaning into him…..to live as a loud answer to the question: ‘What’s the point? HE is the point of our day #1, and of every day following.

It’s possible to drift from the point unless we keep celebrating it. The Lord’s value announcement about us (in Christ) extends beyond his word to Jeremiah. But we can use that word to shape prayers of celebration (the inner dance for the value placed on our days), prayers of trust (resting in his excellent plans for us), and prayers of desire to grow in the purpose for which we were given day #1.

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations Jer 1:5

*https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-47154287

Hope and Future

The Doomsday Clock has been in the news again. A group of scientists use global catastrophe indicators to reset the hands of the clock. The current setting is two minutes to apocalyptic midnight! Their message: choices (made or avoided) have put earth’s future at high...

read more

NOT just another day

New Year is celebrated three times a year in our Asian host country. The nation parties with the rest of the world as the Gregorian calendar clicks into January, then comes Chinese New Year in Jan/Feb, followed by the traditional New Year in April. The nation’s...

read more

Seeing Him at work ahead of us

My connecting flight had been delayed (again), so I decided to use the time getting to know at least one person in the congested waiting area. I started talking to a leader from Zimbabwe who oversees a network of churches in various Central African countries. He had...

read more

Pray with a helmet

I was hurrying to a village church meeting when the motorcycle’s chain-guard came loose and jammed in the rear wheel spokes. As the wheel locked, the bike weaved and slid along the loose gravel surface. Half an hour earlier I had left town with a young Thai believer...

read more

Small faith for big answers

When I resigned my job for Bible College, I faced a faith challenge: daily food! As long as my monthly salary arrived there was no real need to trust for the next meal. But that changed; asking for “daily bread” became normal. Then, after my first semester of college,...

read more

Slow down to hear

An article, Slowing Down to hear God’s Voice arrived in my inbox this week. Adam Wittenberg (on staff at IHOPKC), writes about choosing to slow down – making changes to our distracted, busy lifestyles – in order to grow our enjoyment of the Lord. To read his helpful...

read more

Pray then wait, or pray then work?

One of the challenges of asking for God’s help is what to do after the “amen”. Should we pray then WAIT for the answer, or pray then WORK towards one? At times, praying about something then taking action ourselves can have the marks of unrest and self-dependence. But,...

read more

The space between ask and answer

Last week’s post was about delayed answers to prayer; today’s is an add-on. Does a quick answer infer strong faith and good praying? Is no answer a sign of faulty prayer? Does an immediate answer mean God is pleased, while a long wait (or no answer) means the pray-er...

read more

When answers are delayed

We like getting answers to prayer and would love a 100% answer rate! But, here’s the reality: a quick scroll up our prayer lists shows some aging requests still waiting for answers. Why the delay? Zechariah (affectionately, Zech), knew all about...

read more

The giant – awake and stretching?

It’s almost impossible to be cocooned from major crises. Media technology transports us to the action site while a crisis is unfolding. We felt the shock and pain of those caught in the catastrophic destruction of Indian Ocean and Pacific Coast tsunamis. The groan of...

read more

Receive Wingspan posts

My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord Almighty.

Malachi 1:11