“Fish, Grandma!” Ben has been a visitor a little more frequently since his brother James was born. He plays quietly and with great concentration on elaborate Lego stories, using the Lego from the days his father was a child – indeed, he plays much like Nathanael did. Having slipped away from the dinner table, he rushed back in clutching a Lego boat with a man holding a rod-like structure. “Look, Grandma, I’ve made a man going fishing!” The words tumbled out, “He’s got a lifejacket and oars and a rod and he’s going fishing…” Grandma leant forward and asked enthusiastically in best ‘teacher-drawing–out-further-detail voice, “And what is he going to catch?” Ben looked at Diane with a slightly pitying look, and declared in an ‘I-thought-it was-obvious’ voice “Fish, Grandma!” There were no more questions!
I was reminded of when I was struggling to find inspiration for a magazine article with my then three year old daughter playing happily on the floor. “What shall I write the magazine article on?” I asked in desperation. Without looking up, Emma replied “God, Daddy.” Sometimes the answer is simple and obvious – and sometimes it takes a child to articulate it. Knowing what God wants us to do can sometimes feel like that – He makes the answer abundantly clear, simple and obvious, while we struggle, looking for the complicated answer, making it harder for ourselves. Diane recounts how, when she was at Teacher Training College, she and her two friends had a choice of two flats. One was near the university, had 3 rooms, and seemed perfect; the other had 5 rooms so they would need to find 2 more to share, and was an inconvenient bus ride away. Diane felt they were being led to the more difficult flat but her Christian companions over rode her with the simple and obvious answer – go for the flat the right price and size near the university. Diane added – ‘and it was of course the right decision.’ Diane had a common misconception that somehow God required her to not have the best or easiest options.
Discerning God’s will has always been an essential task, sometimes easier, sometimes harder: I always think that Gideon is a good example of someone who needed constant reassurance in discerning God’s will. He was a ‘Judge’ in Israel about 100 years before King David, and was called to lead Israel as it was oppressed by roaming Midianites. God sends him an angel while he’s threshing (hidden in a wine press) As he’s called, overly self-conscious of his inadequacies, to lead Israel, he first believes he’s going to die because he has seen the angel of God. He undertakes the first task, destroying the pagan altar, at the dead of night. When he realises this is just the first step to defeating the Midianites, he needs two ‘proofs’ – the wet fleece on a dry night followed by a dry fleece on a wet night. On the eve of battle, he overhears the enemy interpretation of a dream which shows he will win, yet another reassurance that he has made the right decision.
Maybe because he thus doubts both himself and God that every defence is stripped away by God, whittling down his army of 32,000 to 10,000 and finally leaving just 300 men to face an army of 135,000 – the resounding victory that follows can only occur because God was in the driving seat all along. Gideon couldn’t quite bring himself to believe that God wanted him to have the best. In contrast, Jesus tells us, “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (The Bible, Luke 11.11-13) God wants to bless us with the best, even more than we want to bless our children with the best.
Damian, our curate and his wife Lauren have been wrestling with a big decision and seeking God’s will for their next step, and it has just been announced that they are moving to Thornton-le-Fylde Christchurch in the Autumn, where Damian will be Vicar. The future is never transparent, but they can go forward, confident that God has a plan for them, a plan for good, and that above all, He will walk with them through every situation. Perhaps, though, in Damian’s case, the answer to Grandma’s question is not fish, but “Men – and women.”
Praying that you may hear the loving will of God in Christ and walk confidently in his path, enjoying his blessing and bringing glory to his name.
Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,
You can find the full text of the August Herald Magazine here