Keep Those Handouts Coming, Lord
This is shaping up to be a pretty good day. God willing, it will live up to its promise.
I do not have to make pizza today. I do not have a church service to attend. I do not have to work at church as an armorbearer. I have no prayer-group meetings. I don’t have to drive people to church from the shelter up in Broward County. And I got a good night’s sleep, and I still have one cup of coffee to go.
I need to do some housework. I need to get back to cornet practice. I should make time to work on memorizing the Psalms. I should finish up the gun part I’m making. Believe it or not, I’m glad I have time to do these things.
When you’re a kid, having free time means getting to lie on the couch for 16 hours and eat entire boxes of Cap’n Crunch out of a mixing bowl. Or at least, that’s what it meant when Mike and I were kids. Now “free time” means I can take a load of clothes to Goodwill, fertilize the fruit trees, or read the Bible. I still feel like I’m on vacation, but I’m not doing the same types of things.
My toys aren’t the same, either. A long time ago, I liked skateboards, Frisbees, fishing poles, and BB guns. Now I like my diesel truck, my metalworking tools, my cornet, the nifty Motorola surveillance kit I wear at church, and my drill press vise. I like things that are associated with work, self-improvement, and getting things done.
I just bought a BB gun, but I got it so I could improve myself. I want to work on point-shooting. When I was a kid, a BB gun was just something cool I used to destroy things.
I’ve noticed something funny. I used to feel like I was praying selfishly when I asked for stuff like financial success, a good wife, and physical healing. Now sometimes I feel selfish when I’m praying for help dealing with my chronic sins, or help with the church’s pizza efforts. But those things aren’t self-indulgent goodies. They’re things that are presumably God’s goals as well as mine. I guess I’m in the habit of thinking of prayer as selfish. And because my desires are more in line with God’s these days, when I pray for things that will help me do his will, I’m also praying for what I want, so maybe it’s natural to feel selfish.
You have to ask God for stuff. Constantly. I’m convinced of it. He wants us to be humble. Part of humility is admitting you can’t do things by yourself. If you resist asking for things, you’re saying you don’t need God’s help. Every second that you live, you survive only at God’s pleasure and only with his assistance. Independence is a seductive, ego-bloating illusion. This is a hard thing for a Christian to swallow, because we believe in work and responsibility, but it’s true. You apply yourself, but you should also pray. Otherwise, you start to think you created your own success. No ordinary human being has ever done that. Not one.
The Bible criticizes people who talk about their expectations without crediting God. You should never say you’re going to have a good year, or that you’re going to do well at a task, unless you acknowledge the need for God’s help in the same breath.
When I remember this truth, I think of Adam. Before the fall, his life was presumably a model for ours. What did he do for a living? Did he slave away behind a plow all day? No, he reached up and picked fruit from trees someone else planted. His job was to manage the world and grow to be like God. While he did that, God provided for him. The need for hard, unpleasant work came after he sinned. If Christians are supposed to live in the kingdom of heaven while on earth, then it seems safe to say our lives are supposed to be more like Adam’s than Abel’s or Jacob’s.
The Psalms seem to support this. The 127th Psalm says, “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” Other translations put it differently; the idea is that God’s beloved are blessed even while they sleep.
My take on this is that you should work, but that you should not make work an idol. If you never see your kids or your wife because you work long hours, it doesn’t mean you’re righteous. It means something is wrong, and it’s causing you to neglect your family. If God is with you, you should be able to take care of yourself and your family while earning a decent living. How can you call yourself blessed and say your life is working, if you always miss your kids’ birthday parties and school plays?
I think about this principle sometimes in connection with sleep. I’ve become nearly fanatical about getting at least nine hours of horizontal time. Before electricity, people slept much longer than they do now, even though they worked harder. Lack of sleep causes obesity and high blood pressure. It ruins your memory and concentration. It makes you irritable and causes accidents. Sleep is not a luxury; it’s essential to good mental and physical health. There is nothing virtuous about sleeping four hours a night. It’s a curse. Your body is the temple of God. Mistreating it needlessly can’t be a good deed.
The book of Proverbs talks about the industry of a virtuous woman. It says she gets up before dawn, to begin working. What it doesn’t say is that she was in bed at least ten hours earlier, because that’s how people lived back then. You got up at around dawn, and after the sun went down, it was hard to see, even if you used oil lamps (which smelled and gave off smoke and cost money to use), so people tended to go to bed early. If the sun goes down at six p.m. and rises at six a.m., and you get up at 5:30, you’re still getting a lot of sleep.
People used to criticize Ronald Reagan because he quit work early in the day. But look what he got done. Bill Clinton worked late, and he was barely competent.
People who don’t sleep much love to brag about it. I don’t get it. To me, that’s like bragging that you never brush your teeth. I’m not impressed. It makes you sound foolish. If you want to impress me, say you sleep ten hours a night and never miss an important family event, while providing for your loved ones.
And most people who brag that they miss sleep because they’re super-righteous are lying. Ask them what Jay Leno said last night, and they’ll usually know, because they were up late watching him.
Sometimes people put me down when I say I can’t do something because I have to sleep. I don’t care. I know I’m right. If you need someone to drive you to the hospital, I’ll get out of bed. But if it’s something trivial, go bother someone else. If you can’t understand your own physical needs, it’s not my obligation to drive the message into your thick head. Maybe you’ll come around after you fall asleep at the wheel and run over a concrete bus bench. Hopefully, no one will be sitting on it at the time. Sleep-deprived drivers kill a lot of people.
Human effort and sacrifice are overrated, because of pride. We love to think we’re martyrs and that we did it everything without help. It’s a hard attitude to give up. It’s wonderful to feel like a saint. But only one person in history earned that feeling. The rest of us are pretenders.
My advice is to ask God for things all day; even unimportant things. Get his advice. Ask for protection. Accept it with humility.
Never say, “I want to try it on my own before bothering you.” If you want to see how that type of thinking pans out, read the book of Joshua.
I slept well last night, I’m making time for God today, and God willing, this will be a good day. If I’m wrong to see things this way, you’ll know, because I’ll be living behind a dumpster in two years. I don’t see it happening.Stumble it! Save This Page