After four years of trying to sell our old house, we finally moving into our new house last August. To prepare it for retreats, I’ve been immersed in chores: creating a new kitchen, installing new cabinets, making a desk, and rewiring about twenty light switches to link them to Alexa. All things I’ve done before: plumbing, carpentry, and wiring.
Now that the house-updates are done, I sense God calling me to write a book on Cultural Creep (how we adopt the world’s solutions while rejecting God’s answers), to talk with a friend about a difficult subject, and to coach a spiritual organization about how to communicate God’s word.
And I feel wholly and completely inadequate. How can I communicate the world’s influence without sounding like a crabby old man? How can I speak to my friend without sounding like a harsh jerk? How do I move from behavior-ism to gospel-ism when tips and techniques seems their default message?
I’m sleeping poorly because I think God is assigning me tasks that I’m ill-equipped to execute.
God Always Demands the Unreasonable
Everybody’s inner default is to fasten onto the familiar, to perform tasks we already know how to do. But the greatest triumphs of past spiritual leaders were always when they tackled the impossible:
- God asked Abraham and Sarah to have a child when they were in their nineties;
- God told Moses to find water for Israel in a rock in the desert with no oasis in sight;
- God wouldn’t let Gideon battle Midian till he reduced his army from 32,000 to 300;
- When God called St. Francis to rebuild the church, God meant an entire culture not a tiny chapel.
Why does God always draw us beyond the end of our resources? Not just to the edge of our strength, not merely a toe over the line of our aptitudes; he persistently pushes us past our natural abilities until we cry “Uncle!” (Or, “God help me!”)
Perhaps a better question is: Why don’t we cry “Uncle” or “God help me” in the everyday jobs we know so well? Why do we flock to assignments that don’t need God?
It’s Always About His Life in Us
Scripture repeatedly teaches a simple message with multiple metaphors, the most common is: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its laborers work in vain.”
When I was preparing our new house for retreats, I didn’t pray much about my activities. I’ve performed them so many times before I could do them in my sleep. Well, as I sleep-walked my way through carpentry, I was training myself to build my house without the Lord. Literally.
So why should I be surprised when difficult assignments make me feel totally helpless? I’ve orientated myself through regular practice to work as an independent contractor.
When God told Moses to confront Pharaoh (the greatest leader of the greatest empire), he said, “Tell Pharaoh to give away his single greatest resource for constructing cities; and tell him make it snappy!” Moses asks God “How can I do this?” because it seemed impossible. God answered, “But I will be with you” (Ex. 3:12).
I think God orchestrates unreasonable and impossible tasks to re-orient us to accomplish even the tiniest tasks through him; not on our own, and not completely on his own. He likes to work his greatest miracles through us, his life in ours.
Whether we’re tackling a toilet or walking on water.