Adele Richards is an amateur parent of two exceedingly fabulous little girls. Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away...
There are some things it’s just downright brave to say to God. Some requests you make, that, boy, he’s going to answer. And then some.
I don’t mean that God is tricksy; he’s no genie in a bottle. That genie delights in catching you out, doesn’t he? Like when the hero asks the genie that the owner of the next set of eyes to see him will fall madly in love with him (because the princess is just about to walk into the room). But then a crazed goat leaps through the window, eyeballs him and falls madly in love. Thus, our unwise hero has to try and woo the princess with a lunatic goat licking his face and bleating sweet-nothings in his ear all day.
God’s not a genie, but still, some prayers are dangerous. Not because God catches us out, but because he answers them. Prayers like ‘Lord make me as humble as some-famous-guy-who’s-famously-humble’. You’re praying for extraordinary humility? You are one brave person. It’s not like God is going to, genie-like, suddenly download to you this extraordinary humility. It’s much more likely he’ll allow a slew of circumstances to happen in your life that, ouch, will teach you humility. You know, in the kindest possible way.
“it’s valuable because it comes at a price.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I admire people who pray crazy things. Sometimes I am even one of these people. Anyway, I suspect God is the one who sneaks about behind the scenes and inspires you to pray these things in the first place. He nudges you in the ribs when you see humility. He causes you to become fascinated with it, till you pray something crazy and then he rubs his hands with glee: ‘Now I can really teach you something, kid!’ It’s going to be the best and most valuable kind of lesson – the lesson that God has handpicked for you to learn. But it’s valuable because it comes at a price.
There’s been a phrase running around my head for the last few weeks that has fascinated and intrigued me. It pops into my head at least a few times a day and then I - please restrain that crazy goat while I say this - I pray it. This is the phrase:
Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
Talk about sticking your hand in the fire. Ok, God is not a genie but still, this prayer has unleashed several crazy goats who have rushed up to me and headbutted me in the chest. It’s been, er, invigorating, to say the least.
“What is it about the human race, that we know death lurks around every corner, and yet, we do everything we can to deny and distract ourselves from this truth?”
Let me give you a bit of background here. One of the things that has intrigued me for many years is what life would be like if I could see it from God’s perspective. If I valued what he valued, how would it be different? It bothers me. It bothers me that life is fragile and someone I love could die at any moment. Knowing that, being aware of that, should change the way that I talk to them, next time I see them shouldn’t it? When I am aware of my own mortality, and the mortality of those around me, I want to tell them that I love them. I am more conscious of their value to me. Even though, frankly, it doesn’t make them any less annoying.
“There’s a fine line between being honest and being a killjoy.”
What is it about the human race, that we know death lurks around every corner, and yet, we do everything we can to deny and distract ourselves from this truth? We sometimes talk about it in order to bring perspective into a conversation. “When you’re lying on your deathbed,” we say, “You won’t be worried about not doing enough work, but you will regret not spending time with the people we love.” We nod sagely, then carry on trying to squeeze more work hours into our lives.
My theory is that we prefer living with our heads buried in the sand. We prefer to pretend bad things don’t happen. We cheer at a wedding hoping that, for this couple, life really will be a fairytale, even though we know that marriage is battle-ground tough. We congratulate a pregnant woman, hoping that, for her, this baby will be a dream come true, even though we know having kids is heart-break tough. And this is a good thing – we celebrate with those who celebrate. We don’t want to be the idiot who pours cold water on the whole thing. Fair enough. But it becomes a false and dangerous response when it leads to a hypocritical culture who can’t get real about life.
There’s a fine line between being honest and being a killjoy. I think the writer of Ecclesiastes definitely strays over into the killjoy seats, settles back, puts his feet up, gets out the popcorn and makes statements like this:
“...the day of death [is] better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting. for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1-4)
“I sometimes feel like I’m sleepwalking through my life.”
Sheesh. Would you invite this man to your cocktail party? I kind of know what he means though. Going to a funeral is a traumatic, life-enhancing experience. It’s a glass of cold water in the face. It wakes you up. It says, “Look. Look at this amazing person next to you, that you love and that seriously gets on your nerves. He is not going to be here forever. How do you feel about that? Got anything you need to say to him?”
I sometimes feel like I’m sleepwalking through my life. I’m not truly noticing the people around me. I’m not really in touch with the gravity of the situation that is existence. I prefer to hold onto a petty grudge and complain about someone rather than tell that person that I love them. I suspect from God’s perspective it’s a pretty nuts way to carry on. That’s why I’ve been walking around holding the lit-stick-of-dynamite that is the prayer “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
This verse is saying: Give me, Father, a sense of proportion. Help me to value each day. Help me to see the people in my life as I see them when I realize one day I’ll be gone or they’ll be gone. This precious, fragile life, this having a laugh with them will be gone. Teach me to love like every day is my last.
Teach me to number my days aright that I may gain a heart of wisdom.
And I don’t mean this in a worthy, over serious way. This is not an attitude that I can maintain or a perspective I can see from without the Holy Spirit’s help. Because my very human tendency is to slide back into the head-in-sand perspective, that puts off till tomorrow loving like I could today.
And that’s the end result of not sleepwalking. Of ‘doing an Ecclesiastes’ and wondering aloud 'What is the Point of it All?' Yes it can be a heart-rending and somewhat depressing series of thoughts, but the end point is love. That’s the conclusion of the writer of Ecclesiastes – love God and do life his way.
As I’ve prayed my dynamite prayer over the last few weeks, various circumstances have exploded in my face. Hurts that I’d been burying in the sand, popped up to say hello. There have been tears and despair and a wondering of what is it all about. But I have also seen with tear-washed eyes, the indescribable sweetness of what I have. When faced with losing something or someone, we can suddenly see their value. Lit by the flickering fuse of love.
So, what are the dangerous prayers God is nurturing in your heart? Light the fuse, stand back and wait for them to blow up. There could well be a fireworks show that will scare you half to death. But it just might give you a new light to walk in too.
This archived article was written by Adele Richards for release in Mar, 2012. Circumstances and situations may have changed regarding the author, locations and ministries. This content may therefore be outdated or misinformed.
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