Despite Myself

So there are some passages and stories in the Bible that leave me thinking "Really?" There are things my mind wrestles with. I still believe the Bible is the holy and inspired Word of God but like anything worth loving and devoting time to, it often leaves me wondering and trying to figure out and understand.

And I think that wrestling is good and I'm thankful for it and I'm thankful for an education that has equipped me to know how to wrestle with it. And while I may not be a WWF, or WWE as it is now called, caliber wrestler, I am thankful that the Scriptures I love so much leave me longing for more: more knowledge, more insight... more of God.

Yesterday was one of those days that left me puzzled. In Genesis 30 it talks about how Jacob took tree branches and stripped of some of the bark so they had white streaks on them. He then proceeded to place these streaked sticks in the water troughs where the sheep mate so that the offspring would be spotted. And it worked...

Really? Now one thing I love about the Old Testament in particular is seeing the mistakes of others. It's not that I enjoy knowing other people fail, but rather I am comforted knowing things like how Abraham messed up so badly out of fear, he let his wife join another man's harem, but then is commended for his faith in Romans. He was human...

Jacob was also human and I am comforted by his mistakes knowing God so blessed him despite himself. But when I came to the passage that he was pretty much practicing magic to get the sheep to be born a certain way it left me asking God, "Really?" In my life I have fallen prey to the vending machine idea of God. If I would have thirty minutes of quiet time, read three chapters a day, pray for forty-five minutes and not forget to confess even one sin or bring every need before God, pray about every decision and not doubt anything, then God will answer my prayers. If I do it all perfectly then He will do what I want Him to do.

But in God's goodness, that is not how He established the world. It's not about what we do but about who we are. Life with Christ isn't about never messing up, but trusting His leading and trusting He speaks in a way I can clearly hear, even when it doesn't feel like it. (On a side note, my pastor just did an amazing series on this called Follow where he explains the concept of following God far better than I could.) So in light of all God has spoken to my heart about not trying to use prayer as a tool of manipulation but rather prayer is to be a conversation and a safe place to bring my needs before The One Who Loves Me Most. Prayer is to connect me to Him and let me know He hears and moves on my behalf. In light of this, when I read that passage about Jacob it was more about what God has spoken to my heart than about sheep. The passage made me wonder why would God allow Jacob to manipulate Him but not allow me. I mean when I try and turn prayer into a magical incantation I feel Him moving in my heart and convicting my desire to manipulate. When I am wanting to turn Him into a vending machine God, He stops me in my tracks and leads me to the places in my heart that aren't trusting His will. Why did God bless Jacob when he manipulated, but when I start falling into that trap, my heart instantly is gripped and see the true nature of my selfish request... But God is good and this morning I heard an answer to my question that resounded with such peace.

“The angel said, ‘Look up, and you will see that only the streaked, speckled, and spotted males are mating with the females of your flock. For I have seen how Laban has treated you. Genesis 31:12 God didn't answer Jacob because of his manipulation of circumstances, but in spite of them... Eureka!! I am reminded of God's goodness and how so often He has chosen to use me in spite of myself. The question that at first left me asking, "Really?" leaves my heart resounding with an overwhelming, "Thank You!" I pray the goodness of God and the love He lavishes on us never stops leaving me in awe...

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