Sunday, September 09, 2007

God "Does a Gandalf" on Me

One of my favourite scenes in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, is the early sequence where Gandalf confronts Bilbo over his addictive possessiveness with regard to the One Ring. Sadly the sequence is not on YouTube yet, so I'll do my best to recount it for you:

Basically Gandalf... suspecting the true nature of Bilbo's trinket, gently suggests that Bilbo hand it over.... but Bilbo is too caught up in the Ring's power to obey and becomes increasingly possessive and even agitated - to the point of shaking his fists at Gandalf (not a good plan).

It's at this point that Gandalf suddenly changes his attitude... the room darkens, he appears to grow...

and he thunders out in a terrifyingly loud voice...


then he becomes the friendly old man again...

...and gently concludes...

"... I am trying to help you."

Bilbo is overcome with tears of conviction and realising the gravity of his error, runs into the arms of his friend.

Although the story doesn't quite leave it there,the eventual outcome is that Bilbo... respecting Gandalf's authority, obeys and abandons the Ring.

I love the sequence because this is my experience of God's authority. He's my closest friend...but every now and the, I get out of line and he has to play the sovereignty card on me.

Today was such a day.

Lately I've been dragging my heels a bit and rebelling against God on a couple of issues. Why? Because I've grown irritated with the long wait on his promises... and also for the worst of all reasons... simply "because I could".

This morning's first reading was from Jeremiah:

"This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD : "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. "Now therefore say to the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, 'This is what the LORD says: Look! I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions.'"

Jeremiah 18:1-11

Whoa heavy stuff... and I was left in no doubt whatsoever as to how God was challenging me...but just in case there was any doubt... in came Exocet number 2:

"Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."

Luke 14:25-33

It's worth pointing out here that in the first part of that, Jesus wasn't being literal... he was using hyperbole. He doesn't expect us to literally hate our families (because that would contradict God's law), what he does expect is that we put those things firmly behind our relationship with him. God should be our priority.

Either way I was on my knees. I felt that God was saying to me that he had plans and promises for my life, and trusting in that should be enough for me. If I don't trust him and decide to rebel against him, he can easily take that blessing away and give it to another. Furthermore I'm not in a position to argue with this. He outguns me and is calling me to account. I'm not allowed to fight anymore... it's time to send out delegation and talk terms of peace.

I felt his disappointment and deep hope for me, these are my words but it is exactly how it felt:

"Nick, I know what is on your heart and all I'm asking is for you to wait a little longer... the things you need will come. It's not a lot to ask. It hurts me that you choose to act against that and rebel instead of just trusting. You know better than this. Don't you realise I don't have to give you any of these things? It is all by my grace."

I am instantly reminded of the times as a child when I asked my parents for something for Christmas and it was expensive. Because of the nature of the treat,good behaviour was required of me until Christmas Day... there were times I slipped up... and naturally it was on my mind as to whether or not I had crossed the line... whether the present would remain out of reach because of my disobedience.

My response was very swift. Like Bilbo, I realised the gravity of my mistake and felt a sudden steely determination not to let things slip. Strange as it sounds I actually like it that God is prepared to be stern with me...and not simply abandon me to my stupidity. I love him for that.

All this led me to thinking about the time that the Disciples asked Jesus to "increase their faith".

It seemed like a good idea... with a few minor modifications.

I asked God to increase my faith.
I asked God to increase my hope.
I also asked God to increase my love.

And the greatest of these is LOVE...

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