Friday, January 28, 2011

Take a Number

Take a number, image courtesy of Take A Number, Inc.

I’ve faced many instances in my life where I’ve failed and I’ve come to recognize one of four situations:
  1. Sometimes my desire lacked commitment.
  2. Sometimes my effort lacked discipline.
  3. Sometimes my skill set was inadequate.
  4. Sometimes God just said, “Take a number
As you can imagine, I’ve also experienced my own share of disappointment and frustration when it comes to failure. God’s word speaks truth to me when I examine my thoughts and experiences regarding failure. When Jesus was asked which commandment is the greatest, he gave only two:

But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him,Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?And He said to him,YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it,YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.1

It’s that second one that speaks to me about my attitude and failure; Love my neighbor as I love myself. What I realize is that I love me and I will go to great lengths to prove my love for me. That may mean treating myself to some chocolate cake, buying shoes or clothes, the car I want, or traveling to a place I’ve wanted to go. I do these things because I love me.

So I may fail as a result of those first three situations, but it’s OK because I still love me. I may be disappointed and even frustrated, but I’m not angry at me because, I love me. But situation number four has always resulted in me being angry at God for denying me and I see now that I failed in the first commandment to love God to the same degree that I love myself. I don’t question my love for me, and I don’t question God’s love for me; I know both are true. However, I have to question my love for God because when I’ve failed because He says, “Take a number”, I don’t love Him the way I love myself; I’m being selfish towards God.

I don’t know why God sometimes says “Take a number”, but He’s God and that’s His prerogative as The Sovereign Lord; His ways and thoughts are not mine. I no longer want to be selfish towards God (or anyone else for that matter). At a minimum, I want to love God as I love myself. I also realize that when God says, “Take a number”, it doesn’t mean never.

I believe this because of something I read in scripture:

The Syrophoenician woman, image courtesy of The Bible Revival

Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice. But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And He was saying to her,Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.But she answered and said to Him,Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children's crumbs.And He said to her,Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left."2

This scripture reminds me that just before the sun rises; it may seem to be the darkest time of my life. In Mark, the bible speaks of a woman who came to Jesus asking Him to heal her daughter who was possessed by an unclean spirit. Because the woman was a Syrophoenician (a Gentile), Jesus essentially told her to take a number. Now if you’ve ever had to wait in line for someone to call your number, imagine what it would feel like if the ticket you were holding had no number.

Would you wait as long as it took for an answer, or would you just become frustrated and give up?

Giving up isn’t just my not trusting God, it’s my not loving God as well.

But this woman demonstrates that she not only believes in Jesus, she loves Him to the degree that she’ll accept whatever attention He gives her because:
  1. She doesn’t need an answer packaged in a beautiful wrapping paper and ribbon.
  2. She doesn't demand to be given a seat at the dinner table.
  3. She doesn't demand a plate to go.
  4. She’s perfectly willing to accept the crumbs that fall from the table for the dogs to eat.
So often, I’ve thought that God’s blessing must be equivalent to my expectations; my expectation would always dictate my perception of the proportional size of God's blessings.

I didn’t want just a slice of cake, I wanted the whole cake!

What I see in this woman’s example is that the size of the blessing is irrelevant, because even a crumb from Jesus was enough to heal her daughter. She didn’t need Jesus to give a sixty minute sermon on how he would heal her daughter. She didn’t need to live in the lap of luxury to experience the healing of her daughter.

She understood that even the tiniest granule of blessing from Jesus was sufficient enough to accomplish all she needed.

She was at her edge of darkness, yet she knew dawn was coming.

She knew this because she was unwilling to give up loving Jesus, in exchange for living a life of disappointment and frustration. I heard a preacher once say that when you get a slice of cake, it contains the same ingredients as the whole cake. That cake has eggs, flour, sugar, flavor and everything put in the batter; so does a slice of that same cake.

My ticket has all that too!

Although it may seem like God is only saying, “Take a number”, perhaps I’ve been rejecting my ticket that reserves a slice of cake for me. As a result, I was demonstrating my lack of love for God by refusing to accept my ticket; believing instead that I would never get a slice. I believed that ticket held no value for me.

But that’s not the case anymore!

I’ll love God in my darkest hour just as much as I love myself. I’m making choices to please Him, not that I may curry His favor, but because I want to love Him. I’m not giving up on God.

What I’ve come to realize is that God hasn’t given up on me. Whether it’s a slice of cake or just a crumb, I believe God will provide it. Even if He says, “Take a number”, that’s good enough for me because that ticket has all the ingredients I need for an answer to my prayer.

Spiritual SundaysNote: This post is linked to Spiritual Sundays (hosted by Charlotte and Ginger).
Footnotes:
  1. Matthew 22:34-40, NASB
  2. Mark 7:24-30, NASB
References:
  1. The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6
  2. The NIV Study Bible, Edited by Kenneth Barker, Donald Burdick, John Stek, Walter Wessel and Ronald Youngblood, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530, USA

22 comments:

Sherry said...

When God says take a number I feel we should be excited because that only means he has something better in store for me. He is much better at handling my life than I am so here I wait patiently for my number to be noticed. Excellent food for thought. Thank you for your insight.

Kim-Stuff could always be worse said...

We do wrestle with God, He does answer in the right time. We will never understand it til?

Whidbey Woman said...

Wow. What an awesome post. You reflected, wrote from the heart and shared biblical truths. Thank you. Have a blessed Spiritual Sunday!

Ginger~~Enchanting Cottage said...

I think that we all feel like this at some point.It seems like my prayers always have a since of urgency,there for I'm not happy about taking I truly need to work on that.
Thank-you for sharing your heart today.
God Bless,
Ginger

Charlotte said...

I've never especially liked those number things. I certainly never thought about God as saying to take a number. That's an interesting observation. I like your closing two paragraphs. That's the way I feel. I am just happy if He gives me a number. That means my time will come. His timing is always perfect so what more could anyone ask?
Thank you for sharing this thought provoking post.
Blessings,
Charlotte

MommaMindy said...

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving an encouraging comment. I so appreciated your time!

I also appreciate your thoughts. I was thinking how when the Lord had Mary and Martha "wait with their number" they accused Him, "If you would have come sooner, our brother wouldn't have died." May we wait, with number in hand, with patient faith.

Saleslady371 said...

Jesus wasn't intimidated by society and I shouldn't be either. Today is the day of "instant" everything. But it pays to wait on Jesus...loving Him and receiving His love while I wait!

Great post!
Mary

Donnie said...

What wonderful words to read today. I know the phrase "Take a number" will stick with me and hopefully I will remember your other words too.

Sharon Kirby said...

Great analogy - I LOVED it.

I've had to "take a number" at the post office, at Christmas time - for close to an hour. Waiting isn't fun.

But you have hit on the crux of the matter. What we CHOOSE to do in the waiting. God has lessons in the waiting...important lessons, humbling lessons, refreshing lessons. Are we willing to learn from our God? Will we trust that waiting is His BEST answer?

The amazing thing with God is this - if we REALLY trust Him - if we REALLY love Him - He truly "gives us our cake and let's us eat it too!!"

GOD BLESS!

Ruth said...

thank you for this awesome post. there's so much of truth in what you write and i love each of the posts.. thank you for being a blessing!!

Happy Spiritual Sunday!!

Ruth

Jan said...

What a very interesting way to look at it... I had not thought of it like that.
Blessings for a joyful Spiritual Sunday.
Hugs, Jan

Karen said...

God's ways and His thoughts are so much higher than mine - and I'm so glad!

sarah said...

I like what Karen said...He's has ways that are so much higher than my measley ones. I've never felt pushed aside by Him...instead I've felt like no. one....something that was so hard for me to accept. I've learned that He is always there...always in my corner...and b/c of that....I want everyone to know HIm...and the love that really heals like nothing else can. Thanks MTJ for this. have a great Sonday

Merana Leigh said...

Oh, my friend - FABULOUS post! I hear God (perhaps too often!) saying "wait for it, wait for it...." & then "Be still & know that I am God". And really, that's all I need to do...just be still...but man, does He have EXCEEDING patience when I STILL try to make things go MY way. Love this post, my friend. Accepting the crumbs off Jesus' table....POWERFUL! Have missed you. Hugs ~ Merana

Joan said...

It's never easy to "take a number", especially in our fast paced world. We want everything instantly, including God's answers to our prayers.

As someone else pointed out, when He says "take a number" it's always because He has our best interests at heart. I know many times when I haven't waited on Him, I've suffered the consequences and I reflect about what I missed by not waiting.

Great post!

Jeanne said...

This post is well written and says so much about our prayers and wanting an answer right away. Sometimes taking a number means the situation is bad for us, even though we do not understand why. Everything must be through God's grace and we only realize it later sometimes.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about God today. It is inspiring to me and others.
Blessings, Jeanne

lioneagle said...

Hi MTJ-

This is a rich piece. Thank you for sharing it. It has much wisdom indeed.

In particular, I love this that you expressed, "She was at her edge of darkness, yet she knew dawn was coming."

Thank GOD that He has not given up on us and praise to His name that He gives us what we need to remain steadfast in HIM.

Janis@Open My Ears Lord said...

Waiting for God's answer is difficult most times. I've seen impatience with God's timing as not trusting Him but I don't think I've seen it as not loving Him. That's something new to ponder.

Lots of food for thought here.

Blessings,
Janis

JT said...

We all must wait on God for an answer to prayer. He has His own time. God Bless You.

MTJ said...

Sherry: I like your suggestions of patiently waiting with excitement.

Kim: There is comfort in the knowledge that God will answer.

Whidbey Woman: Thank you for stopping by...blessings to both you and Ron.

Ginger: It's definitely something I've faced and I'm learning to focus on God as my provider and not on the question how long God?

Charlotte: I've listened to others teach on God answering my prayer, and that He answers: YES, NO, or NOT YET, so there was that influence. However, I was attempting to focus on my attitude and what I began to see was that I wasn't practicing love towards God (at least not to the degree that I love myself).

Momma Mindy: I can certainly identify with Martha and Mary pointing out that Jesus was the one who lost track of time. How often I've prayed, wanting the Lord to adhere to my agenda.

Mary: I agree, there is reward in patiently waiting on the Lord.

Donnie: Thank you so much for stopping by.

Sharon: All my life I've not demonstrated much patience in anyone or anything. I see now that having patience is not a weakness but an actual strength. I agree, it what I CHOOSE to do in the waiting. What I see now is that I can CHOOSE to have joy with whatever God gives me. I see that what God gives is all I need.

Ruth: Thank you for stopping by; I love reading the poems you share.

Jan: Yes, it is an unconventional way of looking at: a) my prayers to God, b) God's response to me, and c) my attitude regarding God's response, but it's helped me focus on a fundamental flaw in my attitude and a real need to change.

Karen: I agree. I can now be at peace saying, "I accept your plan for my life Lord."

Sarah: It has really helped me to realize that God hasn't given up on me. Like you say, He's "in my corner".

Merana: I too was blessed in seeing that even the crumbs from the table possess all the ingredients my answer requires.

Joan: For me, the crux was accepting that God has "my best interests at heart." This brought to light my willingness to love and trust God with my life.

Jeanne: That as been my problem: I expect a response NOW, and when it didn't come, my attitude changed. What I'm learning to choose is to simply trust God with the timings and sequences of my life; trust that His grace is sufficient for me.

Sandra: I also was blessed by that thought that often I find myself seemingly alone, and right at the edge of darkness; but it's at that edge of darkness that God breaks forth with the Light of His grace.

Janis: As I began to examine my attitude, I saw how I never lose hope or faith with myself; even though I've disappointed myself, I still love me. I don't charge this to anyone other than myself. I think it would be difficult for me to trust someone with my life without loving them. I see love and trust as opposite sides of a coin.

John: Thank you for stopping by brother.

Mari said...

I love the way you have portrayed God's love. Many of us at one refuse to take a number, but like you said even if it just a ticket it has all the ingredients we need.

God bless :)

Nicole said...

Beautiful post my friend. Taking a number with God was always hard for me but I am learning that sometimes it just means not now, He has something better in store.

I have always loved that verse. Any blessing from our Father, whether it is big or just a 'crumb' is a magnificent blessing all the same!

I hope you are having a great week!