Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Not a genie in a bottle

Great blessings belong to those who fear and respect the Lord, who are happy to do what he commands. (Psalm 112:1 ERV)

Back in the day, I watched that funny little sitcom known as "I Dream of Jeannie" - a show about an astronaut who comes across a genie in a bottle. He has some huge adjustments to make in life as he "incorporates" this genie into his life, but if he could imagine something, she'd fulfill that wish. So many of us approach God as though we had found a genie in a bottle - expecting him to just jump when we say jump, and answer with "your wish is my command". We get things all backwards - for his commands are to become our wishes! They are to make us happy - to give us great and meaningful delight. 

There are far more of us than might want to admit it who approach God in our prayers as though we were making a selection from a vending machine. We "do something" and now we want something in return - like putting a dollar in the vending machine and expecting that sugary sweet snack to fall into our waiting hands. Prayer is communion - not wish granting. It is a time to lay things out that need sorting out - then to listen so we understand how to best proceed. It is a time for us to focus on others - not just ourselves. We've even heard of those deathbed prayers where someone promises God they will live differently if they are just spared whatever fate awaits them - bargaining with God to get a different outcome.

Our psalmist gives us some insight into our relationship with God - it is one of respect and service. We reveal that respect in reverence and obedience. We give him his rightful place - at the lead in our lives. We honor him for his leadership - by doing as he instructs - not our of obligation, but out of tremendous love for him. That genie astronaut Tony Nelson found that day actually loved him - she served him out of love, not obligation. We sometimes get those two mixed up - thinking obligation is part of love - but obligation carries the meaning of "having to" do something or being "made to" do something. Love is not "obligatory" - it is willful submission and the giving of oneself selflessly to another.

Respect is kindred to esteem - it is the way we show how much we value something or someone. God is for each of us to understand how much he values us, and in turn, we come to a place where we value that relationship we have with him more than anything else in the world. In essence, his wishes will become our commands - because we love so intensely we could not help but want what he wants, enjoy what brings him great joy, and elevate what brings him the greatest honor in life. Just sayin!