Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
Have you seen The Last of the Mohcians? The movie opens with three Native American men racing through the Appalachian Mountain woods hunting down an elk. The chase lasts a few minutes as the warriors jump over logs, splash through streams, and dodge limbs. They each move separately, yet their actions flow together in unified pursuit. I’ve seen this scene used as a portrayal of the Trinity. Three separate entities living and working together as one for a definite purpose. While I’ve also read objections to that representation, I find value in the idea of illustrating the Trinity working simultaneously and jointly toward an end.
God moves in concert to glorify himself. And Scripture speaks of God going about glorifying himself by filling us with the life of Jesus. From the perspective of looking at the entire history of God as story, which may not be the best word usage since “history” begets a beginning and an end, the “About the Author” page of the book really would read, “See entire story”. In theological discussion, that point seems so scholarly and detached, but to live in such a reality causes us to ask some hard questions about God. It also changes the way I pray.
I laid quietly in the early morning hours before my wife got up. Rather than turning over and forcing my way back to sleep, I decided to attempt something harder: prayer, specifically for my two unborn girls. Lord, I want to surrender these two precious lives before You. I pray over their footsteps, over the decisions they’ll make, over the people they’ll become. May they choose You at an early age. Most of all, Lord, I long for their lives to glorify You.
Pause. Do I really mean that last “most of all” part, that their lives would glorify God in the greatest possible way?
I know what that looks like for me. (Since neither have been named yet and I refuse to identify them like my brother-in-law, Hans and Franz, I’ll simply call them Ashley and Samantha) God’s answer to my prayer would start with Ashley asking Christ into her heart after dinner one night in her fifth year of life. She’d have listened to Shannon and I talk about how important her heart is to God, grasping of course this concept at such a young age because of being loved so well by her earthly father. She would immediately begin reading her (yes, a fluent reader) Jesus Storybook Bible and memorizing certain passages so that she could help Dad who forgets so easily. Her understanding of godly love and sacrifice would deepen as she matured in loving her sister and practiced similar patience with her stumbling parents. Middle school would be rough, but the opportunity to trust God through it would be more attractive than a paved path. By high school, she would have a strong grounding in her identity in Christ, wear a purity ring, and serve as president of FCA, simply a precursor before taking that position with Campus Crusade for Christ in college (at the University of Tennessee, of course) (or Harvard on full scholarship). After graduation, her commitment to missions would urge her to put off seminary for a couple years while she follows in Mother Theresa’s steps in the slums of Calcutta. Her very presence when she walked into a room would evoke an Edenic yearning for beauty and invite tenderness.
Surely that story would glorify God most. Right? Would my prayer remain if the answer is no?
What if Samantha’s hatred for God, something we all share, becomes visible at an early age and He allows tragedies to sneak in, giving her further ammunition against Him. Perhaps she grows like any normal child before being diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Her days are spent sitting in a hospital bed in Nashville peering out the window at her sister playing on the jungle gym with other healthy, happy kids. Her heart begins to give God a chance when the doctor comes in three years later to announce a cure, which does in fact work. After spending a year at home recovering, her bitterness softens and we glimpse a glorious spirit still breathing in her soul. But into her freshmen year of high school, a youth leader surreptitiously rapes her without anyone knowing and the secret becomes buried. The messages she receives about love and identity become sadly tarnished with shame and her concept of beauty corrodes seemingly beyond repair. Her final years of high school are lived apathetically until she leaves for college where she quickly drops out without my knowing and supports herself through prostitution. Her life wastes away for five years before she finally follows the Prodigal’s pathway home. Her passion for God ignites, and she immediately throws her energy into writing and running a ministry serving recovering prostitutes. Her book becomes a New York Times bestseller and the next week she finds herself back in the hospital due to irreparable damage in her body. And then she dies at the age of twenty-eight, praising God for his goodness and marveling at how He’s used her brokenness to open the seared and thirsty souls of thousands of orphaned and abandoned girls.
I recall the Hosea narrative. I trust that God wrote the steps of Gomer as well as Hosea through a mysterious weaving of free will and sovereignty. The popularity of Francine River’s rendition attests for the power of such a soiled and redeeming chronicle. The pattern of God rescuing us from whoredom for His glory runs at the foundation of every believer’s testimony. As I lay awake praying over my girls, I come to grips with the truth that God could use their lives as a modern-day prophetic account that parallels Hosea’s book all too intimately.
Dare I pray?