It happened on my early morning commute to work. Crossing the bridge that separates our little coastal town from the rest of Massachusetts, prayerful thoughts sputtered from my lips with the kind of unfiltered ease that comes most naturally when the sun is just rising. “Lord, you know our needs. You know our situation. We need jobs and we need You to give them to us.”
My husband and are both seminary graduates. We have been studying, preparing, training for full-time vocational ministry. As my final semester approached, we began to ask for the Lord’s guidance and to send out applications as we found employment listings. We began in February of this year with nothing but time in front of us. The semester rushed on and there were no serious leads, but I still had class work to attend to, so all was well. I finished my final semester, and nothing was on the horizon, but I still had two summer courses remaining. My summer courses came and went in the blink of an eye, and still we had no job prospects. As it stands now, we have five weeks until we have to be out of our apartment, which mean five weeks to pack up, move out, and launch into something, somewhere. Which led to my early morning prayer:
“Lord, you know our needs ….” I prayed. “We need jobs and we need You to give them to us.” Reflecting on our situation, I continued. “You know, Lord, we are still in a safe spot, but if we don’t have something lined up soon …” I stopped. With lips poised in mid-sentence, I held my breath lest I dare to finish the sentence. Hearing the words press into the morning silence I was alarmed at their implications. Did I really believe what I was praying? Did I really believe that the “safe spot” for us to be was rooted in still having a few weeks in our apartment? Had I so quickly forgotten the One who is our safety? Immediately, I confessed my err. Even as I wanted to say I did not mean what I had said, my unfiltered words betrayed me and my unbelief was as plain as the day breaking in before me.
Since praying those words of distrust, I have dared to ask myself the hard question of faith: Do I believe that my security is in the Lord? Though the obvious and immediate answer is “no,” I want to probe deeper into the matter of security, and lean harder into the issue of trust. How do we learn to trust? When heavenly security is so much less tangible than worldly security, how can we cultivate it?
The dichotomy between the seen and unseen is sometimes more severe than we would like to admit. While we know Spirit is at work in our daily lives, we are too, and, well, to be honest we see the labor of our work more readily. I can see these fingers, I can see these hands, but His? Well, they aren’t exactly filling out applications or editing my resume.
And I’m starting to speculate that this is the reason Yahweh commanded His people to bind His promises on their hands. The Israelites were told to fasten His words on their foreheads and to inscribe them on the tablets of their heart. Yes, this has a metaphoric component, but if you visit Israel today you will still see Hasidic Jews who have bound the promises of Yahweh quite literally to their hands and heads.
I am not advocating we start wearing Tefillin, but we do need to find our own ways of bridging the gap between the work of our hands and the work of His. We need to begin to form visible reminders for ourselves of the invisible promises of God. Maybe for you it will mean memorizing a passage of Scripture, something that speaks to an area of fear or anxiety. Or, perhaps, you will write out a single word or sentence that reminds you of God’s very real presence in the world and place it somewhere you will see throughout day. For me, it will be putting a promise of my heavenly security on a card and keeping it on the dash of my car. That way, before I open my mouth in prayer, I will be reminded that my requests are heard by the One who is my “safe spot.” My morning prayers will, most likely, not change much – we still need jobs, after all – but by His grace, they will continue to change me.