The Unique Ways of God
One of the most influential prayers ever prayed for me was not the prayer I had requested. In fact, it was quite different from the prayer I had requested.
My youngest child had done poorly on a math test in Junior High School. He brought the test home with an explanation that he could regain some points for the class if he corrected his mistakes. That night we worked together on the needed corrections, but that child was not paying attention to the work as I thought he should have been, and I grew more and more frustrated with him.
The next morning, I shared my frustration with a prayer partner and asked him to pray that my son would get more serious about his studies. Much to my surprise and disappointment (at the time), Charlie prayed something quite different than my request. He prayed that God would help me to see the differences between that child and my other children, and he asked God to help me not to try to make that son like his siblings.
My initial response to that prayer was disappointment, because I was convinced that the problem was with my son and not with me. But that prayer changed my heart and saved my relationship with my son. I began to see and appreciate the unique qualities and strengths of this child. (He went on to major in economics at the University of California at Santa Cruz.)
I hate to admit it, but I have a tendency to carry that old mindset in my spiritual life. I tend to think that God works with cookie cutters. I tend to think that one size fits all. I tend to get stuck within a box and think that all of God’s ways will be found within that box.
But the truth is that God makes millions of varieties of snowflakes, and God makes each of us uniquely. That means that if I am going to be in touch with how God is working in the life of any person, I need to be attentive to the way God is working uniquely in that particular person’s life, honoring that person as a unique individual.
I love the ways Jesus does this in the Gospels. When I look at how Jesus interacted with people in the Gospel accounts, I never find a “cookie cutter” approach from Jesus. Each person He meets and each person He deals with is a unique person to Him.
One of the passages where I find this most clearly is in Mark 7:31-37, when “some people brought to Him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Him to place His hand on the man.” Jesus took the man aside, put His fingers into the man’s ears, spit (apparently on His own finger) and touched the man’s tongue, then, “with a deep sigh,” Jesus declared, “Be opened.”
What a unique and personal way of dealing with this man!
Why did Jesus do the things He did here? I don’t know for sure, but it certainly wasn’t a cookie cutter approach! It was unique and personal.
To a man who was missing the sense of sound and could not speak, Jesus engaged with him in the realm of the sense of sight and the sense of touch. For a man who could not interact with words, Jesus interacted with him with His fingers.
And He sighed. As one writer remarked, “With Him, that is, with the Sympathizing Jesus, this was entirely natural. It showed that he was taking the man’s condition to heart…. The sorrows of this man were His sorrows. Jesus never healed anyone half-heartedly. He always put everything he had into His work of mercy.”
In His dealings with us as well, Jesus never acts half-hearted but always in a unique and personal way.