Before I married my husband I gave him two ultimatums. Don't ever ask me to move to South Dakota and don't ever grow facial hair. No beard, no mustache, no goatee, nada. I felt that these were entirely reasonable ultimatums to issue. After all, South Dakota is a barren wasteland whipped by unending blizzards in the winter, tornados in the spring, and dust in the summer. And facial hair is itchy. Acceptable on other men, just not on the one I'm kissing.
Well, as you may have surmised from prior posts, I now live in South Dakota. My husband is a man of his word though and never asked me to move here; the idea was all mine. I am, however, happy to report that there are far fewer blizzards, tornados and dust storms than previously imagined. In fact, South Dakota is a very lovely state most of the time. A bit windy, and it could use a few more mountain ranges sprinkled about the state, but it has a beauty all its own, a beauty that can be alternately quiet and wild. (I still remember my first South Dakota thunderstorm and how I sat by the window for almost half an hour that night watching the lightning turn the sky into a giant strobe light.)
The facial hair ultimatum, however, has remained unchanged and is likely to remain that way.
Ultimatums. Those uncompromising demands that carry the threat of severing relations if they are rejected. Life on OUR terms. Now obviously I love my husband, and I would have married him, South Dakota, facial hair and all. But am I guilty of issuing ultimatums in other areas of my life? Am I guilty of issuing ultimatums to God?
I grieved deeply when some close friends had a daughter born with a congenital heart defect that meant she would live for only a matter of days. I drove up into the mountains and I hiked and climbed and prayed. And I tried to strike a deal. "God, heal Keslie and I PROMISE that the first thing I write that sells, all the proceeds are yours." Yes, I was trying to get God to do two things for me at once.
Ultimatums, deals, call it what you like; often I want God to operate on my schedule, to conform to my fears, my likes and dislikes. I want God on MY terms. I hold back from turning over my whole self to him because what if he wants me to do something I don't like? So I hand over little bits and pieces, with ultimatums and deals attached. "Ok, God, you can have this part of me if you will PROMISE never to make me go to Africa or any other place with bugs. OK, God, I will be faithful to say what I sense you want me to say, as long as its on my blog and NOT in front of the church. OK, God, I'll give up this, but don't take that, ok?"
We miss the point. God is God. He can do whatever he wants. He doesn't need our petty little deals and he doesn't have to abide by our ultimatums.
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
he puts the deep into storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the people of the world revere him.
For he spoke, and it came to be;
he commanded, and it stood firm.
The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations.
(Psalm 33: 6-11 from the NIV)
I'm issuing ultimatums to the one who was before all, is in all and rules all? I think I'm going to strike a deal with the one who is able to foil the plans of nations? A few days ago I questioned "Is God good?". I'm still working on the answer to that, reconciling tragedy with a loving God. But this I do know. God is God. He doesn't become less God in my mind if I question him, but he does if I start to think I can control him.
Lord, today, let my honest prayer be to listen for your purpose and your plans. No ultimatums, no deals, just every area of my life open to your will.