Chasing Seagulls

I’m back! I took a break from the blog to enjoy vacation and get ready for the Fall in my church! But now after this hiatus I’m ready to jump back in! 

Earlier this month, Jamie and I went to Emerald Isle in North Carolina for a family reunion. It was a restful week with family, lots and lots of reading, and sleeping in!

One day, I was out on the beach reading and my nephew Samuel was playing in the sand right in front of me.

Now, here’s a little background on my boy Samuel. He is stinking adorable. I mean seriously, he is the cutest. He steals the show. Every time. But he can’t say a whole lot right now (which is understandable since he is 18 months old). One thing he loved to say though was “hav”. He would stick out his arms toward something that he wanted and say that. “Hav, hav, hav”. Adorable.

Back to the sand. There we are hanging out. Then a handful of seagulls flew overhead and landed not far from where the Roach clan had staked their claim on the shore. Samuel’s curiosity was immediately piqued. He got up and starting moving toward them.

Then the hilarity ensued. Samuel kept shouting “hav, hav, hav, hav” while moving as quick as his little legs could take him toward these seagulls. My older brother Jon and sister-in-law Whitney tried to get him to understand that no, he could not have a seagull.

I’ve been thinking about prayer lately. The youth group I help shepherd is going through the book of 1 Samuel this Fall. Last night we started our journey through the book, looking at the birth of Samuel. I was struck by the ferocity and rawness of Hannah’s prayers to the Lord. She was dealing with infertility. This was something that would have made her a social pariah in her culture. To be infertile was to be cursed by God, something that many assumed was the result of sin in the life of the woman who was infertile.

Think about that.

Think about the depths of that pain.

Anyway, Hannah goes all out with the Lord.

Look at what the Bible says about her prayers.

She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. – 1 Samuel 1:10

When’s the last time you prayed like that? When’s the last time you let it all out? When’s the last time you were totally open before God?

In the ensuing verses we see that Eli the priest actually believes that Hannah is drunk because her prayers are just that fervent, raw, emotional.

There is definitely a place for awe and wonder before God. We must treat Him with the worshipful posture that he deserves. That being said, we don’t need to sterilize our prayers. We can be real with Him regarding our emotions (just read the Psalms if you don’t believe me), understanding that He already knows our emotions.

Pray fervently and ferociously.

But what about when the prayer isn’t answered?

What then?

Here’s where the story of my nephew Samuel (not the Biblical Samuel. Confusing.) comes into play.

My nephew wanted a seagull. He wanted one bad. He actually spent many a cool minute chasing these birds around the sand.

Now here’s the reality. It would have been super duper tough, but it’s likely that my older brother, Samuel’s father, could have gotten a seagull for him.

Here’s why he didn’t. Seagulls are riddled with disease and simply just aren’t the ideal companion for an eighteen-month old. My brother Jon knew better than Samuel what was best for Samuel.

I’m not as wise as King Jesus.

Neither are you.

Let’s just be honest. Even if you have been on the earth for decades, you still pale in comparison to God when it comes to wisdom and knowledge.

I believe that sometimes God does not give us what we’re asking Him for simply because He knows it’s not what’s best for us.

My nephew Samuel wanted a seagull. His father knew that wasn’t best for him.

If you aren’t getting from God something that you want, maybe it’s because Your Father knows that that thing is not what’s best for you.

Let me go back to Hannah for a second.

There’s a powerful aspect of her prayer. She asked God for a son, and promised to return her son back to the Lord. Talk about sacrifice. Talk about dedication. Talk about faithfulness.

The birth of Samuel likely restored Hannah’s joy and vigor and life in ways that I cannot even begin to comprehend. She went from infertile to fertile, from barren woman to nursing mother. Yet in the midst of that incredible joy she chose to give back the answer to her prayer to the Lord.

This causes me to ask myself the question:

Is the focus of my prayers that which would benefit me alone or that which would benefit the Kingdom?

What is the motivation behind the prayers I pray? Are they purely about me? Or are they about extending the Kingdom of God in the place that God has me today?

Am I praying for that which would help me love God and love neighbor? Or am I just chasing seagulls?

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Just Google It

There is little mystery anymore. There is little wonder. We have answers for just about anything and everything. If we are perplexed by something, we pick up our smartphone and google the answer. I do this all the time. Maybe it’s wanting to know why I recognize an actor in a movie. Maybe it’s wanting to know the last time the Cowboys made the Super Bowl so that I can rub that in my friends faces. Maybe it’s checking when Black Panther showtimes are next weekend so I can see it as soon as possible. Sometimes it’s natural phenomena that I can’t explain. Regardless of what it is, the answer can almost always be found in just a handful of seconds via the seemingly limitless knowledge of the inter-webs.

This searching for knowledge and answers via social media, the ESPN app, or Covenant Eyes can steal the time of solitude and silence from our lives as well.

There was a time when it wasn’t this way however. I remember one specific night in my backyard. I was in Junior High and I was out by the pool with siblings and friends. We looked up in the sky and saw twelve incredibly blight lights. The sun was setting slowly, but these lights were not flickering and they were moving. Slowly more and more began to appear and at one point we counted twelve up in the dimly lit sky. Then they appeared to move rapidly away and disappeared. My mind went two different directions. The first was that aliens were coming. I laughed this off and then thought maybe Jesus was coming back, that each light signified one of the twelve tribes of Israel.

I didn’t have a phone, and so we just sat and watched the sky and laughed and conjectured and made up conspiracy stories. It was a moment of awe and wonder.

The other vivid memory that makes me miss my enchantment was Disney World. I’ve had the chance to go a few times in my life. When I went in fifth grade, I was enchanted. Disney World was bright and magical and I was in awe. From Splash Mountain to Space Mountain, I joyfully enjoyed all the attractions. I wasn’t worried about a thing. Pizza Planet was the greatest pizza I had ever tasted in my life.

Then I went back with my fam my Senior year of college. It wasn’t as magical. I had an app on my phone that showed you the amount of time you had to wait at each of the rides and I thus looked at it incessantly. Instead of enjoying the experience of patiently waiting for my turn on a ride with my bros, I was looking ahead at what we needed to do next. Then I realized in horror that Pizza Planet pizza was in fact Digiorno microwave pizzas, no different than what I stuffed my face with a couple times a week in college. The enchantment was shattered.

In a culture of answers and logic and apps, there is little enchantment and wonder and awe. In my opinion it is destroying our children in subtle and not so subtle ways.

Last night I had a considerable amount of fun playing hide-and-seek with my friends’ children. The laughter and smiles and wonder of the kids was refreshing. Sometimes it is good to just put the phones up and for the love of all things good simply enjoy life for a bit.

This disenchantment becomes dangerous when we bring it into our spiritual life (if you want a good book on this, read Recapturing The Wonder by Mike Cosper). We make faith something that we can google, something that we can understand in fullness. We boil theology and doctrine down to bite-size chunks and remove all wonder out of our faith. We make the Bible something to be dissected. As I write this, I see on my shelves a couple hundred commentaries and Bible studies that break down the text. While I’ve always had a fascination for these, it has removed the wonder from my personal time with the Lord at times. As of late, I’ve sought to use them for sermon prep alone and allow my time with Jesus to be just me and God’s Word.

I am praying today that God does something in my life and world that is unexplainable, an act of His power that has no answer. I want to be enchanted again. I desire to be in awe and wonder of the Lord I proclaim and worship. It is through this sense of wonder that I believe my relationship with Him will thrive. This is due to the fact that He is greater and so totally other. He is not comparable. He is not dissectible. He can do things that have no earthly explanation.

The call of this blog is two-fold. Try and put the phone up from time to time to be awed by the world you live in; maybe resist the tingling desire to google the answers to all of your questions. Secondly, enter into your time with the Lord in awe and wonder, remembering that the Scriptures say this about Him:

Oh the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. – Romans 11:33-36

In His Name,

Nate Roach