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

 

Bring Them Robes

During Christmas, we often think about Jesus as an infant. Or we think about the theology of the incarnation. Or we think about whether or not we should tell our youngest sibling or child that Santa may or may not be “real.”

Sometimes we even think about all three of those things while perusing Amazon for gift ideas (If you can do that, bully for you. I can’t).

The new year arrives. We manage winter. Spring appears. Easter prep begins.

And during Easter, we often think about Jesus as an adult. And we think about the cross, and we think about the resurrection. And we think about whether or not we should tell our youngest sibling or child that the Easter Bunny may or may not be “real” (We are a very interesting society).

Between baby Jesus and grown-up Jesus, we don’t think a lot about his life. And that makes sense. Based on the very little we have about child Jesus, we would be making a lot of conjectures and guesses as to what the life of young Jesus looked like.

But what we have is so interesting! And because we have Luke’s Gospel (and, I guess, common sense), we don’t have to continue to debate whether or not we should tell our youngest sibling or child that Jesus may or may not have been “twelve.” He was!

When Jesus was twelve, we read in Luke what I will quickly summarize: Mary, Joseph, and Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Passover. Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem to go back home. They thought Jesus was with other family members. He wasn’t. So they ran back to Jerusalem and found Jesus in the Temple, and Jesus tells them, “Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke: 2:49, CSB)

I honestly don’t know how to best explain all of that. In fact, I’m not going to try here. Instead, I want to explore what happens next:

Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people. – Luke 2:51-52, CSB

So, Jesus goes back to Nazareth, obeys his parents, and this fills Mary’s heart with treasured memories. And then we read something amazing: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.”

This statement is amazing for so many reasons. I want to highlight just one: We’ve read it before!

Yes, Luke is alluding to a story in the Old Testament about a mother and her young boy. This young boy could be found in the Temple. This young boy would be called a prophet. This young boy would hear God speak. His name was Samuel.

We can look back to 1 Samuel 2:26 and we find:

By contrast [to some other, wicked guys], the boy Samuel grew in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.

Young Jesus and young Samuel, growing in stature and favor with God and people. What powerful, remarkable statements about these two young men. But how exactly did they do that?

There are many reasons, and you could probably write a whole book on “growing in stature and in favor with God and people” and make a major profit (Pun!). But while I was reading 1 Samuel, I noticed something a paragraph or two before verse 26 that filled my heart with wonder.

I noticed something small yet amazing:

Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice. – 1 Samuel 2:19

Each year his mother made him a little robe. Every single year, his mother made him a little robe. His mother made him a little, priestly robe. A robe for her son.

In 2002, Mr. Rogers gave a commencement address at Dartmouth. During the address he said to the graduates, “I’d like to give you all an invisible gift. A gift of a silent minute to think about those who have helped you become who you are today.”

When I read this verse in 1 Samuel, I thought about that quote. I imagined Samuel sitting among the graduates. I imagined him thinking back to year after year of his mother bringing him a little robe. He would have realized it was her dedication to him and to God that allowed him to grow in favor with God and people. It was her love, her compassion, her presence. His mother, who had prayed a deeply sincere prayer to God for a child. And then gave her son back to God out of gratitude. Hannah. The name of a devoted God-follower. The name of a devoted mother.

Year after year, she brought Samuel a little robe. Year after year, Mary raised Jesus in Nazareth. And as a result of Hannah and Mary’s devotion to God, their sons grew in godliness.

One son would crown kings, and the other would be crowned King.

Your devotion to God doesn’t have to be flashy. It can be as “simple” as finding that young man or young woman who you can support year after year in their faith. Teach the next generation how to pray, how to listen to God, how to read the Bible. Give them encouragement and blessings.

Be like Mary and Hannah.

Bring them robes.

– Matt Welborn