I heard on the radio this last week that the Salvation Army were asking for people to donate all their unwanted gifts from Christmas. It got me thinking about some of the presents we receive at Christmas. Have you ever been given a gift which didn’t really turn out to be a gift at all?
It may have been given by someone who loves you, given with the best intentions, given to bless you, but instead it turns out to be the package from hell!
Quite a few years ago, Cathy’s parents gave us one such gift. It was a tent. I am sure that they didn’t give us the tent because they hate us. I know that when they were Christmas shopping they didn’t walk the aisles searching for something which would cause us pain. No! This tent was given out of love. It was expensive and given with the best intentions and biggest heart. I am sure they imagined these amazing family memories that would happen because of this tent.
We smiled as we received it, made some comment about how wonderful it was… and then when we got home, put it in the shed, where it sat for about two years gathering dust.
Until this one fateful day. Our son had a school friend over and I had the brilliant idea of setting up the tent in the backyard so the boys could sleep outside for the night. I thought it would be a great experience for him as I had spent many nights as a teenager sleeping outside under the stars.
So about 3pm in the afternoon, I pulled the tent out of the shed, dusted it off and began to assemble it.
My first mistake was that I tried to set it up based on how I think it should have gone together. This pole looks like it fits here and this one there. After all, instructions are just for those who don’t know any better. How hard could it be? I tried every combination I could think of. Meanwhile, time was ticking by.
Finally about 6pm, after some much unappreciated prodding from my wife, I reluctantly opened the instructions only to find that they were in Chinese!
But by then, my Maltese stubbornness had kicked in and I was a man on a mission. I was not going to let this tent win! I was getting cranky at everyone. By 9pm I had the whole family outside. Words were spewing out of my mouth which I had never used before. All because of a tent, a gift given in love!
Psalm 37 reminds me that the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and even if he were to stumble, the Lord upholds him with His hand.
The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand. Psalm 37.23-24 (NKJV)
The word ‘steps’ implies that there is a process. God does everything in steps.
Regardless of what language the instructions were written in, there were very clearly marked steps involved in setting up that tent. At first I ignored them and thought I knew best. But somebody had made that tent and they had a plan in mind to help others assemble it. When I finally got to the end of myself, I threw my hands in the air and said, “OK you win. Let’s try it your way.”
Sometimes I think this is what God is waiting for. He has a plan for our life. There is a purpose. Often we try to do it our way. Finally out of sheer frustration we throw our hands up in the air and say “Ok God, I’ll do it your way.”
Steps serve a purpose. They teach us patience, courage and determination. We learn how to love, how to overcome and how to persevere. Steps are designed to take us higher, to take us to another level. Steps cause us to see things from a different perspective.
I am so glad that God has mapped out the steps of our life. He ‘orders’ them according to this verse. He has planned them out. There are no surprises for Him.
Even Jesus faced steps. Before He was crowned King of Kings, He first had to endure the cross. It was while He was in the garden of Gethsemane that He cried out to His Father in Heaven and said, “Lord, if it’s possible please take this step away from me. I know what I am about to endure. I know that there will be pain and torment.” But He adds “nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done!”
2019 is half way over. I wonder what steps God has ordered for me in 2020? What path does He want to take me through this next year?
No matter where the path leads, He promises to be with us. He has already marked out the path. I just have to trust Him and know that He will uphold me with His hand, just as He promised He would.