Strings and Stones…

Ben Schoettel   -  


Confession… when I see a problem, I want to fix it. And before you envision heroics or begin to honor that characteristic, there is a catch… not everything is a problem… not everything is MY problem… and MY solution isn’t always best… Anyone else relate? Anyone? Please?

Here is a good practical example that will also help dispel any ideas that it is only earth-shattering problems that trip me up. Throwing away a balloon string. Pastors have a variety or responsibilities and tasks that a lot of times go unseen. One of mine is I do my best to keep an eye on the building and make sure we are stewarding it well. Which usually means, if I see a mess or something “off” it won’t be long before it finds its way on my self-inflicted to-do list. I had to move some cameras around in the building, and while doing so I noticed a balloon string tied way up on one of our exposed air vents just blowing in the breeze. Here was my thought… and my confession. “Why is this here? Probably a birthday party or something and someone forgot to take the strings all the way off the vents. How irresponsible… Now… I must fix.” So, I proudly cut the string off and put it in the trash where it belongs. Job well done… or so I thought. It was moments after that our facilities manager (who knows way more than I do) asks “why did you throw that string away? We use that to make sure the systems are functioning properly because we can judge the airflow by the string.” Whoops…

In that moment I was reminded of the saying “if you act like a hammer, everything looks a nail.” When we look at everything through our perspectives leaving the experts out of the equation (God, or in my case Debbie), we don’t recognize the plan or purpose, and then miss out on experiencing God’s Kingdom.

But it isn’t just me… Moses did it too. In Numbers 20 we find Moses continuing the journey through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. As usual, the masses were growing frustrated with Moses, and this time it was because they were thirsty. Moses goes to God and pleads for help. God tells Moses to gather the people, take his staff, and command water to come out of the rock (us fixers are already thinking “yeah okay, while you do that, I’m going to actually find water.”) Moses gathered the people, grabbed his staff, and then slipped up. From the way Moses spoke in this moment, it seems to me that instead of trusting God’s purposes, he took this moment to let out a little of his own “perspective.” He essentially says “you whiners want water? Fine, here is your water you ungrateful jerks!” and then slams his staff against the rock. Did water come out? Yep. But something else came out… pride. In that moment it was revealed that it was God’s plan for the people to get the water that they needed, but Moses’ plan was that he would get the respect (and maybe silence) he thought he deserved. The harsh reality of this decision, and the exposure of Moses’ character issues, he missed out on experiencing the Promised Land with the people God instructed him to lead.

This moment was huge for Moses. The baby placed in a river, who watched his people suffer, who was outcasted, had a moment where he could either trust God or vindicate himself. But God still provided. God’s will was accomplished. In the end Moses’ pride only cost him.

When I think about “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done” I think of Moses. I think of that balloon string. This phrase forces us to vulnerably face our intentions and desires. For us the stakes are not missing out on a physical Promised Land like in the story of Moses, but it is the perfect analogy for when our actions don’t match our prayers. If we pray for God’s Kingdom but are always trying to make it ours, we shouldn’t be surprised if, like Moses, we get frustration instead of fruit.

Like the string, sometimes God’s ways don’t always make sense, but we are still invited to trust and be blessed along the way. But we must leave the weight of our pride and desire for control behind. Bottom line… You won’t ever be content to embrace living in a Kingdom, no matter how perfect it is, if you are always secretly wanting to be king.