For starters, it’s a Monday, masquerading as a Tuesday. No-one likes that. Or the wrench as you shift your gears from holiday back to working (or not working) week.
Then there was a trip to the hospital.
Hospitals are strange places at the best of times. Just think of the hundreds of life-changing conversations and procedures that are happening there, every minute. And yet, even though they’re on the front line of life and death, they’re like twilight zones, thin places that exist on the margins, where everyone is just stepping off on a journey somewhere else.
I was there for two reasons – one, to visit a close friend who’s just produced a beautiful wee baby. And two, for blood tests to see if we can work out what’s happening in my own reproductive bits. So I poddled from the heights of the maternity ward to the depths of the fertility clinic. And what with giving up my blood and all, the whole experience left me feeling a bit wobbly.
So I prayed about it. And I decided to leave it to God. But thinking and doing are two entirely different things. If prayer’s like posting a letter, I guess I took mine all the way to the post-box, but then refused to let go.
I’ve been thinking about this recently after listening to some great talks from Paul on Isaac. Isaac if you remember, had two sons – the older one called Esau (who was like a red-haired ape, but attractive with it: I’m thinking Damian Lewis/Ryan Gosling…oops moving on) and the younger, who was called Jacob. God had told Isaac that the younger son would rule over the older, but Isaac wasn’t convinced. Esau was his favourite – and, in the world’s eyes, he had it all. He was good-looking, athletic, outgoing and All Man. A born leader. By contrast, Jacob was a scrawny mother’s boy, who liked messing around in tents and hanging round the kitchen. So Isaac was convinced that God had made a mistake. How on earth could Jacob be a leader? Impossible.
Anyway. Isaac decides that he’s going to double-cross God by giving his special blessing to Esau. But Jacob persuades Esau to sell this blessing for what amounts to a bowl of vegetable soup. Jacob then disguises himself as his brother and hoodwinks dad into giving him the blessing after all. It’s better than the Christmas edition of Eastenders – and the common theme is this – no-one trusts God. They either think He’s mapped their lives out wrong, or they assume that He does have blessings, but that He’s tight-fisted and has to be deceived into handing them over. In either case, their view of the Lord is very far from the wise and generous Father who showers his children with blessings and love.
What’s my point?
Well, as I listened to the talks, I couldn’t help judging Jacob and Isaac. How foolish they were not to have trusted God. Why didn’t they understand that He loved them and would do what was best for them – without all the false beards and food bribes and cloak and daggerydom. I thought about this as I pottered home from the hospital. Through Boots where I purchased some folic acid and a pregnancy test. Through the supermarket, where I bought red meat ( guaranteed to raise fertility), and a magazine trumpeting the benefits of seaweed and flax oil on oestrogen. I hovered over the scratch-cards and thought about the thrill of winning a million pounds. I went into the clothes shops looking for a skirt that would make me feel better. I came home and comfort ate. I took a pregnancy test, knowing full well that I wasn’t. And none of these things made me feel any better. In fact, they made it all much worse.
Which is when I realised that I really am related to Isaac and Jacob. I thought I’d given my desires to the Lord – but I was – am – still holding onto that prayer letter. To the golden supplement that will make me pregnant. To the thing outside of Jesus that gives me hope. Like them, I want to make things work by myself – but I can’t. And so I come back to the Lord and ask again for His grace.