One of my favorite lines from the Princess Bride comes when Inigo Montoya addresses Vizzini about his constant use of the word “Inconceivable!” saying, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”
That came to mind today when God led me to read me the story of Jeremiah and the Rekabites. In Jeremiah 35, God instructs the prophet: “Go to the Rekabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the Lord and give them wine to drink.” So Jeremiah got some special cups and bowls and set them out nicely before the clan, doing exactly what the Lord told him. I wonder if he had some idea of what God meant to do. Maybe he thought, “It’ll be nice to get to know these folks. I hope they notice I used the good wine.”
But when the Rekabites arrived and Jeremiah invited them to drink, they actually seemed angry. They said, “We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jehonadab of Rekab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine!’” Duoh! “This is awkward,” Jeremiah might have thought, “Did I mishear you, Lord?”
As an artist, I’ve had this happen several times. Times when I’ve felt like God clearly instructed me to do something; to make a piece of art or work on a particular project. I’ve prepared everything just right, like Jeremiah did, only to have the whole thing seemingly jump the tracks. Maybe the reaction is the opposite of what I expected, maybe someone drops the ball or the project implodes, maybe my execution doesn’t come together or the presentation falls apart. I’m left shaking my head, wondering if I heard God right. My natural reaction is to get offended; at others, “They have no appreciation for how hard I worked!”, or God, “How could you let this happen when I’m serving you!” And if you work in any creative capacity in the church, you know that satan will bring along endless opportunities to get offended.
I heard a leader say, “Offenses aren’t given, they are taken”. It’s true. It is our choice whether or not to agree with satan’s suggestions to get offended about the “raw deal” we got. And taking an offense is a great way to hinder the progress God is making in your life and work. You can get stuck as you brood on it. That old artist’s lie that “no one understands me, it’s me against the world” can pop up.
It’s important to immediately give these thoughts and feelings to God when they appear. Forgive quickly, if that is needed. Remind yourself that your identity is in God, not in your work or what you can do for Him. Actually, Jeremiah was probably pretty good at that; being a full-time oracle of God he was used to the Lord’s unusual methods. For us it can be more of a challenge.
In the case of Jeremiah and Rekabites, God’s plan for the encounter was more than just a little wine tasting with the nice family from down the street. He used the Rekabites negative reaction to highlight their faithful obedience in following a generations-old command to their forefathers to not drink wine (and a list of other things, as well.) It was a perfect juxtaposition to the extreme unfaithfulness of the Israelites. In spite of having generations of prophets to guide them, the Israelites continued to rebel against God’s good plan for them.
In my case or yours, when we encounter an unexpected twist in following God’s leading, He may just be cooking up something that we couldn’t imagine. We may never know exactly what He was doing. Or it may be about our personal growth. Either way, if I choose to take offense at how things seemingly turn out, I miss out on the joy of the adventure God is including me in; that joy of letting go of control, going with His flow, and trusting Him with the results. If things happen to go south, refuse to take the offense. Things probably do not mean what you think they mean. But we can trust that God’s plan is better than anything we could come up with.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
J. Scott McElroy is the author of Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity (Destiny Image), Founder and Director of The New Renaissance Arts Movement, and Director of Arts at Vineyard Community Church, Indianapolis, IN. He blogs at http://jscottmc.wordpress.com. Reach him at: Scott@TheNewR.org.