The Boy Scouts of America have a motto, “Be Prepared”, and as mottos go, it is a fine one. The problem is that living up to those expectations can be difficult, if not downright impossible, to do. Prepared for what? I am prepared to write this essay, but am I prepared for the next natural disaster to hit the town I live in, or some serious health problem for my family? So being “prepared” is really a matter of scope or degrees, and being prepared always, for everything, is not something we can hope to achieve.
I was reflecting on this while at Wal-Mart a few days ago. Our family was shopping for my daughter’s mission trip to Mexico. She is fifteen years old now, and this is the first such trip she has taken and all of us in the family have concerns for her comfort and safety. Each of us was looking for those items, we felt the most important and between the four of us the list was growing by the minute.
My wife and daughter went first to the women’s clothing and personal hygiene areas; two areas of the store that my son and I try to avoid. We seemed to end up in the sports ware department looking at back packs and camping gear. It is amazing the variety of choices of items there are in those stores and I was faced with decision after decision. Should I get a pocket knife, or will that be a problem with checked luggage at the airport security check? A mosquito mask looks useful, but I was not sure if the high mountains where she was going had mosquitoes. A snake bite kit seemed a bit much, but how about the bug repellent? On and on my eyes flitted to one thing and then another. I would put items in the cart, and take them back out again and as time went on my frustration grew.
I began to understand that I did not just want to have her prepared, but prepared for everything. I wanted her as protected and secure as she is at home, and as I began to grasp the absurdity of that goal, I could almost hear God chuckling on his throne at me. I might as well go plow the ocean than try to give my little baby girl everything in the store. Then my eye spotted the little whistle. It was a simple thing of cheap tin and a little neck cord and sold for about two dollars. And as I looked at the thing I found peace.
That whistle was the best thing, really the only thing, of security I could give to her. With that around her neck she could call out for help, get attention and let her needs be known to others that could help her. In my mind I pictured her in different situations of danger or injury and each time that whistle was able to play a role. That piercing cry for help rising from the distance or over the noise of a crowd called those able to help to her side. I put everything back on the shelf and placed the whistle in the cart. I later told my daughter to put this on, and keep it on, until she made it back home to us safe. It was the only thing I felt I could do for her, but it was enough.
Is it not amazing that this is exactly what God has done for his children on earth? He has sent us a whistle called prayer, the ability to cry out in the darkness of our situation, the chaos of trouble and say to him “Abba Father! I need you.” And like a champion his power and mercy comes to us, the great comforter and counselor is at our side. As Christians we often hear people say “God has not equipped me for this”, or “God is still preparing me for that.” When the reality is that God does not call the equipped, he equips the called. He stands there and says “Go forth and I will meet your needs”, he does not say “Take this scripture, or that program or this team and make sure your cell phone is working.”
He called Moses to speak to Pharaoh and gave him the words to say. He called David to face Goliath and guided the stone to its mark; he called Jonah more than once and gave him, against his will, the tools to save a city from ruin. And today he calls us, to slay giants, heal the broken, and win souls to His kingdom, and sadly too many of His Children are guided by fear and abandoning faith.
All of these thoughts are still echoing in my heart, and convicting me for my lacks of faith and trust, but I just keep thinking about that little whistle and wonder to myself, “Is God really sufficient for my needs?” How much of this life do I cling to and claim ownership of? Am I working to meet my needs, and the needs of my family, or am I allowing God to do that? None of these are easy questions, and it may take time for me to sort them all out. But I think if I always remember that whistle then I will be able to better keep my eyes on the Cross.