Complicating Grace

We had given them instructions.

While I was away all day at a conference in Richmond, Dad was on duty for swim lessons and a friend’s birthday party and everything in between.

So, I prepped my daughters in advance with specific instructions because you have to go through the bathrooms at the gym in order to reach the pool.  One dad…three daughters….suddenly this whole 003job becomes more complicated.

“Now, you can’t change at the pool after swim lessons,” I told them.  “You just need to slip your cover-up on over your swimsuits and quickly move through the bathroom to the other side where Dad will be waiting for you. He’ll take you home where you can change.”

He told them the same thing.

So, 20 minutes after he sent them through the bathroom after swim lessons, they finally emerged.

Fully dressed.

Mostly.

Because we had planned this all out, I hadn’t packed them underwear to change into after swim class.  They were, after all, supposed to wear their swim suits home.

I can only imagine what every other woman in the gym bathroom witnessed as these three girls tried to change into clothes and discovered a lack of undergarments.

Oh my.

Fortunately, a mom we know had pity on my youngest and at least gave her a plastic bag for her wet swimsuit.  This is what my daughter told me as soon as I arrived home that night.

“How were swim lessons?” I asked.

“Good.  Natalie’s mom gave me a plastic bag.”

Okay….

They must have struggled through wet clothes and changing in a public bathroom and searching frantically through the clothes for the things they needed and then had to makeshift a solution when they found their resources were lacking.

But if they had listened to us, yes, if they had just listened and obeyed the simple instructions we’d given, they would have had everything they needed.  It would have been so simple.

And I take this to heart.

Yes, if I just listen to my God—all-knowing, all-powerful, so gracious and loving—then perhaps I wouldn’t struggle with so much insufficiency and lack, perhaps the situations that threaten to drown me in frantic worry and desperate searching would be simplified and peace-filled.

Yet, sometimes I’m just not listening.

And sometimes I’m listening; I’m just not obeying.

Either way, I create havoc.

I’m not alone in this, I know.  God granted Solomon supernatural wisdom, and yet the vast kingdom he inherited from his father, King David, disintegrated when Solomon died.

All because he didn’t listen.

God gave such clear instructions for the kings of Israel:

However, he (the king) must not acquire many horses for himself or send the people back to Egypt to acquire many horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You are never to go back that way again.’ He must not acquire many wives for himself so that his heart won’t go astray. He must not acquire very large amounts of silver and gold for himself (Deuteronomy 17:16-17).

Three simple commands:

1. Don’t have too many horses (especially ones you get from Egypt, where you were once enslaved).

2. Don’t have many wives (especially those who will lead your heart astray).

3. Don’t build up extreme personal wealth.

Perhaps the rules seemed so arbitrary, even unfair, and certainly not fun.  All the other kings, I’m sure, married for political alliances, acquired wealth and then showed it off, and maintained stables with pride.

Why not Solomon and the kings of Israel?

The Bible Knowledge Commentary notes that “All three prohibitions, then, were designed to reduce the king to the status of a servant totally dependent on His Master, the Lord.”

God planned for his king’s heart to be humbled, for him to remember Who would deliver him in battle and Who would provide for his needs.

Sadly, Solomon doesn’t have a reputation for wisdom alone.  No, he’s known for opulence, and his 700 wives (plus 300 concubines), who led him to worship foreign gods and stone idols.

And his horses.

We’re told: “Solomon had 4,000 stalls for his chariot horses, and he had 12,000 horses” (1 Kings 4:26).  Not only that, but Solomon’s horses came from Egypt (2 Chronicles 1:16).

Lisa Harper writes:

grace can masquerade as difficulty and discipline”(Malachi).

So it was for malachiSolomon.  This was grace in disguise and he missed it, missed seeing through the mask of rules and restrictions to know that God was at work here.

And me, when I’m rushing and not listening, or listening and not heeding, how can I see grace for the grace it is?

Instead, I’m begging, “Mercy,” and this mercy He’s already given.

I still my heart to listen.

I steel my heart to obey.

And grace is what I see.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

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