When it’s over 70 degrees outside in the middle of winter, you play hookie from chores and pop your preschooler into the minivan for an afternoon at the park. We had rushed up the hill to the playground and she tried the swings and the sandbox and the seesaw (which exhausts this mommy who has to do all the see-sawing with my own muscles).
When she climbed to the top of the slide, though, she complained about all the bees…or were they ants?
“Gnats,” I tell her. Fifty of them at least dotted all along the yellow slide. The closer you looked, the more you saw.
“They’ll bite me,” she whined.
I reassured her. Gnats are a pesky, annoying nuisance, but hardly a health hazard or a reason to fear the slide. But she stood there paralyzed, so I wiped them away.
When she climbed up again for another slide down, though, they were back. Or, to be more accurate, fifty other gnats had landed.
We repeated it relentlessly. I smooshed bugs. She slid down. She climbed back up. I smooshed more bugs.
In between, I swatted the pests away from my face.
Like most kids, I spent a week during several summers away at camp and the line for the dining hall there at this camp along the Potomac River stretched outside. We lined up morning, noon and night for our meals, knowing one thing for sure:
The gnats would drive us crazy.
They swarmed in tiny black clouds around us. Some of the other girls started walking around with one hand raised up on top of their heads, looking like a rooster with feathers all fanned out.
“Gnats always go to the highest part of your body,” they explained, all-knowing as sixth grade girls always are.
I never was sure if walking around with a hand on top of my head really kept the gnats from swarming around my face.
Perhaps it really was as ineffective as squashing the gnats on the playground slide over and over again only to watch more land within seconds.
But when you’re bothered or stressed, anxious, annoyed, pestered, worried and troubled, solutions are what you seek–no matter how ridiculous or sane.
Unfortunately, sometimes God is the last solution we seek to the messes we find ourselves in.
Certainly for Pharaoh, the pattern of the plagues was clear (at least to us) and yet he was desperate to find a solution outside of God.
Over and over, Moses asked for the deliverance of God’s people.
A plague of boils, blood, frogs, gnats or worse descended on the Egyptians.
Pharaoh asked Moses to pray.
The plague ceased.
So, when “gnats infested the entire land, covering the Egyptians and their animals. All the dust in the land of Egypt turned into gnats,” the solution to us seems obvious (Exodus 8:17).
Pray Pharaoh. Pray hard. Step down off that mighty Egyptian throne, throw yourself on God’s mercy, so abundant, so longsuffering. Bow that head and bend that knee in humility to God and God alone and obey His Word.
But that turning aside from self, that relinquishing of personal programs and plans and the solutions you’ve charted out so carefully takes humility. It means confessing the hard-to-swallow truth.
I can’t do this on my own.
God, please help me.
Even Pharaoh’s magicians exclaimed, “This is the finger of God!” But he resisted. That proud earthly king would rather breathe in gnats and swallow gnats and swat gnats away from his face and sleep with gnats rather than rely on the mercy of a Merciful but Mighty God.
Oh, the humbling. For Egyptians who prided themselves on hygiene and personal cleanliness, the perpetual buzz of pests must have been the ultimate pride destruction.
Still Pharaoh resisted.
Still we resist at times, too. We’re puzzling out our problem and feeling the shame of broken relationships, broken marriages, broken finances, broken lives, broken ministries, broken hearts, brokenness.
And what God wants is for us to just ask Him, to turn to Him first, to confess that we’ve messed up and to do things His way this time.
To pray and pray hard. To bow that head and bend that knee. To lay it all out at His nail-scarred feet and say what’s true:
I can’t do this on my own.
God, please help me.
Oh yes, we pray: “Let Your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, just as we hope in You” (Psalm 33:22 NKJV).
Kyrie eleison. “Lord, have mercy.”
Amen and amen.
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