About once a year in the church I grew up in someone would tell the story of the man stuck on his roof during a flood. The man cried to God for help. A few moments later a speedboat came past. The man didn't get on the speedboat. A helicopter comes past. the man chose not to get airlifted. A canoe comes past. He stays put. The man then comes to his senses and he is stood before God at the gates of Heaven. 'Why didn't you save me?' he asks. 'I sent a canoe, a helicopter and a speedboat but you chose not to receive them,' comes the reply. It's a clichéd story for me personally, but it has a very good message.
I wonder sometimes if I am any good at recognising Jesus' work in my life. There are a few moments looking back where I can see that God was clearly moving in the details to bring about his purposes but at the time I felt lost and cast adrift; tossed by the waves. I remember working for 12 years in church ministry and then suddenly finding myself as a Phlebotomist. Most days that year when I worked in the hospital I felt lost and far from what God had called me to, but in retrospect I wasn't paying enough attention. What felt like frustration and a wrong turn actually was a year of healing and refreshment. I was angry that I wasn't pursuing my 'calling'; God was working on my heart.
What I didn't realise until the end of my year in phlebotomy was that I had started it in broken pieces. Other people could see it clearly but I lived in denial. I had convinced myself that I was in good shape, strong, energised and envisioned but in reality I was tired, dry and cynical. I spent a year asking God to 'save me' and to put me back where I belonged but I already was being saved. The very thing I wanted to be saved from was the thing that was using to save me.
We make a huge mistake when we presuppose that God works only in certain ways. We wander furthest when we expect him to only lead us in straight lines and on the shortest route when often he takes us through twists and turns and the long way round. We keep walking straight ahead and he is calling us off to one side.
In the book of Joshua we see the Hebrew people win a victory at Jericho and, emboldened by their success, head straight off towards Ai. They suffer a huge defeat. God's priority was not Ai, he wanted to work on the greed within their camp which was buried under Achan's tent (Joshua 7.) God was working but Joshua had missed it. It didn't look like what was expected.
We mustn't make the mistake that Joshua and those who saw Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles (John 7) made. Jesus couldn't be who he said he was because of an obscure theological reason. Sometimes we miss the boat of God's blessing in our lives because it doesn't look like what we expected.
Let's pray today that God opens our eyes, ears and hearts to receive his blessings. Ask him to place spotlights on his kindness and to amplify his words of hope. Pray that he softens our hearts, in the midst of the craziness and tragedy of life in 2016, to feel his care for us. May we be people who live wide open to receiving his blessings and to sharing them with those around us.