After the Israelites spent forty years wandering around the desert and were finally in the Promise Land, they still had work to do. They still had areas to conquer and enemies to battle. It wasn’t all milk and honey with rainbows and unicorns, they had to keep up their end of the bargain. They weren’t suddenly handed everything, and it was vacation time. There was land to take, people to kill, and cities to set up.
As they were establishing their new lives, they noticed all the other cities and people groups had kings. They asked God to let them have a king also. For a while, God put them off even though he had been anticipating this desire. He didn’t want to take Israel from a theocracy to a monarchy, but eventually God was tired of their asking and gave them a king.
God knew a king would be flawed and imperfect. Before when they had relied fully on God and his hand-picked messengers, he ruled justly and fairly. He was God and all-knowing. He knew any king–no matter how godly–would also be sinful and human. He told the Israelites a king would tax them, make them slaves, and not always treat them fairly, but the Israelites insisted on having one.
So God gave them a king and with a king came all kinds of new problems.
For me, when I think about God answering my prayers, I think it is always for my good and His perfect plan. But spending time in the Old Testament showed me sometimes He’ll answer your prayer to prove a point.
Oh, you’re not happy or satisfied with the way I’m doing things? Let me show you what your way is really like.
I think that’s what He did with my incessant prayers about Chris’ job.
He felt Chris being an exterminator was good for us, for Chris, and for his current employer. It was what He wanted. But it’s not what I wanted. I wanted better and more and bigger. I wanted security and safety and plans for the future.
When I wouldn’t shut up about it, He decided to let me have it my way.
He let me see Chris miserable in a job. He let it affect the way Chris interacted with our children. He let me have more money and not see any direct benefit to our everyday lives. He let Chris work in an environment full of hatred, misery, and anger.
God gave Israel a king.
God gave Mary’s husband a new job.
And we both learned some hard lessons.
We live in a world full of catchy slogans about not looking back, just powering forward in our lives.
Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.
When your past calls, don’t answer. It has nothing new to say.
Don’t stumble over something behind you.
Pinterest, t-shirts, tattoos, and wall art remind us constantly to keep going forward and don’t look back. But I think we’re actually doing that part wrong. The majority of the times I’ve seen God’s hand in my life, it’s when I get a chance to see where I’ve been. Not many of us get a glimpse of the story as it’s being created; we’re living it, distracted and busy. But when we slow down and look back, it becomes obvious when God was there, what He was doing, and where He was leading us.
The world tells us to charge ahead. God tells us to follow His lead. The world tells us the past isn’t important. God shares His heart through stories and people of long ago. The world says it will all work out. God says let me work this out for you.
I remember a conversation from around the time Chris went back to being an exterminator. His friend Aaron said, “I thought you said you knew God was telling you to take this new job” and I felt let down and embarrassed. I THOUGHT HE WAS. We told people we felt like God was opening a new door and we would be foolish not to go through it.
But I see now, looking back from about two years out, God was answering a prayer. He was hearing my heart and my desire for more as I asked for a new job for Chris. He knew me well enough to realize I wasn’t going to stop asking, I wasn’t going to see the good in front of me, and I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. So He answered my prayer on His terms. He knew the damage it would do, but saw the other side too.
When Chris went back to exterminating, it was like we could breathe again. The raise his boss offered him was the exact amount he’d been making as an electrician’s apprentice. He got back his flexible schedule, his better vacation days, and his company vehicle. And a million other things we hadn’t necessarily taken advantage of, but weren’t exactly grateful for either.
I see what you did there, God. Clever.
We explored finding another electrical companies to apprentice with. We explored enrolling in a local electrician’s training program. We explored a lot of different ideas after Chris went back to the bug business and each one of those paths was closed to him. I don’t think this was by chance.
We got the message loud and clear.
Will Chris be an exterminator at this company for the rest of his life? Who knows.
Will he ever have health benefits or a retirement plan? I don’t know.
Thirty-five-and-a-half years in, I can tell you most of my prayers have not been answered the way I expected. I brought my heart to God and He was able to sift through the junk I thought I needed and see what was best for me.
And it’s never what I expect, but always what I need.