It wasn’t unexpected. We had seen the signs and we knew we only had a little time left with her. She was having trouble with the everyday activities that had always been so simple. It was evident that she was nearing the end. And then one day it happened: our dryer just up and died.
Last night we were recalling this event in our lives. Mainly because it’s a moment that displays both how quick we are to act in faith, and how that “act” so easily amounts to little more than lip service.
Like I said, it wasn’t unexpected, we knew the dryer was acting strangely and probably about to quit on us. But it was inconvenient when it did go. The fact was we just didn’t have the money for a replacement. So we rallied the troops. We actually gathered our four kids, my wife and myself and we circled up and began to pray. And yes, we asked God to heal our dryer. We needed a resurrection of the appliance variety.
Crazy? Maybe. But we completely and sincerely meant what we were praying. We told God our need, confessed that we had no other plan, and asked him to make the dryer right again. Our kids prayed too. And we believed.
Feeling good about our statement of faith in God and pleased that we had given our kids a true spiritual experience, we went back to our day’s activities. A week went by—us without a working dryer—and we got by hanging laundry outside to dry. A friend came by and we were talking and he offered to look at the dryer for us; he thought maybe he could fix it. I went back with him to show him how it didn’t work…and it did work. Perfectly.
This is when we realized it—the awful truth about our big display of faith and trust in God from the week before. It’s true we gathered our kids. And yes, we prayed fervently for a restored appliance. And we did believe. But no one went and checked on the dryer after we prayed. We just went on with life.
Now I’m not making a case for the notion that God always answers all our prayers or that he will fix your dryer miraculously if it breaks. But for all the times God has chosen not to answer prayers like this for us he did restore our dryer this time. And I can only assume he did it instantly when we asked. The tragedy is that we went right to the threshold of amazing interaction with God; we went in faith, believed, prayed and shared it with our kids…and then we stopped. We didn’t take the final step to see the results.
A week went by, us living in the frame work of the broken and un-repaired, all the while God had answered our plea. We just never looked to see. It really struck us at that moment how easily we live with a faith that is quick to talk, but slow to walk. We jump at the chance to be people of faith and want to see God work in wonderful ways. But living it out—walking in faith—is far harder than we like to admit.
It reminds me of Peter in the boat and Jesus walking on the water. Peter, so full of faith and quick to speak…until he is out and in the midst of walking. Then we see how much of his faith is talk, and how much translates into action. Don’t get me wrong, Peter is the only one speaking up. He’s the only one jumping at a chance to experience Jesus with such faith. But still, easier said than done.
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14:28-31
Why do we respond this way? Why are we quick to ask, but fearful to step out and experience the results? Maybe because we fear disappointment. Maybe because we aren’t exactly sure that what we are asking is what God would want for us in the first place. Maybe because our entire mindset on how to ask God for something and what that something should look like is a place we feel completely lost in. Whatever the reason, many of us are quick to ask, but very cautious about truly hoping it will happen.
God won’t always do magnanimous things in our lives. He won’t always answer every prayer with miracles. In fact, I would argue that more often than not his invitation to experience him comes in the more mundane and ordinary. But I think sometimes we miss out on God’s invitation to experience his grace and desire to give us good things simply because we ask and then move on. We forget to stop and wait, to look and see.
To us Jesus says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” And fortunately for us, he still reaches out his hand and pulls us up.