A few days ago in my scripture reflection, I wrote about the need to ask God’s help in everything I do, because if I don’t, my efforts usually make problems worse, not better. I had a very difficult time writing it, because I am an earthy pragmatist at heart, and the whole concept of talking to God and asking for divine assistance is so transcendental and impractical. I felt as though I were leaving you (and me) hanging in some pink cloud wearing rose colored glasses. Then I skipped ahead to this weekend’s readings and knew we would be okay.
The Gospel is about the wedding feast at Cana, Jesus’ first miracle. It was a reluctant miracle. When the wine ran out (imagine how drunk everyone was if they went through that much wine!), Mary knowingly informed her son, who in turn asked rhetorically (as He often does in John’s account), “Mom, exactly how is that any of my business?”
John’s Gospel leaves out the sentence where Mary gave her 30 year old son “the look” that says, “I’m about to make it your business, young man.” I like to think there is a reason we don’t know much about the young Jesus after his stunt in Jerusalem when he went missing for three days and then justified it by saying to his step-father Joseph, “You’re not my real dad.” (Go back and read it, it’s there!) I think our divine Savior was grounded until the wedding at Cana.
I know that’s not scriptural, but you have to wonder why Mary would bring the problem of the wine to her son’s attention. Perhaps the teenaged Jesus had been caught practicing His trick with the wine with his cousins behind the carpenter’s shed. The scriptures tell us Jesus was obedient and grew in wisdom, but perhaps He gained some of that wisdom the hard way.
I let my imagination get away with me because I really don’t understand why Mary appeared to ignore her son’s question and simply turned to the servers and said, “Do whatever he tells you.” This story has always puzzled me, and I like to think that God has a sense of humor and enjoys my fanciful and irreverent explanation.
It has also always puzzled me that Jesus would be so reluctant to perform this miracle. “My hour has not yet come,” He said. But then I remember that Jesus was human and probably struggled with accepting God’s timing as much as I do.
How many times have I rushed to action (even a good action) at the wrong time? Or how many times have I missed a divinely inspired opportunity because I was reluctant or lazy or “not ready?” Most of my prayers fall into one of two categories: “Now God!” or “Not yet, God!”
Accepting God’s timing is at the heart of that ethereal, prayer-driven lifestyle I wrote about a few days ago. When we are passionate about something, whether it’s a New Years resolution or the need to address gun violence or protecting personal liberty, many of us are like the prophet in today’s Old Testament selection. I can hear the passion of his words echoing in my heart: “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch.”
But God’s timing for action may not line up with our own passions. Surrendering my free will to the will of God means surrendering my timing, if not my passion for a cause. It means recognizing that all of us, even people who have different views and passions, were given their spiritual gifts and forms of service by the same God who blessed me with my fervor or caution. Whether we believe it or not, God is using all of us, and all of us, to bring about a divine intention, whatever it might be. Pain results when we resist by pushing forward prematurely or holding back insecurely, and I think this is why there is so much pain in the world.
The poet in me accepts that a life of yielding partnership with my Creator is what will bring me happiness, but the pragmatist in me wants to know what that looks like. Today’s scriptures tell me that after I ask for help and turn my will over, I need to wait for a sign before I act, and when I see the sign, act promptly. Jesus was probably well aware that the wine had run out, and knew He had the power to help the bridegroom save face in front of his guests. Jesus chose to wait until He was asked before He took action, and even then He wrestled with his own resistance.
It’s an excellent example for my own life. I often offer unsolicited advice or “help” that someone didn’t want or need. I definitely spout off my opinions before someone asks for them. For me, living in God’s will means holding back my help and opinions. Perhaps allowing someone to struggle and even fail is just what they need in order to learn. Perhaps keeping my opinion to myself will help me to see and accept other points of view. I have never failed to miss an opportunity for action when I’ve asked God to show me a sign. I don’t always act accordingly, but I always see the sign.
Ask for God’s help, then ask for the wisdom to recognize God’s timing for action. These are down to earth tasks that the pragmatist in me can grasp.