I was at my cousin’s wedding recently. All my Mom’s remaining siblings and many of their kids and grandkids gathered at my Uncle’s farm where we camped out and celebrated both the occasion and the blessing of family. That farm is a very nostalgic place for me. Some of my favorite childhood memories happened on that farm, both from when Grandpa and Grandma lived there and later when they moved to town and my uncle began farming it.
Still, not every memory from there is a sweet one, though most of the less pleasant events were of my own doing. Like the time I was given one of my first real on-my-own farm responsibilities. I was probably 12 and Uncle Dean had recently taken over the farm. He had been cleaning up some of the junk that accumulates over the years and had given my younger siblings and me the job of loading it all onto the old grain truck. The good part was that then I would get to drive the truck “up 10” to the old homestead site, just under 2 miles North, to dump the junk into the pit that was used for that purpose.
We were to load the junk and then wait for Uncle Dean to come give me some instructions on driving the truck before we set off. We finished loading and waited for I’m sure it was at least 10 minutes before my patience ran out and my eagerness to drive the truck took over. I told the other kids to pile in certain that I knew how to drive the old standard and as long as I got the job done it would be fine. It was easy to rationalize that there was work that needed to be done, and besides it wasn’t like I didn’t have permission to drive the truck.
Everything was going well. I got there having stalled the truck only a couple of times, managed to back up to the pit and unload without incident, and was just beginning the journey back when we ran out of gas. Not to worry, the truck had a slip tank. I could just filled the gas tank certain that no one would be the wiser. I even filled the tank right to the top to make sure we had enough to get back. What a conscientious kid!
But I couldn’t understand why it then didn’t start. I tried and tried, first pumping the gas pedal then flooring it, then letting off altogether, all the while the engine turning over slower and slower, but to no avail. But I never gave up hope till I saw Uncle Dean’s pick-up coming across the field and then I knew I was in trouble. Just from reading this, many of you likely figured out what I didn’t at the time: there was diesel in the slip tank. Fortunately I had put diesel into a gas tank not the other way around. But Uncle Dean still had to drain a full tank of fuel, haul some gas out and boost the truck to get it back home (I had killed the battery trying to start it), all because I tried to do the job trusting in my own widom and ablility.
While this illustration is certainly limited, too often we do God’s work like that. Even the phrase “doing God’s work” is rather presumptuous because it is God who works in us giving us both the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Philippians 2:13). But we can get so eager to do God’s work, and so preoccupied with what we assume his work to be that we don’t give him time or space to do the work that really matters to him. All God wants for us to do is summed up in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”
Jesus never took a step or even spoke a word unless he had heard it from the Father first. That’s the sort of connectedness and relationship God intends for us too.