Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In Solomon's shoes

The first time I read the story of Solomon, I was a little girl. Sitting in my grandparents' garage-converted, wood-paneled family room, I sat in a rocking chair covered with nubby fabric with an aqua colored Bible story book open to the pages of the two women who came to King Solomon practically tearing the arms off a new-born baby, each adamant that the baby was hers.  The king's solution first shocked me in horror then amazed me in wisdom.  That he would be so sly as to suggest slicing a baby in half to discover the real mother.  Years later, when I was reading an actual Bible, rather than the reader's digest children's storybook version, I discovered that Solomon's extra dose of wisdom had come in direct response to God telling Solomon in a dream to ask Him for whatever he would and it would be given.  Solomon, wise man that he was, asked for wisdom.   (See 1 Kings 3)

I don't know about you, but I've often thought of what I'd ask God for if He came to me in a dream and told me to ask for something.  For the longest time, I'd simply say, "Give me faith, Lord."  Then I discovered (and claimed as my own) Exodus 33:13 which says, "If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you."

But today I came across these words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose words I've been immersed in of late.  After reading the biography about him, I just couldn't help myself, I had to go back to the primary sources--Bonhoeffer's actual words.  So in the mornings this Advent, I've been slowly reading Cost of Discipleship, with a heavy dose of Letters and Papers from Prison.  This quote comes from toward the end of his long prison stay in Tegel, the military prison in Berlin, just after the unsuccessful attempt on Hitler's life in the summer of 1944, which was the beginning of the end of the resistance.  It's a long quote, but well worth the reading (pages 369-370 in my copy).  It's been in my brain all day until I just can't resist sharing them.  They're that good...

"I remember a conversation that I had in America thirteen years ago with a young French pastor.  We were talking about what we wanted to do with our lives.  We were asking ourselves quite simply what we wanted to do with our lives.  He said that he would like to become a saint (and I do think it's quite likely that he did become one).  At the time I was very impressed, but I disagreed with him, and said, in effect, that I should like to learn to have faith.  For a long time I didn't realize the depth of the contrast.  I thought I could acquire faith by trying to live a holy life, or something like it...
I discovered later, and I'm still discovering right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.  One must completely abandon any attempt to make something of oneself, whether it be a saint, or a converted sinner, or a churchman (a so-called priestly type!), a righteous man or an unrighteous man, a sick man or a healthy man.  By this worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities.  In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world--watching with Christ at Gethsemane.  That, I think, is faith; and that is how one becomes a man and a Christian (see Jeremiah 45).  How can success make us arrogant, or failure lead us astray, when we share in God's sufferings through a life of this kind?"

I guess it's like my mother always said, "Be careful what you ask for."  But...even with this profound understanding of what it must come to that Bonhoeffer brings me, I continue to ask it.  For me, it's always about faith.  Especially the faith that makes me like Him--even if it has suffering in it.

 What would you ask Him if you were in Solomon's shoes?

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