What is the mightiest tool I possess? A keyboard? A recipe for spaghetti puttanesca? A seemingly pointless master’s degree in Slav(on)ic studies? These meager resources seem insufficient to tackle the task at hand- namely, raising three boys from childhood to boyhood, and eventually to manhood with grace, strength, consistency and wisdom, turning their hearts solidly toward God. It is more than I could do on my own. It is more than any of us can do. As I sigh over bread crumbs kicked into distant kitchen corners, or over another petty squabble between my boys, or even a missed opportunity to encourage someone, my impoverished resources appear pathetic. As I focus on my weaknesses, I largely see problems and never solutions. I get bogged down in the now and forget to rejoice over the future’s victories.
I see my puttanesca recipe only as a means of getting dinner on the table until I remember a couple of loaves of bread .
Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?
My arms seem weak and tired until I recall a shepherd’s staff.
Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?”
“A staff,” he replied.
A random and ancient oxgoad. A slingshot and a smooth, well-chosen stone near running water.
After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel.
Could they be synonymous with a pen’s scribblings? A healing conversation? With words of truth spoken in earnest?
What they have in common is their negligibility. They are nominally useful things in human hands. Yet in the hands of a foreign judge, backed by the LORD Almighty, an entire nation gains freedom by way of a farm tool. Guided by the Jewish Messiah, surrounded by crowds, a boy relinquishes his lunch and feeds thousands, highlighting deity in human form for all in the vicinity. Leaning on a staff a shepherd strikes fear in the world’s leading ancient empire. Alone in a remote town, among an insignificant tribe, a married couple turns construction and home design into a powerful sanctuary for a holy prophet.
Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.
2 Kings 4:10
Whatever we find in our hand He infuses with power and substance and relevance.
And there are times that as we search about us we may discover that we have inadvertently dropped whatever had been in our hands. There is no longer a shepherd’s staff or even a small stone. Or maybe we had never even grasped anything at all. A flash of light, a midnight escape in a basket, (Acts 9:23-25) a couple of Roman floggings, and we no longer possess our prestigious diploma in the Torah.
And that is when we fall, only to take up the most powerful tool of all – prayer.