Every now and then I mutter under my breath, do you? “Don’t TELL me how to do my job!”
The worst is when a know-it-all newcomer type flips suggestions and ideas out there as though it’s my first day at this and I haven’t thought a coherent thought since adolescence. I feel it when it’s a well-meaning individual as well, even someone I think probably cares, but if they don’t know the setting or the conditions, the deadlines or the regulations we have to comply with, I’m still inclined to think it, albeit more kindly.
“Don’t tell me how to do my job. Please.”
Lately I’ve wondered how often God must feel like saying the very same thing.
“Don’t tell me how to do my job, allright?”
We mean well most of the time, I think. We remind ourselves that He said “Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you” so we do. But our asking too-easily becomes telling. There’s trouble in a portion of our lives and we’ve been thinking about it. All the time, we’ve been thinking it through, and we have some ideas about what would probably work. But these troubles are bigger than we are, so we go to God. We ask, but our asking sounds a lot like telling.
I’ve had children ask me things in a telling tone of voice, some not even my own. Bosses too. My mate. Neighbors. Customers and clients. Even complete strangers. I doubt God likes it any more than I do. But it’s sure easy to pray that way. We use an asking tone of voice to tell God to heal someone close to us, being careful to say “please” to increase the chances of His saying “yes”, and then we list our reasons why He should do so. We ask Him if we can have the job we just applied for because because because, and “ask” Him to please do it by the 15th because because because.
I can almost hear Him: “Don’t TELL me how to do my job!”
He did actually express those sentiments at least once, remember? It took him four chapters to finish what He had to say! [gulp] Job was grappling with all that had happened to him, (Job 1 & 2) his three friends weren’t much help at all (Job 3 – 31). Elihu, the youngest at the table had more insight than Job’s three alleged friends (Job 32-37). When the Lord finally speaks (Job 38-41) I can almost hear His words under His breath as he inhales and prepares to speak. “Don’t TELL me how to do my job. Now listen up.”
I’m a newcomer. God’s been at this forever. Literally.
I’ve never given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place (38:12)
I don’t know the way to where light lives or where darkness resides (38.19)
I don’t know how things work in the animal kingdom; not like God does (ch 39)
I am in no position to correct God or tell Him how to answer my prayers. Job’s words could easily be mine. I resonate with them. “I am unworthy— how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth . . . I will say no more.” (Job 40.4-5)
Eliphaz’s sigh of relief could easily be mine upon hearing God’s words “…I will not deal with you according to your folly.” (42.8)
I’ve stopped trying to tell God how to do His job when I pray. I still bring Him my concerns but I don’t offer solutions anymore. He has resources I know nothing of. He knows the ramifications of every scenario I can imagine and can see their effects through all of time. I can’t. So I tell Him my concern in its basic form, and let Him deal with the details and the options. The earth’s axis doesn’t come up through the soil in my front yard; the world does not revolve around me and my family. I’ve prayed that way, but really it doesn’t. It’s freeing, actually, to know Someone stronger, more powerful, more resourceful than me is caring for life’s perplexities and challenges, is comforting those who need it most, is providing wisdom in just-right supply. His answers are perfect and their deliveries are perfectly timed. What’s more, He enjoys when we recognize His work and thank Him.
Interestingly, praying this way has shortened the length of time I spend going through my grocery-list of requests and suggested answers. And that gives me more time to thank Him for what He’s done, or is doing now. And I have more time to listen. It’s amazing, in a way, when God speaks and I know I’m not in charge, I don’t catch myself thinking “Don’t tell me how to do my job.” He has every right to. And I want to know.