Magic Spells to a Genie

A failed hike as we stumbled upon the beauteous marsh that took over the North Country Trail and then back again to Sand Point started the slight bickering between us. Two months in, and my husband was thankful, yes, that I was honest about the struggles, but not so grateful that I continued to carry them, heavier than the day pack I was carrying at that present moment.

I wasn’t too keen on being called out.

Part of that reason is because a lot of it rang true. I remember us walking around a clear spot in the trail and James spouting out story after story of God’s great faithfulness in my life. In those moments where you can’t get out of the mud, find someone who is standing on solid ground.

My mood shifted from sad to worse, even as he is forcing me to remember, to recall even these few short years where we have been together and we have seen the Lord work wonder after wonder. He knows I’ve shut down. He knows I am blind, dirt covering my eyes. So he simply asks the question:

“Why can you not trust Him?”

This question sticks to me deeply. I still cannot shake it as we make it back, cooling off as James jumps full into the freezing cold Lake Superior water, and I just dip my toes. I have not wanted to make my prayers simply circumstantial, yet I have really avoided praying specifically, “let Your will be done.” I had preferred to take the whole, “ask, seek, knock,” and “the woman knocking on the door persistently,” approach, something I don’t mock and certainly won’t stop praying for, however, the lack of trust was showing itself in that I was persistently knocking, but doing so absent-mindedly, assuming that He would never answer the door.

I was really hoping that I wasn’t simply seeking just the gift, but my prayers had ended up doing exactly that.

This is not to say that God is some magic genie, and if I can just nail my prayers next time, He’ll definitely get me that x, y, and z I was looking for; but to say that I had been approaching it that way. If I knock like a crazy person, then obviously, He’ll come through, right? Only my theology was definitely getting in the way of that false view, shifting to some sort of religiosity that says that God definitely won’t open the door, but He may open the bathroom window to the left of the door if you can reach it, so keep knocking because then at least you’ll get something opened.

No, I can’t carry that weight.

James came out of the water, holding a bunch of rocks in his hand, starting to build little baby ebenezers, rocks of help. My eyes were still foggy from simply mistrust.

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We landed the next morning to pray, taking time to finish our oddly timed sabbath together in our favorite coffee shop in Traverse City. I had no more magic spells to offer up to this genie god I had made in my head, one I could potentially manipulate with wonderfully spun theology, perfectly crafted lament, and superb petitions. I wanted to seek the giver.

My prayers shifted. My petitions didn’t change, but in all of them, I prayed I would trust Him in those circumstances, in those in-betweens, in the life played out in the middle of the gray. These were prayers I could stake something on, lay burdens down, and stop manipulating my way through the rest. I am lacking trust, I am lacking sight for both what lies before me and what He had already brought me through.

It is miserable to continue to walk in total distrust of someone you are begging to save you, begging Him to come through.

Yet, how can I not trust Him?

We wrapped up our day after unpacking, loads of dirty laundry, hot showers, and of course, Pad Thai, by taking communion, taking time to repent, to remember. As my Husband thanked God for glimmers of great hope, he said the words, “it would have been enough.” We read the portion of Psalms for our day and prayed together pertinent words in the middle of the chaos that can feel crippling:

Teach me to go to you, cling to you, repent, and depend on you in my times of weakness, so that through you I can become truly strong. Amen.
— Timothy Keller, The Songs of Jesus

I believe; help my unbelief!