Our current series “Anew” is all about recognizing the new things that God is doing all around us, even in the old familiar places. Last Sunday, Dave G compared it to seeds that were starting to bloom that we didn’t even had been planted – like the ones that fell out of the bag, or the magic beans thrown out the window in the story of Jack and the Beanstalk.
I’ve always felt a special connection to that story. It’s easy to skip to the happy ending – Jack and his mom end up rich and living happily ever after – but the part I think many of us can relate to is before all that. It’s the day he came home after trading away their cow.
For Jack and his mom, the cow was all they had to live on. It was the one thing they owned that had any value in the marketplace. It was their livelihood. I’m sure we can all think of things like that in our lives that help us feel a little more secure. We think “this thing is my shot at a better life” and if we’re not careful, we put our trust in it.
When Jack came home and told his mom about the trade, she was furious and threw the magic beans out the window. Pause right there for a minute and imagine how that felt. I can picture Jack laying in bed that night, hearing a voice of shame in his mind: “I’m such a fool! What’s my problem? Why do I always do this??”
I know that feeling. It comes up when I start comparing myself with others, or questioning my decisions in life, or replaying the mistakes I’ve made along the way. I look at people who have been much more enterprising with their cows, and it makes me feel a little dumb about going after the magic beans.
But then, during one of those dark moments when I was relating to this story, God gave me a new perspective. First, I felt like He said, “You made your trade with me” – which immediately helped alleviate the fear that I had been “swindled” or had made a wrong turn somewhere along the way. I’ll never forget what He said next:
“Don’t be ashamed of what I’ve put in your hands.”
That hit me on so many levels. On one hand, I realized the shame I felt was reflecting negatively on Him. If you really get down to it, what I was feeling was embarrassment about my faith journey. Here I was, jealous of people with cows, when God himself had given me a gift.
I think of that every time I read the verse, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes.” In other words, I am not ashamed to bank my life on the magic beans God has given me.
I’ll let Henri Nouwen have the last word with this prayer:
I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?
Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?
Please help me to gradually open my hands
and to discover that I am not what I own,
but what you want to give me.”
Dave Brubaker is Newsong’s Communications Pastor and movie lover.