I enjoy Facebook Memories. It allows the ability to recall an event or a post from the past. We live in a society that encourages forward movement and discourages looking back. However, as my 7th grade history teacher, always reminded, “We must study the past, to understand the present, to make a better future!” Earlier in the week, Facebook indulged me with a post from three years ago. It was a photo of the Philadelphia skyline, with a caption that read, “Thank you God for covering my baby in this city!” We were returning to North Carolina, after having dropped her off for her second year of college. Just the year before, I cried while crossing the same bridge and leaving her for her first year in college. The second year, I was a bit more collected, and instead morphed my tears into faith, utilizing prayer. I laughed as I read my Facebook Memory, realizing that for once, I placed no conditions upon God. Conditions, as defined by dictionary.com, can be restricting and limiting. What if I’d placed a condition on the prayer, thanking God for covering my baby in the city during that year? Undoubtedly because he’s sovereign, he could have complied, but such a request was time limiting. We serve an infinite God, so why not ask for and anticipate infinite blessings?
Who knew, besides God, that I would have the same expectation in 2016 as I did then? That I would stand firmly upon the promises of God that he would take care of her in the city even now as he has for the last four+ years? When we place our trust in God, there is no need for us to place limitations on his ability to perform just as we desire. When I was much younger in my faith walk, I thought that I could barter with God. I had the audacity to place conditions on my responsive living if God would move in the manner by which i requested and became accustomed to operating. You know, like, Lord if you get me out of this situation (one that I’d caused), then I will (fill in the blank). I had no idea that I was attempting to apply a scientific principle to a Godly experience.
In graduate school, I studied the concept of hypothesis. It is a testable answer to a scientific question, that assumes the state of “if and then.” The result is predictive behavior. Psalm 78: 38-39 affirms my foolishness: “Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.” When I look back (as I did on that bridge), I realize the role that grace played in my life, and I am grateful that God reserved his ability to both ignore my stance as well as not hold me accountable for those “if and then” statements that were spoken repeatedly with little commitment to fulfilling them.
Without conditions, God kept her when she walked through the streets, when she drove to and from work on the highway, when she traveled from the lab at 3 and 4 in the morning, when she had car trouble, when she lost the keys to her apartment, when the ATM “ate her paycheck,” when she was sick, when someone attempted to steal from her and the “coverings” go on. There were no conditions set originally, just a blanket thank you in advance for all that was (and is) to come. What would it look like if God placed conditions upon us? Conditions that would be fulfilled when we are disobedient, or selfish, or proud, or engaging in disbelief? Nevertheless, he loves us unconditionally. Perhaps the best example of this is the gift of his son. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and offered us the gift of eternal life. This was done despite what we’d planned to do, whether we appreciated the sacrifice or not, whether we followed the commandments, or returned the love that was extended to us. Perhaps we can take this example and cease from placing conditions on the people we love, or the places we work, or the organizations we are involved in, or just basically the way we move through the world. The more general we can be, while leaving the specifity to God, the better off we will be. Let us thank God for life, for health, for strength, for peace and put a period at the end of our declarations. No conditions needed!