Have you ever tried to feed a child who was a stubborn or picky eater? What technique did you use? There is the classic ‘train technique,’ where the spoon choo-choos its way to its destination. There is the ‘air plane technique,’ which is the same as the train technique but with better noises. My personal favourite was the ‘tickle-and-shove technique.’ It was as dramatic as it sounds. Whatever technique you used, you probably remember some element of frustration with the child’s stubbornness. After all, you were in possession of something he or she needed. Yet in defiance of all that was good for them, the child simply turns his or her mouths away, refusing that which is offered. I can write this because I, myself, was a picky eater. I, too, would stubbornly refuse gifts out of a misguided belief that I knew best; I belong to the fellowship of the stubborn. Do you?
This past Sunday, we heard the glorious promise of God, spoken through the 81st Psalm.
I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.
No trickery. No fancy noises. No tickles. Just the loving promise that God will bestow the rich blessings of providence upon our lives. What would it look like if we dropped our stubborn attempts to control, and opened ourselves to the blessings of God? What if we, as the people of God, actually believed that God was just waiting, itching to pour good things into our lives? Could we live in this reality?
I love that the verse includes the word “wide.” Opening our mouths wide takes a certain amount of dedication. We can’t simply part our lips and believe that it will be enough. To open our mouths wide takes concentration and focus. But more than that, it takes an element of expectation. I open my mouth wide because I firmly believe, and expect, that something good is coming my way.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here: I’m not ushering in some sort of prosperity Gospel. I’m not suggesting that Jesus will make us ‘healthy, wealthy, and proud’ all the live-long day. We must understand the reality of God’s blessings. The truth is, like a parent feeding a child, sometimes the blessings of God may seem unappetizing to us. Sometimes God’s blessings look more like strained carrots than bags full of candy. This is why we sometimes refuse to listen. This is why we stubbornly think that we can produce better results for ourselves.
But the thing is, God’s presence in our lives, and the gifts and blessings bestowed, are not given for our mere pleasure. God is not in the business of satiating our stubborn desires. Rather, God blesses us in order to help us grow into the people God calls us to be. Yes, in the moment, we may not understand the gift or the blessing. We may not even see where God is moving. Yet God’s work is always one that enriches our spiritual lives. As Paul writes, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Where are you tempted to be stubborn? In what places do you rely more on your own power and insight than on God’s leading in your life? Is it in relationships? In decision-making? Do you ever feel that inner tension between following God and doing your own thing? Ultimately, stubbornness is easy and predictable. It is always the same. When I am in control I know exactly what I will get. There is no need to trust because I see what is before me. I watch my own plans either succeed or fail, yet either way, everything is found in my own frame of reference. There is nothing new, nothing unexpected.
Blessings are scary. Blessings can be hard because they push us outside of ourselves. We open ourselves to the power of God and this means we don’t always see what is coming. So we must act in hope, and trust that God will do what God has promised to do. Yes, this is scary, but it also life-giving.
God says to us all, “Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it.” Could we, those who belong to the fellowship of the stubborn, drop our guard just for the moment? Could we lower the walls we sometimes put up, the pretence of our own self-leading, in order to receive the good things of God? Do not rush past this promise. Do not explain it away. Do not turn a deaf ear to this plea. God is, right now, speaking these words in the deepest places of our lives. And if this is true, then it means that blessings are just around the corner.