by David G. Woolley
This week's economic news reminds me of Winnie the Pooh. Really. Lovable pooh launched himself by helium balloon into the branches of the bee-infested honey tree. "I'm just a little black rain cloud," he sang, "hovering over the honey tree." He was disguised in mud to fool the industrious insects and keep from getting stung while he stole a taste of the sweet stuff. "I'm only a little black rain cloud, pay no attention to little me. Everyone knows that a rain cloud, never eats honey, no not a nip. I'm just floating around, over the ground, wondering where I will drip." If the recent economic mess has dripped some rain on your parade, this post is for you.
In the days of Jesus, soldiers in Jerusalem observed four night watches. The first began at sundown and lasted until 9pm. The second lasted until midnight. The third stretched from midnight to 3am. And the final, fourth watch, ended at sunrise. Can you hear an ancient Jewish mother telling her son to be home by the end of the first watch and the boy pleading to stay out until, at least, the middle of the second? It was comforting to have soldiers keeping vigil over the walls and gates while the city slept, enough that the four divisions of the night watch became an ancient metaphor for a very important measure--one we've discussed before here at the Top of the Morning. Timing.
In the account of Jesus saving the disciples from a storm on the Sea of Galilee, the matter of timing His coming until the fourth watch is sometimes lost on the more miraculous details of His walking on water. It was unbelievable. How could a man walk on the sea? Paul tried it and failed. The dramatic defiance of gravity confirmed that Christ had power over the earth. Combined with his other works there is little doubt he had power over all. Gravitational forces. Sickenss. Broken hearts. Tired souls. Even market forces. But it is in these six short verses in Matthew where the timing of heavenly help is defined. Patience is not only a virtue, it may be one of the defining principles governing when God will bless and comfort his children.
Jesus, with help from his disciples, had just finished feeding five thousand with a few loaves of bread and some fish. It was the end of a long day and while He was dealing with the crowd, He sent his disciples ahead of him, across the Sea of Galilee to the other side. From the sea-side mountain slopes Jesus could see the ship.
And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary (Matthew 14: 22-24).
Jesus could have come to them immediately, calmed the storm, chased away their fears. Instead he waited. He let them deal with the fear of capsizing the boat. The possibility of death. He let them decide the level of their self-interest. Were they more concerned about their personal safety or did they help others on board?
And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid (Matthew 14: 25 & 27).
The gospel of Jesus Christ, its ordinances, commandments, proclamations of faith, warnings, counsels and prescriptions for living are intended to teach us to love one another. It is, after all, the second great commandment. But sometimes its pretty hard to love someone who should have been watching over your savings.
Emotion. Its difficult not to let it get the best of you when the economy tanks and takes your savings, your job or your future with it. Fear. Anger. Greed. Who would have thought that an unquantifiable feeling could drive the data driven numbers of Wall Street so low? What's a hard working, thrifty, saver to do when years of hard work evaporate before your eyes? And none of it your fault. Over zealous borrowers. Greedy bankers. Unwise politicians. And you got stuck in the middle.
Like Winnie the Pooh, so many were after the honey they didn't give much of a thought about the industrious bees who made it. Pooh was just, well, possessed of a sweet tooth a lot like those out going executives at some of Wall Street's ailing investment banks. Disguise the trouble for a few months. Get your honey. Retire early. Ride the money-filled helium balloon softly to the ground while everything else goes crashing down around them. And be sure to take a shower to clean off the mud before anyone notices.
I overheard my mother this week leave a message with her Nephew. He also happens to be her financial advisor. She lives on retirement savings. She said, "Rob, just wanted to touch bases with you about what's going on with the economy. When you get a moment, would you please call be back or maybe I should just jump."
Tenuous economic times. That's another phrase for fear. We've heard a lot of those this week and things may get down right tough because of it. Ugly enough that self-reliant souls will be driven to their knees, seeking help from heaven. Food. Housing. Protection. What will become of you if you lose your job? Your self-respect? Your home?
If you do find yourself on your knees asking for some financial mercy or pleading for a heaven-sent economic relief package, don't be surprised if you get a fourth watch response. Our God is a fourth watch God. The miracle of walking on water comes after the trial of our faith. In the first, second and third watches of the night there are lessons to be learned. Will your financial boat capsize? Will you be lost in the depths of this economic sea? Will you prove to be more concerned about your own saftey than you are of others in the same boat? Like Winnie the Pooh said, "Some people care too much, I think it's called love."
In spite of loss. No matter the difficult financial times or through any matter where the help of heaven is requested. May we all be so lucky to care too much.
Until the fourth watch.
Join author David G. Woolley at his Promised Land Website.