Saturday, July 31, 2010

Daniel 1-3: Welcoming the Challenge and Making it Riskier

From Garden to City reading (almost a week ago):  Daniel 1-3

I avoid risks.
I avoid risky situations.
I like to know what's going to happen next.
Or at least what's likely to happen next.

August 16 is my last day of work.
My job is being eliminated.
My schooling and internship at SDSU mean that any future job must be part-time and offer a fairly flexible schedule.

I had a plan-I could tutor.  I applied for nearly a dozen positions, but got no callbacks.
At least I can tutor at SDSU, I thought.  Yesterday I found out that my two internships at SDSU have maxed out my hours, and I can only tutor for two hours per week.

No clear plan.
Nothing but risk.
I don't know what's going to happen next.
I would never willingly place myself in this situation.

I'm waiting for God to do something fantastic.
Really that's the only thing I can do.

We all love to see God do fantastic things.
We just don't love being in the position of needing Him to do those things. We like to have backup plans just in case God doesn't do something totally awesome.  I don't like to struggle or not know what's happening next.

Now I don't have a backup plan.

All year long we have been reading about Israel, her kings, her battles, and her sins.  It's a cycle really.  The people forget God and turn to idols, a neighboring city conquers them, they call out for help, and God rescues them.  This time Judah gets conquered by Babylon, and this time Babylon takes captives, the best and the brightest in Jerusalem.  The Babylonian king wants to educate and train them to serve in his kingdom, and so he treats them like Babylonian princes, feeds them the best food and wine, and gives them the best teachers.

Enter Daniel.
Daniel resolves "not to defile himself with the royal food and wine" and he asks the royal official for permission to eat only vegetables and water, and his three friends--we know them as Shadrach, Meshach, and Adbednego--join him.  The official really likes Daniel, but he worries that Daniel and his friends will start looking sick and the king's guards will notice.

Daniel says, "Test me for ten days.  If we look sick, we'll eat your food."

I've been thinking about this passage for several days now.
And yesterday it hit me.
Daniel chooses risk.
And then he makes it risker.

Oh, he didn't choose captivity, but he did choose to make it more challenging.
He said, "I'm going to honor God, and God will take care of me."

At the end of ten days, Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better nourished than any of the other young men.

Daniel does basically the same thing in chapter two.  He hears about King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, about the death sentence for all the wise men and magicians, and he goes to the king and says, "Don't put them to death.  Let me ask God, and God will interpret your dream for you."

I was stunned when I read this.  Remember, I avoid risk.
What if God doesn't come through?
What if God doesn't speak to Daniel?
What if . . .

But God does speak to Daniel.

And so yesterday, when my plans fell through, I thought of Daniel, who embraced risks.
I remembered a journal entry from last May, when I wrote about my frustrations with work and how I desired to focus on school and writing.  Well, now I have that opportunity.

It's what I wanted.  Kind of.
I just don't know what God's going to do.
And I'm not sure I have the courage to take the risks Daniel took.
The story doesn't end with the food.  He goes to the King and asks to interpret dreams.  He embraces situations that require God to intervene.

He can't change his captivity, but he allows God to work through it.
I can't change my job situation, but I want to allow God to work through it.
That means I'm going to have to take some risks.


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