Friday, September 16, 2022

Mr. Miyagi and God's Ruined Underwear

Suggested Reading: Jeremiah 13:1-11

One of the great movie scenes of all time comes from the original Karate Kid with Ralph Macchio. Mr. Miyagi has promised to teach karate to a bullied Daniel so that he can compete in a tournament and get the kids at school to leave him alone. But after weeks of training, all Daniel has learned is how to wax cars (wax one, wax off), to sand floors, and to paint houses and fences. Daniel finally starts throwing a tantrum in his frustration and  Mr. Miyagi says, "Show me wax on, wax off!" and attacks. Only then does Daniel realize that all of the housework he has been doing was designed to teach his muscles how to move and that he has been learning karate without realizing it. All along, Mr. Miyagi had a plan that included more than housework but until that moment Daniel simply couldn't see it.

Jeremiah 13 is a passage where God's plan seems an odd way of doing things. Remember, Jeremiah was a prophet tasked with bringing people the word of God. But in this chapter, it seems like God has suddenly taken a page from Mr. Miyagi's book. He tells Jeremiah, "Go and buy yourself linen underwear and put it on, but don't get it wet" (Jeremiah 13:1, HCSB). The first time I read this I thought, What? Is God trying to correct Jeremiah's bad hygiene? But Jeremiah is obedient and he follows God's instructions. Then God orders Jeremiah, "Take the underwear that you bought and are wearing, and go at once to the Euphrates River and hide it in a rocky crevice" (13:4, HCSB).  Then I was wondering what kind of obsession God might have with my own underwear?

A few verses later, we are told that God waits a long time and then tells Jeremiah to go and retrieve the underwear from its hiding place. Jeremiah discovers that it is nasty and ruined and no longer good for anything. God then uses the ruined underwear as an illustration to explain to Jeremiah God's next message for the people--a message about them being ruined and not useful for anything.

If you have been following Jesus long, I'm sure you have discovered that not everything God leads you to do makes sense at the time. In fact, sometimes God's direction leaves us scratching our heads and wondering, Why did God want me to do that? But God always has a plan. Most of the time, though, God is so far ahead of us that we can't even begin to see the context for God's commands. Sometimes, it is just really hard for us to make any sense at all of God's commands. But when we trust God, when we have become accustomed to hearing God's voice and watching God's plans for our lives and for the world unfold around us, we can obey God's calling regardless of whether we understand the end-game or not.

Just because God's call doesn't make sense, that doesn't mean you've misunderstood or imagined God's call. Sometimes, God is just so far ahead of us we have trouble keeping up. Trust God. Obey God's call on your life. One of these days you'll look back and wonder how you didn't realize exactly what was coming.

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