Drat. I had a recipe all set out to make up this afternoon and had my mouth all set for the delicious product I had hoped to produce, but I lacked one ingredient and really didn’t have a substitute for it. Running out of things is getting to be a habit. Last week I ran out of bread, eggs, and canned cat food. As someone I know on Facebook would say, <le sigh>. I had bought some groceries this week but didn’t remember that the milk was getting old and I didn’t know I needed currants or raisins. Well, the Welsh cakes I wanted to try will have to wait until next week. At least I’m not out of bathroom tissue, eggs, or cat food!
It’s always inconvenient to run out of something just at the time it’s needed the most, like gas in the tank, tape to finish wrapping a present, paper towels to clean up a mess, or another skein of yarn to finish a shawl, sweater, or scarf. It’s inconvenient to have a month that lasts longer than the money available to last through it, but that’s something many of us try our best to keep from happening. The tires on the car will last another year or so, we hope, but we do need to have the oil changed soon or face possible calamity. There are lots of things we can do without, but it’s more pleasant if we don’t have to.
Luckily for us, God never runs out of things except for maybe patience now and again. Indeed, the Hebrew Scriptures portrayed God as being a bit grumpy from time to time, but then, we have to remember that God was trying to teach creation and the descendants of Adam and Eve (and any other people or creatures) the rules of life and obedience. I wonder, though, did God run short on things when God made the platypus with a bill and tail without fur? Was there an excess of beautiful colors that God wanted to use when the peacock, parrot, hummingbird, tropical fish, and other colorful creatures’ turn came for painting? Were the shades of trees selected so the leaves of specific species turned a particular hue in fall? Did God take pleasure in creating all the kinds and colors of cats and dogs, as well as their different environments and temperaments? I wish I could have been there at creation; I might have tried to talk God into making a few real unicorns.
But that brings us to the thought of God as infinitely nearly everything we could name. Patient, creative, boundless, generous, caring, protective, and loving – and those are just some of the attributes of God.
Does God loose natural disasters on humankind and innocent creatures on a whim, knowing that none of them are prepared for such calamities? The ancient Egyptians would have said yes, based on the plagues God sent so the Israelites could be free. The victims of epidemics, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, earthquakes, and the like might say yes, based on the losses of life and property as a result. Even some Christians would say that God was responsible for teaching the modern world the same lessons the Egyptians and others had to learn about who God is/was and what the rules were. I don’t even want to think about a God who makes wagers on a person’s faith as if his life, family, and possessions were a prize to be won or lost on the toss of a die.
Unlike us, God doesn’t run out of things. Commodities are nothing to God except to be recognized as temptations that can change good men to evil as the Emperor turned Anakin Skywalker to the dark side. God gave humankind almost limitless freedom, except for a few rules (which humans didn’t waste time observing). Ok, there were really 613 by the time of Leviticus, but by then the Ten Commandments needed updating. It sounds a lot like the way our government operates today, at least to my way of thinking.
Does God weep when seeing homeless and hungry people and animals? When disaster overwhelms farms, towns, and even cities? Does God rejoice when a new child is born, or someone acknowledges God’s love? I can’t imagine God not loving to watch kittens wrestling, birds singing, or seeds sprouting.
God’s highest abundance is grace, the ability to receive regeneration and sanctification through divine influence, to be strengthened to endure and resistant to temptation, and to be given particular virtues or gifts. Christians recognize grace as God’s gift to us, but often it is applied to those fitting particular beliefs and parameters. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that God’s grace is boundless, unlimited, and available to all, whether or not they accept it. There is no expiration date, number of items, coupons, or anything other than a willingness to be open to it and receive it. It never runs out. If somehow someone makes a mistake and feels that he or she has lost God’s grace, an acknowledgment (and possibly amends) is all it takes. Unlike cupboards and cabinets, the supply is endless and renewed in times of need. Now how much better can something get than that?
Thinking about that grace makes being out of milk and things like that pretty paltry (except for cat food – my boys would never forgive me!). Sure, running out of things is inconvenient and sometimes makes life very difficult, but the cupboard full of grace is always there. And God is never going to send a bill for taxes, overdrafts, or past due amounts.
That, my friends, is a deal I can’t turn down.
Image: Stained glass, Holy Family Church, Teconnaught Northern Ireland, September 2010, by Tach. Found at Wikimedia Commons.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. Her domestic fur-kids, Dominic, Gandhi, and Phoebe, keep her company and often quite amused.