Taking a shortcut home from work one evening. a fellow was walking through the local cemetery. It was just after dark when he cut through the burial ground, and he took one misstep and ended up at the bottom of an open grave, freshly dug in preparation for a burial the next day.
He tried to climb out of the grave, but despite repeated attempts, over the next hour or so, he finally decided there was nothing else he could do but to wait until the next day for help to arrive. So as darkness fell he settled into one corner of the grave to simply wait.
A farmer was out doing some coon-hunting that night, and he fell into the same open grave! The farmer also tried repeatedly to climb out of the grave, and likewise was unsuccessful in his attempts.
The first fellow had been sitting undetected by the farmer in the darkness of one of the corners of the grave. After watching the farmer try to jump and climb out of the grave numerous times, the young fellow simply reached out from the shadows, put his hand on the farmer’s shoulder and said, “You’ll never make it!”
You know, the farmer did!
Both that farmer and the young fellow discovered something that night. They discovered that, under the motivation brought on by fear, a person could do far more than he thought he could ever do!
That farmer was so surprised and scared by a hand coming out of the darkness of what he thought was an empty grave that he could climb out even when repeated prior attempts had proven he could not.
In another situation, Mary Grams of Alberta, Canada, lost her engagement ring while working in her garden back in 2004.
“We looked high and low on our hands and knees,” said the 84-year-old Grams. “We couldn’t find it. I thought for sure either they roto-tilled it or something happened to it.” And after she speedily bought a replacement, she never told her husband: “I thought for sure he’d give me heck or something.”
Recently, however, the ring turned up — on a carrot that Grams’ daughter-in-law pulled out of the ground.
“I asked my husband if he recognized the ring,” her daughter-in-law said. “And he said yeah. His mother had lost her engagement ring years ago in the garden and never found it again. And it turned up on this carrot.” (A very odd-looking carrot, at that: “If you look at it, it grew perfectly around the [ring]. It was pretty weird looking.”)
Though Grams’ husband died five years ago, she plans on wearing her original ring: “[I]t still fits.”
Whether we are talking about an unexpected surprise in an open grave or a surprising discovery of a heretofore-lost engagement ring, the issue of life demonstrated here is one of expectations.
One expert, historian Daniel Boorstin, suggests that Americans suffer from all-too-extravagant expectations. In his much-quoted book, The Image, Boorstin makes this observation of Americans:
“We expect anything and everything. We expect the contradictory and the impossible. We expect compact cars which are spacious; luxurious cars which are economical. We expect to be rich and charitable, powerful and merciful, active and reflective, kind and competitive …. We expect to eat and stay thin, to be constantly on the move and ever more neighborly, to go to a “church of our choice” and yet feel its guiding power over us, to revere God and to be God.
“Never have people been more the masters of their environment. Yet never has a people felt more deceived and disappointed. For never has a people expected so much more than the world could offer.”
Quite frankly, there is a spiritual dimension to this whole discussion as well. The expectations of our own lives are low because our expectations of God are low. We just simply don’t expect Him to work in our lives.
But my Bible says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Check out Ephesians 3:20-21).
One of the main reasons why we seem to think that the church as a whole is weak and ineffective is because we simply do not expect the Spirit of God to do His work in His way in us.
In effect, we are saying to God, “You’ll never make it!” And God repeatedly demonstrates over and over again that He will and does and always does – not just what we ask, but immeasurably more than what we can even imagine!
So the real question is: for what in your life are you expecting God to work?
Your need may be financial. It may be something in the physical health arena. It may be relational. God only asks you to trust HIM!
You see, God wants to work in such a way that when He accomplishes your need, He gets the glory and not you! And He does it not because we have scared Him into it, but because He loves us! He works in our lives “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine” not out of fear, but out of love!
So the goal is to love Him in return, live for Him daily, and expect great things from Him!
And don’t wander through any graveyards at night!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.