Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

On Lollipops and Intercession March 27, 2012

Filed under: Numbers — Stephanie Rische @ 7:58 am
Tags: , ,

The other day I had the privilege of seeing Hannah, one of my favorite six-year-olds. She and her mom and I were together for a girls’ day out, and as always, Hannah delighted me with her joy for life—telling me her latest knock-knock jokes, impressing me with the new words she knew how to spell, and catching me up on all the big first grade news that had happened since I saw her last.

I’ll never forget six year ago when Hannah’s mom, one of my dear friends, called me after she got her ultrasound results. “Guess what we’re having?” she asked me with that trademark mischief in her voice.

I was confident: “A girl!”

“Yes . . .” There was an, er, pregnant pause.

And a boy! We’re having twins!

Aside from their tow-headedness, Hannah and Josiah are as different as can be—she loves to read; he loves to build things. She likes to play princess; he likes to play engineer. But you couldn’t find a pair of siblings more loyal than these two.

We were at the store together, and Hannah’s mom let her choose a movie to buy. After carefully scanning the options, she opted for a case covered in pink glitter and hugged it to her chest. We were headed to the checkout line when Hannah paused mid-step. “Mom, I can’t get this one,” she said, her eyes wide. “I don’t think Josiah would like this one.” She promptly returned the movie to the shelf and made a more boy-friendly selection.

I raised my eyebrows and looked at my friend, impressed. Most first-grade princesses I know would rub their brother’s nose in such a victory and never look back.

“She’s always watching out for her brother,” Hannah’s mom told me. “Whenever we go to the bank and get a lollipop, she makes sure to get one for her brother too. She never wants him to miss out on something.”

Just a few days later, I read the account of Moses and his siblings in the book of Numbers. Apparently Aaron and Miriam were razzing him about his choice of a wife (Numbers 12:1-2). God was none too happy about their whining, and he struck Moses’ sister with a skin disease.

Moses’ response fascinates me: he didn’t act justified; he didn’t say, “I told you so.” Instead, he responded with the grace of intercession. He begged God on behalf of the sister who just moments earlier had been giving him grief: “Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘O God, I beg you, please heal her!’” (Numbers 12:13).

When my brothers and sisters in Christ are in trouble, what’s my response? Do I think, Well, they got what was coming to them? Or do I step in before our Father and intercede on their behalf?

In other words, will I be content with my own lollipop, or will I humble myself to beg for one on my sibling’s behalf as well?

I hope someday I’ll be a little more like Hannah.

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

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God’s Gracious Smile March 23, 2012

Filed under: Numbers — Stephanie Rische @ 3:53 pm
Tags: ,

In my job as an editor, one of my biggest joys is receiving notes from readers and hearing how a certain book touched them. Of all the notes I’ve gotten over the years, though, there’s one that especially stands out.

The e-mail came to me from a 10-year-old girl who had just finished reading a children’s fiction series about a girl and her horse:

I used to think God was too busy to ever think about us, and the only times he did was when he was mad about something. And I thought he was just always frowning at us, so I never really talked to him. I didn’t understand what it meant in the Bible when it says you’re supposed to fear God.

 

Young as she is, this girl articulated what so many of us, deep down, fear is true—that when God looks at us, his face is screwed up in a frown. He sees all our shortcomings and failures, and he wishes we’d be a little smarter, a little more well-behaved, a little more spiritual. Even if we acknowledge that at some level he’s obligated to love us, we picture him as distant or at least mildly dissatisfied with us.

Then the girl goes on:

But then I read these books and I realized I was wrong. Especially when I read how Ellie pictured God smiling. Since then I’ve thought about him smiling about different things, and I talk to him a lot. Anyway I just wanted to tell you that and thank you very much for the books.

 

In the book of Numbers, Aaron gets instructions about his duties as a priest. This role was especially significant in the Old Testament because the priest wasn’t just the spiritual leader; he was God’s representative to the people. The priest was charged with showing them, in a sense, what God looked like. So when the Lord revealed the blessing Aaron should give the people, it wasn’t just some nice, poetic-sounding language. It was a picture of God’s very face.

May the LORD bless you
and protect you.
May the LORD smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the LORD show you his favor
and give you his peace.
—Numbers 6:24-26

When I read this verse, I can’t help but think of another 10-year-old. Me. As a kid, I was sensitive with a side of drama, so I often felt like going to school was some kind of epic battle. I feared that I wouldn’t fit in, that someone would make fun of me, that I’d fall short somehow.

But every morning my mom served as my own Aaron. She’d wait at the bus stop each day and recite the priestly blessing over my brother and me: “May the Lord bless you and keep you….May the Lord smile on you….”

No matter what battles might be waiting for me that day, there was something I could cling to that would make it all bearable: I knew what God’s face looked like. He wasn’t frowning; he was smiling.

And he was smiling on me.

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.