I love when the Bible seems like a Disney movie. Who doesn’t love a Disney movie right? When I was little I watched a lot of movies, especially a lot of Disney movies We would do a lot of family road trips in our conversation van and my brothers and sisters and I would ride in the back watching movies while my Dad enjoyed a few hours of peace that his kids weren’t running in 5 different directions. The van was pretty beat up. Wrappers stuck into seats, barbeque sauce from a McDonald’s happy meal splattered on the sidewall. It was kind of a wreck. In fact, our van eventually rolled in a car accident. I will never forget seeing a cup of soda stuck into the cup holder upside down holding faithful to its place even though it was completely inverted. If you really want to be safe in a car, forget the seatbelt; just douse yourself in the grime from the cup holder. You wont go anywhere.
Anyways, a movie I watched a lot of in that van was the movie Aladdin. It’s one of Disney’s best. It’s the classic, “man finds genie in a lamp and is granted three wishes,” stories. The story touches at the core of a fantasy most anyone has had at some point in his or her life, which is this: if you could wish for something and get it, what would it be?
Back to the Bible, the nation of Israel is still a relative super power of the day. They have warded off enemies under their king David, who led Israel to its prosperous status. David is near the end of his life and he passes of the kingdom to his son Solomon. Here is the catch: Solomon is only 17! In the US, you have to be at least 35! You can’t even vote for the president at 17. Solomon wasn’t arrogant however; he knew he was a bit out of his league. Solomon, like David before him, was also a follower of God.
We pick up here in 1 Kings 3 when Solomon was going out as he typically would to offer worship to God. Later that night, Solomon heard from God in a dream. God said to him, “Ask me for whatever you want and I will give it to you.” This is the Bible’s Aladdin moment! I’d be like, “What?! Hold on God let me get out my list: a new car, a bigger salary, health for my family, unlimited resources, heck, while I am at it, how about some world peace?” That is exactly why God isn’t appearing to me in dreams, because I would treat him like Santa Claus. We all do this, we ask God for what we want, but not necessarily what is consistent with his heart.
Solomon took a different approach however. He asked for Wisdom. Another translation says that he asked for a “God-listening heart.” I love that so much more than just “wisdom”. Solomon wasn’t concerned with his ACT score, he didn’t just want to be smart, He didn’t ask for rise in stock prices, a winning lottery ticket, or injury towards a rival teams quarterback, he wanted to be so in tune with God’s will that he could live well in the situation God had placed him in; in this case it was to lead the kingdom, at 17 mind you, the way God would.
What if we stopped asking for what we want, and started asking for a God-listening heart? What if instead of asking God to change our circumstances, we asked God to change us so we could be like him in our circumstances? When we get what we want, we typically go our own way, when we get what God wants, we go where God wants us to go. (PS, God gave Solomon wealth an honor too, because he pursued God, not wealth and honor).
Fast forward to the end of Solomon’s life. He is writing advice to his son in the book of Proverbs. The unwritten question here is, “how am I supposed to know where God want’s me to go?” Solomon answers, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways submit to him and he will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) What we do, what we want, the way we should live, doesn’t begin with searching, it begins with submitting. It begins with leaning into him.
If I am honest, the reason I don’t lean into God is sometimes I feel like I’ll just fall over. Have you ever gone to lean on a table or a chair without looking and it is further than you estimate? What happens? You fall straight to the ground (and it my even make it onto YouTube in today’s age). But Solomon, after a long life of success and failure, leaves us with this when it comes to God: trust, lean, and submit. And then what? He will make your paths straight.
I love to wakeboard. I am not much good, but I love it anyways. If you don’t know what wakeboarding is, imagine being pulled behind a boat in a snowboard. One of the keys to wakeboarding is how you jump. Any trick you do begins with the way you jump the wake. You are supposed to cut into the wake that resembles a small ramp of water, propel yourself into the air, and land safely on the other side.
When I began trying to do this I fell time after time. Why? Not because I was going to fast into the wake, but because I wasn’t going fast enough. I would pull up just before the jump. I would slow down because I was afraid. I would freak out in the air and land splashing into the water. My problem was even before I started I believed I was going to fall so I began bracing myself for pain even before I began. My sister-in-law who is far better than me at wakeboarding would tell me, “don’t let up, cut in harder, and get some more speed.” I thought to myself, “are you nuts? I’ll die! If I have fallen this hard trying to let up, imagine how hard I will fall when I go into the wake harder and faster.” Here’s the crazy thing, when I listened, when I went in with confidence, when I trusted, I started landing, I stopped falling, and I had a lot more fun.
It’s the same with God. We are called to lean boldly into God. It sounds so counter intuitive. It sounds dangerous. It sounds like it may hurt a lot. But it is a heck of a lot more fun than crashing headfirst all the time! When we rely too much on our success, our finances, our friends, our good standing, etc. we are left not knowing what to do or where to go when they vanish. God says, “give me everything you have and I will make your paths straight. I know this seems crazy, I know it seems dangerous, but I didn’t give you this life to find the safe path, I gave it to you to follow me. Trust. Lean. Submit,”