My day begins with the usual morning squabble – the din of sibling rivalry forcing me out of doona-comfort and into military-mum mode.
Next, the daily triage station – a flurry of band-aid adhesion and Stingoes application before the school stampede. As usual, I’m required to give an expert assessment of those unfit for battle. Today, it’s the eldest daughter – thankfully, with an ailment that doesn’t require a COVID test.
Rations and coffee consumption are required before I can face the next trail of tasks accruing in my daily register. These include car servicing, a doctor’s appointment, a vet check-up, household chores, oh and my paid work – for which I am very thankful, but which also provides a never-ending abundance of to-dos.
Although I’ve been a Christian for 30 years, I have never before heard this particular Bible story.
My soldierly resolve begins to give way to defeatist self-pity as I contemplate the daily minefield before me. It all feels so overwhelming, again.
I barely muster the strength to listen to my daily Bible reading app. But when I do, I’m confronted with a passage that God obviously wants me to hear.
Although I’ve been a Christian for 30 years, I have never before heard this particular Bible story (or perhaps I just don’t remember hearing it). It’s from the book of Ezekiel, chapter 4, when the prophet Ezekiel is commanded by God to lie on his left side for 390 days in order to “bear the sin of the people of Israel”.
But that’s not the end of it. After that, God then commands Ezekiel to “lie down again, this time on your right side, and bear the sin of the people of Judah” – for another 40 days.
Add to that being tied up with ropes “so that you cannot turn from one side to the other”, with only a meagre amount of bread and water to consume.
And the final rub-in for Ezekiel: his bread was to be cooked over cow dung.
Suddenly, the car servicing, doctor and vet appointments, and my day of computer work seem like a stroll in the sunshine.
Ezekiel’s 14 months of excruciating obedience … has to be the most painful game of charades ever played.
I know that sometimes I am, in fact, justified in feeling like the daily grind is swallowing me whole. And I also know that God (in his grace) does actually care about all the tiny details of my life. Jesus himself attests to both of these truths when he says: “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34) and “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
But the Holy Spirit has certainly opened my eyes once more to the depths of suffering and perseverance endured by some of his saints. Ezekiel’s 14 months of excruciating obedience – as he silently demonstrated to sinful Israel and Judah the fate awaiting them (the siege of Jerusalem) – has to be the most painful game of charades ever played.
Of course, the Bible is full of examples of endurance and perseverance in obedience to God. But, if I’m honest, my familiarity with the sufferings of Paul in prison and even of Jesus on the cross has dulled my response towards them.
Thankfully, God’s word is so rich that it can still bring surprises that challenge my faith, and remind me to persevere and turn to God in the daily challenges that come my way.
Lord, help me take my eyes off myself and fix them on you – the one who inspires such radical dedication and perseverance as that shown by Ezekiel.