A Generous Grace

ideas on practical spirituality and loving each other

God’s Long Game

God's long gameWhat I loved recently in the U.S.: some conversations with parents of kids my husband and I had in the youth group back in the day. (When I was…more youthful.) We leaned forward with them over our Pick Twos from Panera, or perhaps chatted in the slanting afternoon light of their living rooms.

And here is what I will remember: I am thankful for God’s long game.

They were the parents of kids with whom we remember sitting with late into the night, wrestling with questions of faith. I had a slumber party with the girls; we probably painted our toenails a few times. My husband tossed the football or grabbed a Coke with the guys.

Now, some of them are youth sponsors or young pastors or steadfast moms with their own babies smiling toothlessly up from their proud grandparents’ photos. Not all of them are out of the woods yet when it comes to faith.

But while I went away with a reverent fear for parenting adult children—I also departed with a reverent fear of God. Yes, God cares about the intricacies of these moments in front of us. But His elaborate complexity is so far beyond my scope.

His time-space architecture, quite frankly, is way out of my league. In those years, I saw kids in junior high. He saw them from before one of their days came to be; He sees them now as parents, community members; He sees their days long after this one.


Going for the Big Win (not Just a Small One)

Yesterday I rode to Kampala in a tiny hired truck, toting some goods to the refugee center. I was kind of eating my knees for breakfast. But managed to have a thoughtful conversation with a friend of mine, wedged in there with me, about my own long game. I told her that several years ago, I’d submitted an article over which I’d prayed and prayed for wisdom. It’s one of my all-star favorite verses, that one: If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5). It’s like I wear it around my neck, fingering it when I’m clueless. Which is quite frequently.

In short, despite my prayers and best efforts, the article was not what the big-name company was looking for. I was mortified. I was confused. Later I talked to you about how my prayers simply cannot position God as a talisman against any form of failure. Like the Israelites toting the Ark into battle, I get into trouble when God is reduced to a good-luck charm.

But there in that itty-bitty truck, I was reminded of a new understanding of the verse I’d prayed. Yes, God actually did give me wisdom—a great deal of it—through my crash-and-burn. Actually, it was not at all the wisdom (i.e. success) I was seeking. God’s long game meant not that I’d have a lightning bolt that chemically altered my decisions into Teflon. Instead, God gave me wisdom that shaped my character.

Attempting to be a part of change here in Africa has verified that disciple-making around the world is S-L-O-W. Usually, I would like to pull up to God’s drive-thru window and state politely, “I would like some wisdom please!” Or even, like I imagine youth group parents praying (because now I am one!), “I would like one God-fearing child! Thanks!” I would like to pull up to the next window and gratefully open my arms to my answered prayer. (On the side, I would like this to be my particular version of what is good. I’m lovin’ it!)


Thankfully, even when people like me around the world are “believing God to”…do what they really want, God refuses to be reduced to a handmaid. (Or to sport a goofy visor.)

I don’t know what you’re waiting for, or which “now” you’re muscling through, sweating and bleeding. I guess I want to remind us both of the One who has his own skin in the game; whose version of success isn’t just for now, but for always.

His short game and His long game mean that I can lean not on my own understanding, and He will still make my path straight.

Here’s to the God of the long game.


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  1. The thought came to me today that 1 Cor 13 says Love is patient, kind, etc., etc., but what it doesn’t say is Love makes my life easy, gives me what I want, prevents me from failure, fixes all my problems. And yet, for whatever reason, I seem to think prayer to God (who is Love) is supposed to bring these things.

    Your post gave my thought some much needed perspective: the kindness, patience, perseverance, endurance, protection, etc. in those verses describing God/Love are meant for the long game. God’s goodness and his love are shown to me in long-term outcomes, not short-term comfort.

    I always love what you write, Janel. Thank you for your perspective.

    • I love your take on it, Tiffanie–putting this in the context of God’s love: “God’s goodness and his love are shown to me in long-term outcomes, not short-term comfort.” So well-spoken!

      And thanks so much for the encouragement. It’s a gift of God to me today!

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