"Let go and Let God"
"God helps those who help themselves"
We've heard both these cliches before. And they both tell the truth without telling the whole story. That's why they're cliches. (1.)
There is a tension in Lived Christianity (2.) between being trusting the will of God and his power and control over our situations and taking responsibility for our own situations and acting within the context in which God has placed us. How much am I supposed grab and how much am I supposed to let go? There's not one right answer for every situation but I find this story helpful.
"Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile,but let every girl live.
Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the riverbank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.
Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?”
"Yes, go,” she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So the woman took the baby and nursed him. When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” (Exodus 1 & 2)Ok, There's a lot to notice in this story. But notice this. The law was that the boys go in the river. There was no getting around that. If the baby boy is found he'll be killed. Despite that the baby's mother waits as long as she possibly can on her own before complying with the law.
Then when the baby's mother does comply with the law, she uses all of her creativity and ingenuity as she does so. The law said the boys go in the river. The law said nothing about making a tiny boat for the boy beforehand, nor did it discuss placing the tiny boat in a place where it might be found by a young powerfully placed Egyptian girl and having his sister watch to see what might happen.
But she still had to place the boy in the river. And she still had to trust that the right person would come along at the right time and be influenced in the right way for this crazy turn of events to take place. And the fear of that few hours between doing all she could and having her baby placed back in her arms could only barely be comforted by trusting that the God who made the rivers and the reeds and the Pharaohs was paying attention, woking for her good.
So there we see the tension. We build tiny boats. We help ourselves as we cover the reeds of the basket in pitch and tar and we place the children in them carefully. But we also put that basket in the river and let it go, trusting that the God who created and calls is still in control whatever the outcome.
1. Neither are in the Bible, by the way. The former is from the Keswick movement of the late 18th century and the latter is a quote of either Benjamin Franklin or Algernon Sidney, depending on who's wikipedia entry you read first.
2. A term I just invented to describe actively attempting to be a disciple of Jesus as opposed to just talking about it or trying to use it for your advantage