Have you noticed how even the most familiar people seen out of their usual context can seem total strangers? I once met my hairdresser in the supermarket and just couldn’t place where I’d seen her before. But if that lady thought I held her on a pedestal, not only would she be aghast … she would also be greatly mistaken!
I needed to get that clear before moving on. When I go for a haircut, the conversation is usually limited to ‘Do you have a busy day lined up?’ or something very similar. However, on a recent occasion, prompted by my recognition of her skill, four more sentences were exchanged.
It went something like this. Me: ‘You’re so quick!’ HD: ‘It’s just practice; I’ve been doing this for nine years.’ Me: ‘You know exactly what to grasp, where to cut.’ HD: ‘Well, I know your hair … I’ve cut it lots of times.’
Recalling this brief conversation, I suspected that – although their natural sequence is different – these four expressions: speed, practice, ability and familiarity, reflect our Creator’s relationship with us. I asked a friend to define ‘hairdresser’; her reply, “The kind of best friend, whom you can trust implicitly to tell you if you look rubbish”, seems to endorse this view.
Take practice for a start. God has had an eternity of practice dealing with other people just like us. From creation, through Old Testament and New Testament times, through hundreds of generations, among millions of individuals down the centuries isn’t it highly likely that there have been several like each one of us? Even if our composite individuality has never been precisely replicated, God has seen – and heard the prayers of – many thousands of people who have experienced each separate circumstance we find ourselves in, every challenge we’ve faced, every difficulty met, every hill climbed.
As the psalmist reminds us, God is familiar with us. He has “knit me together in my mother’s womb … my frame was not hidden from (Him) when I was made in the secret place … (His) eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in (His) book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16). There is no aspect of us, no behavioural trait with origins lying deep in our growing-up, of which He is unaware and therefore no part of us that He can’t deal with. In the light of my analogy, Matthew 10:30 is even more amazing: “… even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
I admired the way my hairdresser knows where to aim her scissors to achieve the desired effect; the multi-faceted nature of God’s love simply embraces us to provide just what is needed in every part of our bodies and our lives. Paul writes, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that … (nothing) … in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39). How fantastic to think that we are inseparable from the God who loves us.
And when the need is great, God is not slow to act. After the temple in Jerusalem had been repaired and the service of God was restored, “Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people, because it was done so quickly.” (2 Chron. 29:36).
About 250 years later, following the return from exile in Babylon, Nehemiah asked the Persian ruler for permission to return to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the walls of the city. Nehemiah reports his conversation, “The king said to me, ‘What is it you want?’ Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king …” (Neh.2:4). Nehemiah thought nothing of praying in the split second before he opened his mouth to reply to the king’s invitation, and many other instances of spontaneous prayer are recorded throughout this short book.
Living as we do in the midst of God’s great love, we need to realise that nothing is too difficult, too embarrassing or too mundane for us to bring to Him in prayer. If it’s a matter of urgency, the answer can come surprisingly quickly. Think for a moment of someone you love. If they were in need or in danger, wouldn’t you drop everything and run to their aid? It’s ironic that the speed of answered prayer should amaze us.