Learning How to Multiply

My memory isn’t that great. I’d like to say that’s a function of the aging process but truth is, I’ve never had a good memory. That’s why I try to write everything down- for future reference and reflection. Now, if only I could remember where I’ve put that piece of paper!

On Sunday, after the 9:30AM service, I greeted our music intern, Kim Ness, and told her how much I liked the song she sang. Of course, I couldn’t remember the name of the song I’d liked and the paper where I wrote a note about it wasn’t readily accessible. So with very little information to go on, she just smiled politely and said thank you, all probably while thinking I was just a little odd. And that song I liked so much? I forgot about it.

Until yesterday. I was flipping through my Bible, not knowing exactly what I was looking for. I came upon the note I wrote on Sunday’s bulletin. Under the name of the song I couldn’t remember (Oceans by Hillsong United) I saw the words I’d written “trust without borders”. So, I engaged one of my best friends, Google, to find the lyrics to the song. Believe me, I’m so glad I did!

Although I know this very well, I often find myself being reminded of the fact that nothing surprises God. Sure the happenings of everyday life may catch us off guard, but the all-powerful, all-knowing, creator of everything that is- our God, is never caught unaware. I imagine He has a slight surge of excitement when the “unexpected” happens because He can’t wait to see us in action, guide us through the challenges and see us grow in our faith.

Actually, this reminds me of my days teaching 3rd grade. One thing that I absolutely loved about the teaching experience was building competencies and skills in my kids. The introduction of multiplication was always a fun time for me. See, I get that multiplication can be a scary thing for kids. You’re being introduced to a new concept, a whole new set of facts to master and terminology that is foreign. Often when I’d share that we were moving into multiplication, my students were eager because it instantly made them feel older and smarter. The thought of knowing how to multiply made their chests puff out a little. But at the same time there was some uneasiness about this new skill to be mastered.

At the school I worked at we did flexible grouping for math. I usually taught those that were on-grade level and one year taught the below-grade level group. When the time came to introduce multiplication, I whipped out my goldfish crackers. It was time to have some fun!

See, the way I introduced multiplication was through the use of those yummy goldfish crackers, to build arrays. We went step by step to build understanding of what multiplication is- nothing more than repeated addition. I explained how the number of rows and the number of goldfish in a row translated into a mathematical sentence. I’d give the kids a repeated addition math problem, we’d build an array, translate the addition into a multiplication sentence and discuss the process. Once we completed a series of questions successfully, they’d eat their snacks. This process continued for a few days, usually culminating with the use of M&Ms or Skittles as a sweet treat for mastering the fundamentals of multiplication.

What does this have to do with this song that I’m now in love with? Well, I think about how God often works. The same scaffolding provided in the array example is what God does with us. First, just as a child knows they’ll eventually be introduced to more advanced concepts, we instinctively know that challenges will arise in our life. And as the teacher, God has planned for our successful mastery of the challenge. For, everything that we experience up to that point has prepared us for that moment of introduction into something new. He’s ready to provide the tools for success at just the moment we need them. The lessons we’ve learned during our days of “addition” help us as we progress into “multiplication”, which is only the next logical step in our maturation, right?

Once again I am reminded, no matter what happens in my life, big or small, God is already aware and knows exactly what I need to be successful in progressing through it. He’s designed past experiences so that the knowledge and skills that I’d need to apply, develop and refine in this next phase were solidified. Also, He’s prepared to guide me every step of the way through this current situation. I imagine (because I do have a vivid one that may be a bit too much for traditionalists) that just how I used to be giddy with excitement the first day of our lesson on multiplication and smiled at the looks of concern on my students face when they learned that the time had come, that God is just like that with us. He’s thrilled about what’s about to take place. He knows that His child is about to learn something new that will mature him or her and serve as a building block for future learning. Enthusiasm is what I imagine God feels when we reach the threshold of a new valley. For, He’s standing right beside us, ready to usher us into this new place.

I think the reasons that my kids didn’t completely melt down when we learned anything new was that:
1. They understood that I loved and cared about them. I was going to make sure they were okay throughout the process.
2. They trusted me and were willing to let me guide them.
3. Learning is what school is about anyway. Therefore, they weren’t surprised or testy when I announced we were learning something new. They may not have known what was going to be taught but they knew that they would learn.

Isn’t that what our lives as Christians are all about- learning and growing in our walk? God loves and cares for us. He is committed to ensuring we’re okay, especially during the difficult times in life. As the lines in Oceans state,

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

There is no reason to doubt God.  For, He is there guiding me.  Despite the uncertainty that surrounds me I know that I can trust him because He has never failed me before.  And yes, He won’t start now!

Thus, I go back to that one line that resonated in my spirit on Sunday. “Spirit lead me where trust is without borders.” That is a prayer I’ve prayed for a few months now. Not exactly in those words but with the same intention. I’ve asked God to keep me safe under His wing. For, I want to be so close to Him, so aligned with His will that the only place I can be is safely tucked under His wings of protection. By being fully covered by Him I am submitting to His full authority and declaring, where You take me, I will follow. So, lead me where You’d have me go, teach me what I need to learn next and develop my faith so that doubt is replaced with unlimited trust because I know that even though I can’t see what is next, You can, and it’s guaranteed to be awesome!

Therefore, see this as encouragement for anything you may be going through. God is not surprised at all about what is happening in and around You. He has prepared you for this time in life and will be beside you every step of the way as you multiply your trust and faith. Place your full trust in Him and allow Him to guide you through. I guarantee, He will provide everything you need at just the right time. One day you’ll look back and wonder why you were ever uneasy about learning how to “multiply” in the first place.