There is a story by O. Henry entitled “The Gift of the Magi.” A young couple is too poor to buy each other Christmas gifts. The wife cuts off her cherished, long, beautiful hair to sell it to a wig maker for money to buy her husband a chain for his heirloom pocket watch. Meanwhile, he has pawned his watch to buy her a set of combs for her long, beautiful hair. That’s ironic.
The Bible is full of irony. Biblical history is consistently ironic. Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery. Joseph becomes Secretary of Agriculture in Egypt, and they have to come begging to him for food to survive. Joseph says to his brothers, “Even though you intended to do me harm, God intended it for good.”
The basic story of the Bible is ironic: a group of powerless slaves become the spiritual leaders of western civilization.
The one whom his followers believe to be the Jewish messiah who would restore Israel to its position of world dominance and glory instead institutes a new spiritual movement in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile.
The book of Ephesians calls it a mystery, the mystery that the Gentiles have become members of the same body of sharers in the promise of Jesus Christ. This is “the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.”
We might even say that to believe in God means believing that life and history are ironic. When we are weak, we are strong. When we think we are strong, we are often really weak. To believe in God means to recognize that we are not in control of history. We are not in control of much of our own lives.
The more we push to get someone to love us, the less likely it happens. The more we focus on success rather than the mission to which we are called, the less likely we are to be successful.
Live a good, rich, meaningful life now, today, this very day, because we can’t control our future, none of us.
This is what humility means. Humility isn’t putting ourselves down. It is simply knowing that we are finally not in charge. This is what prayer is – the acknowledgment that we are finally not in charge.
Faith is knowing that God is finally in charge, not us. Faith is trusting the One who is really in charge.