Confession time: A few days ago when I began rereading the Gospel of Matthew, I was sorely tempted to skip the opening genealogy. I was hungry for more than a dry list of ancient names and the stories that cling to them. I wanted to hurry on to be with Jesus, to see him touching lepers and welcoming children, to hear him speaking words that press their devastating and healing life into the deepest parts of me. I wanted to get to the exciting part.
But as I began to read the list of old names, I was reminded: We don’t find Jesus by skipping the stories of our ordinary lives, but by going deeper into them. In the miracle of grace, Jesus’s story is rooted in ours, and ours in his.
Three days after I began to read Matthew, I’ve only made it through the first six verses. Not because the names are putting me to sleep, but because there’s so much grace packed into that list of names.
Take, for example, verse 5.
Salmon the father of Boaz,
Whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed,
Whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
And Jesse the father of King David.Matthew 1:5-6a
I find myself in the story with little Boaz, hearing stories of spies and a pile of flax on the roof and a red cord dangling out the window which guaranteed the safety of his mother and her parents and siblings. He would have been told that when two Israelite spies were checking out the best way to conquer his mother’s city, she hid them from the king of Jericho who wanted them dead, and in her choice to show them kindness, her own life was spared. Would he have been told the full story of grace—that his mother, back then, was a non-Israelite, and a prostitute?
I’ve known the drama of the basic story in Joshua 2-6, but I hadn’t thought much beyond the sparing of Rahab’s life.
Not only was her life spared, but she was allowed to make her home among the Israelites.
Not only was she allowed to live among the Israelites, but one of them married her. Did Salmon just think her beautiful, or did he recognize the treasure of her courage and conviction that had spared the lives of the spies who were about to destroy her city? Was Salmon himself one of those two spies whose lived she had saved, or had he just heard the stories?
There was a lot Rahab didn’t have to offer. By Israelite standards, she didn’t have the right ethnicity, the right religion, or even the right moral character. And what she didn’t have, as well as what she did have, put her in precisely the right position to be able to offer what was needed.
Even her occupation meant that her house was a public place, a tavern or hostel of sorts, where travellers could spend the night, and so the spies found their way to her house.
As she faithfully offered what she had—her courage, convictions, a roof and some flax—the spies’ lives were saved, and then hers, and then ours as she bore the man who would become the great grandfather of King David and continue the line leading to Jesus.
And what she offered was also exactly what was needed to shape the character and imagination of her son, who, with his own mixed ethnicity family history and the valuing of courage and loyalty and life, did exactly what was needed to welcome the courageous, loyal, non-Israelite widow Ruth into the family and together to bear the baby who would grow up to be the grandfather of king David.
I’m preparing to lead two workshops at a Christian doctors’ conference in ten days time. In my better moments I’m hopeful and excited about it. In other moments, insecurities and fears surface. I haven’t practiced medicine for eleven years. Will I still fit in a group of other doctors? Will I be able to connect in ways that allow God’s love and encouragement to flow through me? At its heart is the question that all our hearts ask in one way or another: Am I okay?
But here I find grace: I may not have up to date knowledge of obstetrical guidelines, or experience in the current Canadian political context as it impacts the practice of medicine. I do have a self and a story uniquely crafted by the creative God who just asks me to offer what I have.
So do you.
What I don’t have (a current medical practice) has created space for what I do have (among other things, a certainty that God can be trusted in the hard bits of our lives).
What we don’t have and who we aren’t is part of who we are and how we’re perfectly placed to offer our gifts for the specific needs that are ours to meet.
Here’s to letting go of our fears of who we aren’t and what we don’t have, and offering ourselves and our stories to the God who writes a more intriguing and grace-filled plot than we could ever dream.