“God never asks us to do what we cannot do, but what we think we cannot do. Then He waits to see how we will respond.”
I heard that quote in February, 2008, at the sad funeral service in Ethiopia of a young Australian man who was tragically electrocuted.
That quote was said to be one of his favorites, but frankly I didn’t find any comfort in it.
A few weeks before that, it was Valentine’s Day, our first one in Ethiopia. Jake and I had planned to celebrate at a certain restaurant. Halfway there at a large round-about called Pushkin Square, we got stuck in traffic. Cars, taxis, busses, trucks . . . bumper-to-bumper, every-which-way.
Inching around that circle, I studied the bronze bust in the middle.
Did you know that a good way to learn the history of a place is to research the stories of the names of their streets and parks?
That bronze bust was the head of Alexandr Pushkin, a prominent Russian poet, who died young in a duel in 1837.
Ethiopia claims part of his fame because his great-grandfather had been an East African prince, kidnapped and taken to Russia to be a servant of the Czar.
There we were, Americans, jammed in Ethiopian rush hour traffic on the Russian Pushkin Square.
So, what did we do? We wormed partway around the circle, then exited through the crowd of vehicles, found a parking place by a 5-story building and headed into a coffee shop. (I found a photo of the very place.)
At least we could get a sandwich, we figured.
But in the elevator, look! A sign in English read something like this: “Tonight! Romantic St. Valentine Dinner for Two.” We followed the cutesy Cupid pictures to the top floor and found a small elegant restaurant.
At the door I was handed a long stem red rose, and Jake and I, under-dressed and incredulous, were ushered to a white-clothed table for two. We were gracefully served a delicious four-course dinner, with live soft piano music, overlooking that Russian poet’s Square.
I feel God’s love remembering that special night.
You know that quote I copied above? It doesn’t sit right with me because I don’t think God is like that.
In Ethiopia God asked me to do things that I knew I could not do.
And He didn’t wait to see how I would respond.
He already knew my heart and its mix of fear and faith.
I think it is more like this: God asks us to do things we think we cannot do. Then He waits to show us how He will respond . . . how He will strengthen us, help us, comfort us, and even surprise us as we try to do what He wants us do.
In other words: God gives me all I need to do all He wants me to do.
Time and again I see that I am known and loved by God.
Known and loved.
Tomorrow, Valentine’s Day, I will be leaving Spain, traveling for 20 hours through five airports. I am sick with laryngitis, worn out from all the happy, noisy busy-ness of these days together, and I am — of course — very sad to say goodbye to these beautiful grandgirls. Again.
But I go, remembering: I am known and loved.
I go, expecting: God will help me, strengthen me, and comfort me.
And I go, wondering: Maybe God has another Valentine surprise planned for me.