Giraffes with Little Necks

I think in prayer, we are like the students.  We have this tendency to think it is about the world outside of us: the granite blocks.

We pray for the things we think would be good.  The things that we think that we want.  Just as the students might think that sculpting a cylander here, a box-shape there would be good.

We might get better at sculpting.  We might grow more mature in the things that we pray for.  But if we do, it’s only because the things we did had effect, the things we did have meaning.  If the teacher had left the students only plastic sporks, the students would never have learned anything.  Sporks won’t alter the rock, no matter how long you go at it.

And if prayers couldn’t impact the world, we wouldn’t have this opportunity for growth.  If we pray for a new car, and then we get the new car, we learn that stuff doesn’t fill the hole in our hearts.

Ironically, in being given this God-like power, to impact reality itself through prayer, we come to appreciate God’s wisdom and finesse.  We realize that if we were God, we would make quite a mess of everything, if the sculpting teaching showed the students his master piece after they made their own attempts at sculpting, they would appreciate it all the more.

Praying, I think, is about molding ourselves into the image of God, not molding the world into the image of Disneyland.  In the very act of trying to make the world into Disney land, we begin to get it.

We slowly begin to pray with a God’s eye view of things, with an understanding of the big picture.   There is this exchange in one of those “Oh, God” movies that came out in the 70’s or 80’s.

A mortal says to George Burn’s God, “Why did you make the giraffe’s neck so big?”

giraffe | i love giraffes
Image by Adam Foster | Codefor via Flickr

And God says, “So that they could eat the leaves in the trees.”

And the girl says “Well, why didn’t you make the trees smaller?”

And God says, “Well, I needed somewhere high up for the birds to perch.”

And she says “Well, why didn’t you just have the birds perch on the giraffe’s head.”

The point, of course, is that she has lost track of the idea that the whole thing began with the suggestion that the giraffe’s head wouldn’t be high up in the first place.  And when we pray, I think we do this to.  We tweak this thing or that thing about the universe, and the more we try to fix things the bigger mess we make.  We end up realizing that the way things were before we started praying was the best way for them to be.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

3 thoughts on “Giraffes with Little Necks”

  1. you posted previously that there were instances in Scripture where the prayers of people changed the mind of God. Are you changing your position in this post and somewhat in the last one?
    For what it’s worth, i believe you are much closer now than before.


  2. I was working my way up to this conclusion so I wasn’t particularly specific previously, but I tried to say things like “God SEEMS to change his mind.” And in fact, I do think he gets talked into changing his plans. I know that some people believe that God was just playing the devil’s advocate (pardon the pun) and people end up doing precisely what he wanted in the first place. I have trouble with the dishonesty this implies about God.
    Often times
    Sometimes, as a dad, I allow my kids to make choices– impact reality– in a way that I’m quite confident won’t end well. I generally warn them and then leave the ball in their court for the final decision. If I never allowed them these oppurtunities they would be missing a key part of maturity, as they would never bare the consequences for poor decisions.
    The Israleites demand for a human king is prime example of this dynamic, I think.


    1. That’s a great example; the Isrealites demanding a king. It seems as though God is being talked into giving them what they want, or talked out of doing what He wants to do.
      Either way, the dynamic is an exceptional demonstration that God is precisely working in ways that make you uncomfortable. i don’t share your perspective on qualifying this as manipulation or dishonesty on God’s part.

      We often look at methods or qualities of man that are self-serving and rightfully disdainful and project that judgement on to God.

      If God is self-serving, is that bad?


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