The Clam Game

I was a nervous kid, like a rabbit.  I wanted to do everything right and be in charge of all circumstances.  So I had a really difficult time when my parents bought me a board game for my birthday that flew in the face of these goals.

At first glance I loved the game.  Like other games in the 80’s, it had a friendly cartoon drawing on the top of the box.  The game pieces were simple: a clam shell and a bunch of “pearls”.  Opening the game up, the clam was a hard plastic, and a little intimidating to me.  Inside its large mouth were lots of pearls (plastic balls).

The game rules were easy: take turns picking pearls out of the clam’s mouth.  Different colored pearls had different point values.  I breezed through my mom’s explanation of the rules and I started to play.

I stuck my hand in the shell to pull out a “pearl” when suddenly, the clam shell began to close on my hand.

I shrieked, yanking my hand out, and I began sobbing.

That was the end of the clam game.

My mom made a noble effort to try to get me to play the game again.  She tried to reason with me.  She stuck her hand in the shell and tried to prove the shell wouldn’t permanently close on my hand.  Eventually, she gave up.  She took the game back.

I remember feeling like an enormous failure.  I felt guilty I hadn’t been able to overcome my fear of a plastic clam shell.  I felt dumb, too.  But I was so afraid the clam would close on my hand that I couldn’t play the game. My biggest fear, though, wasn’t that the shell would close.  My biggest fear was that the shell would close when I wasn’t expecting it.

I was probably five or six when my mom bought that game, but not much has changed in twenty-some years.  I still want to be in charge of all circumstances.  I have a hard time trusting what is going to happen if I can’t take care of it myself.

Like, will God really forgive my sin?  Will God really take care of me?  Will God really keep His eyes on me so I don’t build a mountain and then fall off the edge of it?

I fear the uncertain, like what will happen to me today or tomorrow or next year.  And I fear that God might change His mind about me and kick me out of His love.

Fortunately, God gave the Bible for everyone, even neurotic control freaks like me.  In His Word, God explains time and time again who He is and what He does.  There are no surprises in the character of God.  Hebrews 6:17 talks about the “unchanging nature of his purpose” (NIV) and Micah 7:18 tells us “He delights in unchanging love” (NASB).

1 John 1:5 shows us “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (ESV)  So we don’t have to fear ulterior motives.  And in John 6:37, Jesus Himself promises us, “All that the Father gives me shall come to me; and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.

Had my mother been able to convince me that the clam shell was my friend, I might have stuck my hand inside, even without knowing when the clam would choose to shut its mouth.  But because I didn’t believe the clam was my friend, but rather an unfeeling robot, there was no way I could overcome my fear.

With God, however, I can overcome my fear, not because I know God’s every move or because I can control God in any way, but because He has revealed His interactions with humanity through His Word.  When humanity couldn’t have been more out of control or powerless, God came and died for us.  Jesus has proven that He is trustworthy.  Even though He is in 100% control of everything, His desire is for us to reign with Him (see 2 Timothy 2:12) as joint heirs (see Romans 8:17).

Part of becoming a follower of Jesus is realizing He is such a trustworthy Person that we can serve Him as slaves without any fear of abuse, and as God without any fear of peon-ness.  Even when I don’t understand why God has allowed something that has happened, even though I can’t see every detail of His plan, I can still trust Him, because He has proven He is trustworthy from the beginning of the history of this world to the very end.  And He has proven His trustworthiness most of all through His Son, Jesus Christ.

A dear friend of my mother’s struggled and suffered for years with cancer.  She had three young children.  When people asked her how she could believe in God’s plan after what was happening of her, her response was unwaveringly, “He is trustworthy.”

My mother’s friend knew the Truth with unshakable confidence during her time on earth and she knows the Truth with unshakable confidence in her eternity in Heaven.  No further proof is needed from God to show us He loves us.  His Son is enough.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. (1 John 3:16a)

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