The treasure chest of secret wants
I remember an after-church lunch, years ago, at a pizza joint, with a bunch of friends from church. If memory serves, my oldest (who is now 14) was two years old, and I had just had my second son. I don’t recall the circumstances, but something someone said touched a soft spot in my heart, and the tears started trailing down my cheeks. A lady I’ve known for years started laughing and said — meaning it as a compliment, I’m sure — “Karen, you used to be so cold, but ever since you’ve become a mother, you cry at everything!”
I’m certain she was right on both accounts, but it was one of those, “Uh… thanks” moments. It really stung. And clearly, twelve years later, I’ve not forgotten.
And though God has helped me — indeed, using motherhood as a tool — to gain a much greater appreciation and acceptance for the value, benefit, and divine gift of emotions (after growing up in a family which communicated that emotions in general are weak and Godless), I’m still pretty protective of them. It’s hard for me to “go there.” I still have to make a commitment, a choice, to dive into the land of tears and deep feelings.
I was reflecting on this while I was doing some gardening in the early hours this morning, after asking myself, “Why have I found the time to post on a couple other topics this week, yet not the follow-up to Tuesday’s post?” And I think it’s this: The whole event on Sunday was so deeply emotional for me, that a good portion of myself wants to keep it to myself, to not lay it bare for other’s eyes to see, to not leave it vulnerable to strangers, or even to friends. It’s safer to be quiet.
And, it’s really important to me to be understood, and it seems here, on this particular topic, that there is lots of room in which to be severely misunderstood, and I’m not certain I want to take that risk.
Which is why I’m… happy, in a way, that my particular desire to be safer, quieter, and less risky doesn’t let me off the hook from revealing what God whispered to me on Sunday morning. Because when God spoke that prophetic word me through someone else, it was very much like Him saying , “Not only is it OK for you to write about what you experienced, but I want you to. I’m drawing it out of you.”
As an aside, I spoke on Tuesday night with the lady who had delivered that precious prophetic package to me on Sunday. I wanted to give her a little background as to what God was doing in me, and how God’s words, through her, answered an immediate need. I also affirmed that she had no idea that I wrote, or had a blog. And, even more exciting, was that her speaking to me was the FIRST TIME she had mustered up the boldness to obey God’s prompting to speak out prophetically, which is likely why she was so abrupt in the delivery. 🙂 “Just do it and get it done!” I could hear her admonishing herself. Isn’t that so cool? Isn’t that just like our God, to take our first feeble attempts and make something grand of them, as an encouragement to our hearts, and a reminder to keep moving forward, keep moving up, keep moving in, ever closer to Him, knitted ever tighter with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is lovely to me, and a real lesson: He doesn’t concentrate on our mistakes; He encourages our every attempt at obedience, our every faltering, wobbly step of maturity.
And, speaking of speaking to others… that brings me back to the point of this post, and the heart of God’s whispers to my own heart on Sunday.
The church of which I’m a member, in which I serve, in which I grow, has a great emphasis on “equipping the saints for the work of service.” Thus, anyone who would like to may learn — through classes and hands-on “workshops” — to pray for others, to understand the Kingdom of God, to walk in the prophetic, and even interpret dreams, among other subjects. In other words, if you WANT to grow in ministry, you have ample opportunity. In fact, I believe that’s why our church is rather mid-sized: The pastor routinely encourages EVERYONE to participate, whether it’s in giving or receiving ministry. He’s even invited those who are simply warming the seats and have no intention of growing to visit the local megachurch up the road; that drew ire, I’m sure! In other words, active participation in church life — in a culture that is all about not going out of one’s way, and serving self — is the par for the course at my church.
As a result, I am 100% comfortable praying for others, especially one-on-one, or as part of a little team praying for someone’s need, laying a hand on the shoulder of the hurting one, and watching God’s love infiltrate the cracks and heal the wounds. I love it, in fact. It is precious to me.
And, I receive e-mails as part of a prayer loop for our local church body’s needs. More often than not, I say a prayer right then, as I read, and I really expect God to show up — how can He NOT respond to a Body of believers, rallied to a cause, motivated in love?
One of my favorite books in all of our going-on-ten-years’ experience in homeschooling is Window on the World, which is, roughly, a social studies book, introducing children to cultures, countries, and people groups. At the end of each two-page section is a box describing how to pray for the group being studied — things about which to thank God, and things which still need His divine intervention. The book’s tagline is, “When we pray, God works.” I love that! I am so confident of that.
Prayer is a part of my everyday life, from breathed sighs of distress, “Dear Jesus…” to mealtime prayer, bedtime prayer, and every hour in between. Prayer in the car, prayer in my heart, prayer said aloud, prayer for every occasion.
However, on Sunday, as I lay on my face in worship and need, He revealed one gaping hole in my prayer life, and why this is particularly destructive.
I don’t pray for my wants. Like, ever.
I will pray endlessly for wisdom, for maturity, for His will to become mine, for His love to fill me, for Him to help me keep my mouth shut, for me to not react in anger so easily, for me to see with His eyes… I will pray for my marriage, for my character, for my needs, for the needs of my children, my husband, my home.
But I don’t pray for my wants.
In some sense, I rather congratulated myself for this. I pray for the Really Important Stuff, and toss the flimsy, flighty desires to the side like chaff, reminding myself that, “my God will supply all your needs, according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Wants are peripheral, right? They’re beside the point for any real Christian, any one with any Quaker or Calvinist (albeit Holy Spirit-filled) leanings. An outlook that sets aside one’s wants is sacrificial, right? It flies in the face of our materialistic, self-centered culture. Right? Even the church — the American church, anyway — too often looks to capitalize on the blessings of God, missing the point of why He saves us, and viewing Him as some giant Moneybags in the Sky. Surely I didn’t want to be a part of that!
But what I had overlooked, and what my Father so gently reminded me about, is that when I don’t submit them to God, tell Him about them, lay them at His feet… and even ask for them, what was happening in my heart was that… Ah, I don’t know how to explain it exactly. But, all those wants were tossing around inside my heart and mind, pestering at the corners, making me feel their lack, encouraging me to become bitter, raising their heads at the least opportune times so that I’d feel… less than, left out, abandoned, ignored, unprovided-for, left behind, uncared-for.
When the enemy’s ploys come to light, they make me angry. Me not praying for my wants was rooted in me trying to do the right thing. I reasoned, “What if I was praying for the wrong thing? My desires are so tainted with my sinful nature! What if He would give into something for which I asked, but wasn’t good for me? What if I asked for something that wasn’t part of His plan for me? He knows what I want, right? I’m sure He’ll just provide for me the good things that I want, and sift out the harmful desires, and my life will be better all around.”
Except, that’s not the way it works. He showed me that when my wants are not bathed in prayer and laid before Him, the bad ones don’t just go away. The good ones, more often than not, never materialize. Because, for reasons I don’t understand, we have a God who likes to be asked. “Ask and it will be given to you…” “You do not have because you do not ask.” In James 2:2-3, I had been so fearful of asking “with wrong motives” that I neglected the importance of simply… asking.
So I asked.
that I may one day become a doula.
that I may become a published writer.
that I may one day live somewhere greener, with trees and hills and flowers and water.
that I may have a home which can accommodate my stepdad, or my mother-in-law, or any other traveler who may desire to stay with us for days (or weeks or months) without having to sleep on a bunk-bed or a couch.
that I may have a home with property enough for my children to run free, without worrying about the neighbors worrying about shouting children at 8 p.m.
that I may have some money to spend on clothes, without worry, with joy; lovely things, not just cheap things.
that I may complete my college degree.
that my husband may encourage me more.
Those, plus others came rolling with relief off my tongue, off my heart… I prefaced it with, “God, these are things I want, and I do not deny it. But, I am so mistrustful of my own motives, and I do not want you to give me anything that is apart from your plan, nor anything that may seem good to me, but which would be destructive. I trust your wisdom.” And so on…
And when I arose, I felt a billion times better. I discovered that it’s not righteous for me to pretend I don’t have wants. It’s not beneficial for me to “hide” my wants from God, and hope He hears my heart anyway, and gives the things to me in my self-righteous, misdirected denial.
He is a loving God, and He often has provided things for me, about which I’ve been afraid to pray, afraid to ask. HOWEVER, there is peace in the asking, and I had not accounted for that. What made me feel gloriously buoyant was knowing I had been honest with my God, I had submitted my wants to Him, I had asked with my best attempt at pure motives, I had not demanded…. I could picture my little treasure chest of secret wants, willingly opened, each item brought out, confessed and displayed, fingered longingly, then put back into the box, and pushed forward, given to my God, and with relief, I said, “OK, now. You take it. Do with it what you will.” It was a great load lifted from my heart.