Do you know what you’re asking for?
“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you…”
That’s pretty bold of James and John, the “Sons of Thunder!” In Mark’s Gospel (Mark 10: 35-45) we hear about how these two practically demanded the choice seats in heaven. And yet, if we understand God as a Loving Father, he encourages us to be bold in asking him for what we need.
Not always what we want…what we need. There is often a big difference! And receiving the gift always comes with a price.
I decided to go big
It was late New Year’s Eve 2002 and I was snuggled in my terry robe on the sofa—thinking of what my resolutions for 2003 would be. No more long lists of things that never happened or weight I’d never lose. I wanted to make one, simple-but-profound resolution that was manageable. It would be nice to look back in the coming December and be proud of the year.
What would that one thing be? Hm-m-m. I’d been divorced and single for years and had come a long way in my walk with the Lord. Trusting him more, I’d made significant subtle improvements in my life. I was content, but I also wanted to be good. I wanted to be holy.
That’s it! I thought. I’ll simply ask God that, however he wills, I move closer to being holier this year. So, I prayed, “Dear Lord, in 2003, make me holier!”
God answered my prayer
Be careful what you ask for . . . that was the year from hell.
My mother died a horrible death in February.
I broke up with my BFF of 15 years—it was like another divorce!
I almost lost my life-long friendship with my sister and her children.
A big, new book contract I’d hoped for was canceled.
The real estate market (my major income source) petered out.
My income dropped in half and my rent went up.
My paid ministries at the parish were terminated due to budget cuts.
I developed gall stones and had excessive medical bills.
My father…the only man who’d ever loved me faithfully and unselfishly… died in December.
His death brought out all manner of angry, cold dysfunction in the rest of my family. With both parents gone, some siblings cut others off cold.
There’s more, but these were the major losses.
I was a mess
When Christmas came I was a mess. Exhausted, I found a quiet place and asked the Lord what the @#$% had been going on all year. I mean, really! Looking back, I realized that everything I’d held dear, everything that gave me a sense of identity, security, or purpose was either lost or threatened: parents, family, best friend, career, income, health, and more.
Because I had been learning to listen, not just blabber to him, I carefully pondered what I knew. I knew what the Church knows:
- God knows everything that will ever happen.
- But just because he knows ahead of time does not mean he deliberately chose or caused it.
- He does permit loss, pain, and suffering as part of protecting man’s free will.
- God doesn’t worry as we do, because he is bigger than the brokenness.
- He has promised us that if we turn to him he will draw out a much greater good from the evils that befall us.
God revealed his gift
So God permitted but didn’t make all this happen, and somewhere in it all he had a gift for me. I believe I heard him say:
Rose, dear daughter, you asked for holiness and I heard you. Holiness, after all, is union with me, even on the cross. I didn’t purposely plan these things you experienced; they were the natural results of living in this world. But I knew they would happen, and when they did I sent you graces to draw you closer to me. You opened up to receive them and you came closer. You leaned on me and more deeply found your ultimate security and love in me. Letting the other things go and, despite the sorrow and fear, you remained sane and even joyful. I’m very pleased, and that’s enough. For now.
I was consoled but, trust me, I didn’t ask for anything quite so grand for the next year! And I’m still working with him each year to let go of anything that becomes more important to me than him.
What about you? What people, relationships, things, possessions, jobs, or bank accounts are you counting on maybe a little too intensely to make you feel loved, secure, and happy?
Would you go to pieces if you lost them? Or would that free you to desire more deeply the Love and Security that last forever?
Put Your RELIGION in Your RELATIONSHIPS by moving God back to first place. Every day. Every hour if you have to. Put holiness above “happiness”.