Several Fridays ago when I left work, I felt inspired to stop at Whole Foods to pick up some snack-y things for the kids. A sort of treat, if you will. Olives from the olive bar, cheddar cheese, apples, almond butter, and of course, LARABARs! And they were thrilled. (This is what happens when you don’t have sugar in the house. Children get excited about this kind of stuff.)
They all love gifts, but giving and receiving them is Micaela’s love language. She is already addicted, I can tell, to the adrenaline rush that is both giving and receiving.
The next Friday I did the same thing, but on a slightly smaller scale.
I don’t know if this was what started it all, but since then, Micaela’s been strongly hinting at the fact that her favorite days are the ones that I come home with special treats. Wanting to facilitate this a bit from her end, she began making me little pouches and purses out of paper and string saying, “Bring this to work and put something in it for me. Then bring it back home. It’ll be like a present!” So, with my instructions fairly clear, I brought it to work and placed a little sticky pad in it. A small gift, but again, she was extremely thankful and thrilled. Well, of course, Emeth and Annie longed for one, too. “I really want something like Caela’s,” was Emeth’s subtle theme for the night.
“You have to make a little pouch for me to bring to work,” I said. And so, he did.
The next night, sticky pads for everyone! It was a little crazy, but well worth the joy of seeing their faces light up over something so little.
This experience, while fun at first, has become a bit of a drudgery recently. Caela and Emeth gave me yet another pouch with yet another instruction to “put something in it for me and bring it home like a present!” I really don’t have much at my desk. And besides, I don’t like bringing little trinket-y things home every single day. (You only need so many clips, pens and pads in the house.) I can understand, though, as I remember loving to putz through my dad’s supply closet when I visited him at work. Pens, pencils, and paper galore!
So, not sure what to do, I drew little pictures and wrote little I Love U’s all over pieces of paper and brought them home.
“Where’s my present! I want my present! Give it to me!” they all screamed when I walked in the door. I was going to try and hold off till after dinner, wanting to slip an extra little cacao piece from the fridge into each one, but they wouldn’t have it. “Give it to me! I want it!” they shouted, endlessly. Tired of hearing their whining voices, and no longer looking forward to giving them a post-dinner treat, I relented, and they were disappointed. “Love notes? Where’s my sticky pad, dad?”
* * *
Father, give me another job! I can’t do this! I prayed, over and over on one of my recent walks around the parking lot. Give it to me!
Often when I read the parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1), or the account of Jesus with the Canaanite woman, (Matt. 15:21), or “Ask, and it will be given you” (Matt. 7:7), I think, “I should pound on God’s door until he hears me and gives me what I want.”
But more often than not, these times of asking, pleading and pounding lead to anxiety and discontentment, because I am asking but not receiving. Where is the thing I’m asking for? It’s not here. It has not come. And I lay exhausted at God’s door, curled up, whimpering and alone.
I think there is something to these passages, for sure, but I think I’m missing it. In John 16:24 Jesus says, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” James, a little more starkly, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (4:3).
I do believe that God wants my joy to be full, and that he is not ignoring me or closing the door in my face. He’s not standing on the other side laughing, or saying, “Poor child. If he’d only learn.” No, I believe God is with me in this very moment. That he is closer than the air I breath. That he is sustaining every cell in my body. That he has not left or forsaken me. Even though I feel like I’m in a vocational wasteland right now, and the winter is coming, I am not alone.
As a father, I see the difference in my children between expectation and expectancy. When they expect and receive something less than expected, they are disappointed. But when they are expectant, open to receiving any gift, their joy overflows.
I don’t know how long I will be here. I don’t know how long this will last. I don’t think I need to passively wait until something better comes along. In fact, I have been applying frivolously for jobs that seem in-line with my experience. (So far I’ve gotten only one nibble.) But in my asking, in my searching, am I seeking for joy in the hope of things changing? Or is my joy and delight in the Lord?
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Just as I love when my children are excited to see me when I come home, and not just my gifts, does my Father delight when I delight in him, and not just his gifts? I have everything I need, and yet I say it’s not enough. My children have everything they need, and they still want more. I can’t give them everything. There are limitations. But there are no limitations with God. He made everything. He owns everything. He is everything. He is all in all. And if I have him, I have all I need.
Father, give me yourself. Amen.