Monday, May 19, 2014

When you get what you pray for

You know how people say, "Don't pray for God to give you patience!" You know, 'cause then you'll find yourself in all sorts of situations where your patience is tested. Right? That's the theory.

I'm not big on clichés. (It's funny that I am saying that again, because that is precisely how I started this blog 4 years ago.) Clichés are just about 2 steps away from small talk, and my introverted self is not a fan of either of them.

BUT there is something to be said about the axiom "be careful what you wish for"... even if the grammar is poor. If you're going to wish or hope or pray for something, make sure you prepare yourself for what happens when you actually get it.

I always thought that I wanted "the American dream"--a nice house, nice stuff, nice neighborhood. Easy and predictable. It doesn't have to be glamorous, just... stable, easy, conflict-free. Easy.

And did I mention that I wanted life to be easy?

But life with Roo has taught me something. Easy is boring. Easy doesn't really get you anywhere. Hard is beautiful and full of growth and opportunities and richness and... LIFE. Hard is where you lean on God and really experience His love. Hard is where you help others experience His love.

So I started praying for hard.

I pray for our faith to become visible to our kids, for them to really see why we need God in our lives. I pray that God will draw me and my family to Him. I pray that we will be challenged to grow, not allow ourselves to just get comfortable. I pray that He will lead us into new, exciting, HARD things. Not bad things, necessarily. I'm not praying for someone to get sick or for a financial crash in our family. I'm just asking God to move us out of our comfort zone, to help us let go of our desire to be safe, and to give us the opportunity to truly rely on Him.

And He in turn has been preparing my heart. He has something in store for us, I know it. It is going to be beautiful, and quite possibly hard. I have no idea what it is, but I am... hmmmm... what's the word? Excited seems naïve. Anxious is too negative. How about prayerfully anticipating?

In the meantime, there was a day. This one day last week. It was hard. Multiple calls from the school hard. Sick kid hard. Ruined plans hard. Parenting angst hard. Family drama hard.

And I found myself on my knees. "God, why is this so hard?"

And then I laughed. Out loud. A real, actual lol. Because I knew that this was just a glimpse of what hard could look like. This was a very simple opportunity for me to see how I might react when something hard really does come along.

And you know what? It threw me a little, and I'm not saying it was a great day... but I'm pretty happy with where I ended up. Did you catch it? I said it already. I was on my knees. It didn't take long before I realized that I didn't have the strength to handle it myself. And I went right to the One who could.

Over the past couple of years, this has become one of my favorite Bible passages:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)
It took me a long time to really understand why Paul would say that he boasts about his weaknesses, but I get it now--or I'm learning to get it, I guess. Because when I am weak, when I am truly at the end of myself and can stop pretending that I can handle it... that's when I can turn it over to God. And sometimes we act like "turning it over to God" is the same thing as giving up... but it is just the opposite! God is stronger--he is ALL-powerful, mighty, and in control. When life gets hard and I am faced with my own weakness, I can finally let go of my silly sense of control and rely on God's strength--and THAT is something to boast about.

So I got what I prayed for that day, at least a little bit. And for just a minute, I changed my mind. In fact, it made me remember a few years ago when I was really and truly in the depths of depression. I told a friend of mine, "I know that I will get to the other side of this, and I'll look back and see how much I've learned and how deep my relationship with God has become. But I don't care. I don't want to be deep and joyful. I want to be shallow and happy." Yep, for a minute last week, that's what I thought. I take it back, I don't want hard, I don't want out of my comfort zone. I want shallow and happy.

But no. No, I need depth. Because do you know what happens to people who choose shallow and happy? They get tough calls from the school. They have parenting angst. They have family drama and sick kids and tough choices. And it throws them for a loop. But deep people, they know that when they are weak, they are actually their strongest.

Today I am delighting in my weaknesses and difficulties, because they come with a mighty dose of grace and strength, and that is exactly what I prayed for.

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