Acts 22. When we don’t get our way, it doesn’t feel good when our friends say: “God’s no is really His yes.”
Patience is a virtue that most of us lack. I mean, okay fine. We can be patient when we don’t REALLY want something. But if we actually want it? If we really desperately forget-about-everything-else want it? If we’ve lost our appetite and stare wanly out the window and can think of nothing else? If we’re in THAT kind of wanting? Patience flies out the window. Wanting and now are synonyms, aren’t they?
But barely are we cast onto the shores of this world before we learn we can’t always get what we want. So what’s the solution? Are we supposed to quiet ourselves down to a zen-like state where we want nothing? That sounds a little dull. What about self-talk? Can we reason ourselves out of wanting the things we can’t have? We can’t always get what we want, but if we try try try we just might get what we need? We can lie to ourselves and say we didn’t really want it, anyway; we can practice a little Aesop-style sour grapes. We’ve all done it, but lying to ourselves is never a healthy solution. Another option is to just wait out the disappointment and remind ourselves that yes, absolutely, we’re utterly miserable, but in a little while we’ll be fine and zippy again.
Those strategies work. They’re good. They’re practical. They make life go more smoothly. But they don’t take us all the way there. They leave unresolved this issue of wanting. What are we supposed to do with that? I mean, let’s face it. Wanting means we’re alive. Who wants to stop wanting? Is there a way to walk around in our wanting and enjoy it – even if we never get what we think we want?
As with most things, the solution lies in trusting God. If we can trust Him we can enjoy His presence even if He answers our prayers with silence, a shut door, or even a deep dark bottomless pit. Proust wanted to know if we can redeem the time we’ve wasted. God’s answer is: of course. In God’s math, nothing is wasted. He uses everything in His plan. God is perfect, after all. When we create, there are always unused scraps left over. Little bits of pie crust litter our kitchen countertops on Thanksgiving morning. It’s not like that with God. He rolls those leftover crusts up and flattens them out with the press of His fingers into something even more delicious, even more delectable, something just right for us.
He uses even the things we consider scraps to make something beautiful just our size.
And those friends who remind us that God’s no can be His protection are not wrong. Look at Paul being popped in jail here. It saved him from being torn limb from limb by an angry mob. We don’t know what savage lions prowl on the periphery of our lives. When another car cuts in front of us — only to drive in the middle of the road “like a poached egg,” as my English grandfather used to put it — we don’t know what twisted metal fender bender God may be saving us from. A traffic jam could be rescuing us from a gun wielding madman.
There is so much we don’t understand – both about ourselves and the spirit realm. God is weaving an eternal tapestry and we can only see a few dangling threads. For instance, in the Hebrew Scriptures (a/k/a the Old Testament), three weeks after Daniel prays for something, an angel appears and tells Daniel that from the moment he started praying, the angel was sent to him. But there were spiritual oppositions that took place and caused a delay. See Daniel 10:12-13. So there are forces of evil that can oppose even angels. Evil can thwart our prayers. That sounds hard to believe until we consider those times we’ve prayed for people on a downward spiral – those friends who are drinking too much or doing drugs or in a self-destructive relationship – and they go on with their behavior despite our prayers. Is that evil thwarting our wanting? It sure feels like it.
This is a detail that cracks open the edges of our world and gives us a glimpse of heaven. God brings good out of bad, but good is wrestling evil all the time and we don’t know the half of it. Maybe miracles are happening all the time in the spirit world and we just can’t see them. Maybe we’re not wrong to want a miracle. Maybe miracles are natural and our world is unnatural.
But even more than the somewhat abstract philosophical approach of trusting God in even our frustrated desires, there’s a deeper sweetness inside of waiting. The goal is to embrace the delay, to sink into the waiting, to rest in the presence of God. And in that resting in God we find such joy that our original wants pale in comparison.
Because God wants us to be in touch with our wants. He wants us to be alive to our true emotions. “Bring me your heart,” God says over and over in the book of Psalms. Jesus makes it clear that Satan is the author of all lies. John 8:44. God wants us to have nothing to do with lies. He wants us to walk around inside the truth. He wants us to walk around inside our hearts. He made our hearts. He made them for Him. We’re supposed to open ourselves to God. It sounds like He wants us to trust Him enough to be vulnerable with Him. He wants us to get real with Him and tell Him what we really want.
And if we walk inside our wants, we may discover a want that lies deeper than all the others. We may discover the thought that lies too deep for tears. We may discover a want which will always be answered because it was made to be answered. For there is one delay over which we have total control. Have a look at this chapter. Paul tells yet again the story of his conversion. Why? Because the more we hear these true stories of Jesus’ true love for each of us the more our hearts melt. And look at what Ananias asked Paul in that story: “Why do you delay?” Ananias is asking him: what are you waiting for? Ananias adds: “Rise and be baptized, and by calling upon His name, wash away your sins.” Acts 22:16.
We may not get the possessions we pine for, the degrees we want; the results we expect; the friendships we long for; the promotions we know we deserve, the love we crave; the health of our children we try to protect; the health of our friends and family we desire; the control over ourselves we depend on. But we can always have God’s forgiveness, always. It’s only an ask away. It’s only a want away.
For there is no delay when it comes to the thing we need most. There is no waiting period for God’s love. There is no waiting and wanting about our ability to approach the throne of grace. It’s always there, all the time. Jesus made it come true already. He paved the way on the cross. He thirsted so we would never have to.
He did it because God is wanting us. God lives in want, too. God longs for us. He’s always waiting and wanting. So yes, there is a touch of the divine in waiting. Waiting and wanting is a quality we share with God. We can embrace our waiting. It’s is touched with glory. We can find in the wanting a deeper answer, one we didn’t even know we wanted until we got it:
God is saying: I am with you always, even in your deepest desires, because being with me is what you always wanted all along without even knowing it.
by Caroline Coleman in A Chapter a Day on January 12, 2013