Thursday, September 16, 2010

Evaluating Why We Cry . . . and Pray

The other day, our friendly neighbor girl popped over with a few of her cousins. I was standing outside, and my 16-month-old son, Caleb, was standing next to me. Evidently, none of these older kiddos have been around kids Caleb's age much, and they were quite curious about him.

"Can he walk yet?" one asked.

"Yes, he can walk, but he's a little unsteady, especially on steps," I replied, amused.

A few more questions followed, and I was getting a little wary of their little game, but I played along, still a little bit amused.

"Does he cry?" another asked.

"Not as much as a new baby cries, but yes he cries," I told them.

"What makes him cry?"

At least they were thinking. And I had to think before I replied. "Well, pretty much when he's tired or hungry or hurt . . . or when he doesn't get his way."

Their next comment really hit me: "So pretty much the same reasons we cry."

I laughed at their perception. "Yeah, I guess so."

Throughout the next few days, I unwittingly found myself working a little more with my little guy when he would start to cry or whine because he simply wasn't getting his way. I know he can't understand explanations like this, but I'm trying to get into the habit of giving them anyway--at least as an accountability myself to have reasons for correcting him. "It'll be easier for you later if you learn now that you don't always get your way. You just have to accept it," I found myself saying. Was I talking to him, or to myself? Hmmm . . .

In the past couple months in which I have lacked things I have generally taken for granted, I have found myself crying at the most ridiculous times. Why? Because I'm not getting my way. Same as Caleb. Whom I correct. At the same time, I've been getting frustrated that specific prayers for moving on, getting settled, etc., are not being answered the way I would like, on the timetable I would like.

James 4:3 says this: "You ask and do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures." The previous verse connects such pleasure-seeking prayers with materialism, the following verse, with worldliness. Ouch.

I used to think I was far from being materialistic--I mean, how could I be? I prepared for and entered a service-minded career I knew would never make me rich, married a preacher (and not the mega-church kind!), and like to think of myself as selflessly hospitable in opening my home to others. I could go on. But take away my privacy, home of my own (not that we owned it--it was a parsonage), and general sense of comfort and control, and watch out! I've shed too many tears these last few months (years, decades!) simply because I'm not getting my way.

One time this really really came out was when Jonathan was digging through boxes in the garage to get out baby things and cold-weather things we were hoping we would not be unpacking here at my parents' house. My dad had re-arranged the boxes since we moved in, and some things were stacked quite precariously. When I caught a glimpse of a small box labelled "Tammy's Snow Globes--Fragile!" tottering at the top of a particularly unstable stack of boxes, I was in tears. Then Jonathan moved our dresser (a good-quality one I'd had since I was a toddler) and a drawer fell out onto the concrete floor. Before even seeing what damage had been done to the dresser or its contents, I ran into the house and sobbed for close to an hour.

It wasn't enough that we couldn't enjoy the nice things we did have, however few they were; I was convinced half of them, at least, would be broken by the time we finally moved. As I ran to the house in tears, I heard Jonathan saying, "They're just things." He was right.

I also like to think of myself as refraining from worldly behaviors. I mean, I don't do the bar thing or get immersed in entertainments of any kind. But what about the things that aren't God that bring me pleasure? I don't think I worship them until I lack them, then I spend way too much time and mental and emotional energy longing for them, analyzing how I can achieve them once again. Not long ago a friend of mine posted this question on FaceBook: "If all your prayers this week were answered, would it change the world, or just your world?" It's just so easy to get wrapped up in our own worlds, isn't it?

So let me ask you, do you cry? pray? What makes you cry and pray? What kind of heart does that reveal? I know mine needs to change--does yours?

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