Taking the lead ahead of God is a popular past time. I catch myself, often. I think that my agenda is most important and thus set to prayer and reflection hoping to realize my desires. I sulk, bewildered when nothing comes of it. Some of us take to blaming, leaving, even hating God. I’ve done this too.
There’s a widespread belief that we think that God should do what we want. Or, at least, we can bargain for it. We do this. You do that. This thinking is deeply flawed. It’s equivalent to me asking my wife for sex because I mowed the lawn. It just doesn’t work that way. If it did, my lawn would be a putting green.
Bargaining doesn’t work because God is relational. Jesus illustrates this beautifully in the parable of the lost son. The elder son starts screaming at his father about the party he’s throwing for his deadbeat little brother who showed up out of the blue after squandering his inheritance. He shouts, All these years I’ve slaved for you! I’ve done everything right! And you never even gave me a goat – what the heck is up with that! Gently and pleadingly, the father responds: you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. In other words, there is no need to bargain, just ask. Talk about grace.
Taking the lead also fails because God is the smarter one in the relationship. There’s an old saying in 12-step circles, Your best thinking got you here. Shut up and let us do your thinking for you. It’s an effective way of reminding the addict that they’ve gone out of control on their own and that they need guidance to get and stay on track.
Other times, we try to take the lead, earnestly praying for that new job, house, or relationship. When things don’t work out in the time frame or the way we think we get upset, frustrated, and resentful. I have a friend who says that sometimes God wants us to “go around the tree.” In other words, we may see exactly what we want right in front of us. However, God wants us to take a different path, around the tree, through the woods, and then, maybe, to what we want.
“Going around the tree” can seem quite stupid, especially when the path seems so clear. But it may be necessary for our personal growth, other opportunities to arise, time and reflection with God – lots of things. The key is to trust that God has our best interest at hand, always. No matter what.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson