This Saturday is our anniversary: 17 years! My sweet husband likes to add, "16 of them happy," with a wink, making a reference to my two agonizing pregnancies.
It's hard to believe we've really been married for 17 years now. December will mark 20 years of being together as a couple. That is half my life.
Time is a funny thing. When we're young, it crawls by so slowly, you wish for Superman to come along and speed things up a bit. A school year to a first grader is an eternity. And that's not surprising since one year is 1/5 of his life! As a child in elementary school, going from Christmas to Christmas takes forever (especially when the purple and pink candles come out - it's doubly slow then!), but as adults, it seems to sneak up on us a little faster each year. My anniversary seems to be just a few weeks back, but here it is, mid-August again!
If we think back on our lives as children, we see how hard it was to wait for anything we
wanted. We looked forward to being older, getting to do more things, and those years of waiting were dreadfully long. Big Girl, for example, is one of the few children in her age group at church who doesn't have a cell phone. She's been asking again and again when she can get one. Now this is a topic Travel Man and I talked about when we first started seeing teens with cell phones. We had decided that until the girls are working, they don't need one. Scratch that. Make it this: Until they are DRIVING, they don't need one. Period. And even then, maybe they only need to borrow it sometimes.
So our answer was this, "When you turn 16, we'll start talking about it." (Notice that independent clause: start talking about it.)
This elicited the following reaction:
"WHAT????!!!!????" (Please imagine it starting at a high pitch and rising as the one-syllable word becomes something more like a long note sung.)
See, Big Girl is nearly 12, and four years before the discussion even starts is 1/4 of her life. To us, it seems like it's just around the corner. To her, it's NEVER GOING TO GET HERE.
About the only way that helps me understand this idea of time when I'm dealing with little girls - or, really, not-so-little girls - is to think about being with my husband.
It's been 20 years since we started dating. Half my life. And, frankly, I barely remember what it was like without him. A little bit, but not a lot.
Basically, it's like ... forever. It's as though he's never not been such an intregal part of my life.
Imagine how much more our little annoyances with waiting amuse God, who is Eternal. No beginning, no end. A day is like a thousand years. How He must chuckle at our indignant answer when He tells us to wait before He answers a prayer.
I'm sure that Him asking us to wait for something is in our best interest, but we are like children: we can't see it.
When I pray, I must remember that there are three answers to my prayers:
- Yes. We like this best. It is when we pray for something that is beneficial to us - to our souls, especially - that we get this answer. Of course, being our Father in Heaven, God also likes to give good gifts to His children. Not all "Yes" answers are purely for our spiritual benefit. Some are just because we're getting a nice present from Daddy.
- Wait. We like this, but not nearly as much as "Yes." After all, we're like our own children, who when they are told they must wait until Christmas morning to open presents Grandma sent last week (and Christmas is three weeks away), sit and stare longingly at the presents under the tree, occasionally begging again to open it now. But sometimes, the wait is worth it. And sometimes, we aren't really ready for that "Yes." Oh, we think we are. We're very grown-up, you know. But what we are, sometimes, is that 12 year old asking for permission to drive the car. The 12 year old thinks she's a great driver. We happen to know a bit better.
- No. This is the answer that so few people like to talk about, and none of us really like. Oh, sure, deep down we understand that God has other things in store for us. Better things. But no child likes being told no. Even if you're asking for a pony and you live in the middle of suburbia. Even if you're asking if you can bring home the baby bear you found rummaging in the trashcan outside your rural mountain home. But God, being a Good Father, knows what's best for us. He has to tell us "No" sometimes.
What's really tough for us, as His children, is seeing the difference between God's "Wait," and His "No." Sometimes we are certain that He's said no. And we whine about it. We cease actually praying for our intention, but instead complain. Now, if it's a "wait," often there is a reason, like Christ perfecting the Samaritan woman's request, testing her motives and faith. As a mother, I do this sometimes, making sure that my children have good intentions behind a request, or even that they really do want the thing they're asking for.
God is the perfect Father! He will do the same for us. However, just as I will know the girls really want what they're asking for by listening to them ask (politely) again, God will also allow us to ask him repeatedly for our intentions.
However, if instead of polite requests I get whining and complaints, I am WAY less inclined to give in. Ever. Can our reaction to our children be that vastly different than God's?
So, I remind myself here that I must approach my petitions to God with reverence. I must always remember to take a good look at my own motivation for asking. Is it for good reasons? Am I asking for something that will be spiritually beneficial, or am I asking for the equivalent of a pet bear cub?
And, when God's answer seems to be "no," I must also re-evaluate and see if my petition is, indeed, appropriate. If I'm asking Jesus for a pony while I'm living in an apartment or for a pet cat that I'm terribly allergic to, I need to accept His "no" and move on. But if it is, I should do as Jesus instructed and persist, purifying my motivations and faith along the way. And I need to remember that just like it's 1/4 of Big Girl's life before we even begin discussing a cell phone, God's time is not my time, and His ways are not my ways. I might have a bit of a wait until I hear "Yes" from my Father in Heaven.