Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ask

A student from my fourth grade class visited our church with his family today.  My favorite thing about teaching and going to church in close proximity are opportunities I get to teach children in a public school classroom and then worship alongside the same children (and later teenagers) on Sundays.  For me, this is what it’s all about.

This morning, I was very lucky because this student and his friend (who has always come to my church) came and sat next to me.  I smiled as they put their heads together to find the right pages in the hymn book and asked me to help them find the appropriate book in the Bible.  However, as precious as these moments were, I can’t say they’re what stuck out to me most. 

The most striking moment came during the offertory music, as I reached for my purse for a piece of gum.  I held out the pack to the boys and quietly asked if either of them would like a piece.  One boy (the one I’ve known longer) immediately took me up on the offer. The other boy looked just as anxious to grab his piece, but paused and looked over his shoulder, two rows back to his mom, and asked, “Can I have some gum?” I turned around to smile at her and found her fumbling in her purse for some gum.  I whispered, “I have the gum.  He’s just asking for permission.”  We both laughed and she nodded.  I smiled and whispered, “He’s well-trained.” 

As he unwrapped his gum and handed me back his wrapper, I thought about how odd it felt that he asked permission from his mom, when he spends 30+ hours a week looking to me for those answers.  I have no delusion that I’m anywhere close to as important as a parent in my students’ lives, but still…it was just a piece of gum.  I found it impressive that he was so respectful, so restrained, and so well-trained, as I told his mom, to stop and ask before taking.

Maybe it was just because we were in church, but next I began to think that just as this boy’s mom should be proud of the way he handled himself, God would be proud if we handled ourselves similarly.  It’s so easy to forget who we belong to, who sets up our opportunities, who directs our paths and knows our every move before we take it.  Just as this boy easily could have forgotten who was charge of him in that moment, we forget who is in charge of us all the time.  We get caught up in a certain career path, family plan, financial opportunity, or even church project and before long, we are convinced that it belongs to US or to at least to our boss, our pastor, our financial advisor, our friends or family.  We look to everyone BUT God for our next step, our next payday, our next opportunity, so that even when these things are presented to us as part of His plan, we completely leave Him out of the process. 

I’m not suggesting that you stop and pray the next time before you pop a piece of gum in your mouth.  But I am suggesting our lives might be different (better) if we stopped to consult our Father in those moments we’ve taken into our own hands far too often.  We say we pray about big decisions, but how often do we really listen for the answer?  Most of the time, we already have our minds made up about what is best for us.  When it comes to the good, seemingly innocent, opportunities that come our way, how often do we stop and ask God if that’s really the path He has planned for us? 

I’ve often struggled with the concept of truly handing my life over to Him.  What does that look like?  Am I anywhere close?  How does that apply on a practical, daily basis?  I think I saw a glimpse of it this morning, as a boy didn’t even reach for what was offered until he had permission from the one who is in charge of him.  I know this kid pretty well, and I feel sure that he would’ve kept smiling and maybe just shrugged even if the answer had been “no” for some reason.  I don’t think he would have argued or even asked “why?” – simply trusting that his mom knew best.

My prayer is that I can remember these lessons from a ten-year-old the next time I’m faced with a decision.  After all, sometimes all He wants is for us to ask.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.” 

-Matthew 7:7

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