July 5, 2008

Direction, Not Rejection




How many times has this happened? I set a well-reasoned, thoughtfully considered goal. I ask God to guide me to the correct outcome (the one I have in mind, of course). I ask a trusted friend for help or rely upon a stable resource for support. What emerges is the opposite of what I'd hoped for, or something worse.

Emotionally, this feels like rejection. I suppose it is. I am slowly learning to understand what looks like rejection, tastes like rejection, and sounds like rejection is often divine direction masquerading in an ugly outfit.

So much of pop psychology and self-help theology (can there be such a thing?) condition us to believe we should have what we have thoughtfully and prayerfully requested. Besides, aren't there Bible verses to support this outlook? Matthew 7:7-11 says:

7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

Better yet, John 15:7-8 says:

7 "If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

In the passage from Matthew, Jesus reassures us the Father knows how to give us good gifts. What He doesn't say is that we don't always know how to recognize or accept them. We don't always ask for what's truly good. Our comprehension is limited and the limitations really show up in this area.

In a recent meditation time, I wondered aloud why a certain series of what I deemed "unfortunate events" were allowed to emerge in my life. Immediately stamped upon my consciousness was the phrase "direction, not rejection."

There are societal ills and mean, violent criminal acts we should resist. These belong is a category apart from the strictly personal hurts we feel as we push through setbacks. Direction, not rejection.

In the passage from John 15, Jesus sets a big condition on His promise "...ask whatever you wish and it will be given you." The condition, "remain in me and my words remain in you" means I am not asking for anything against His glory and my good. I don't always know what is for my good and I'm often not far-sighted enough to distinguish what's for His glory. When I am on target, I am going to receive what I request. When I am off target, I will get directions. If I take my directions to heart and obey them, I will be back on target, receiving what I request.

I am working very hard on losing the frustration that has often accompanied my disappointment in seeing hopes dashed, plans undone, and paths redirected. God the Father is always giving good gifts. If He tells me to make a left turn instead of a right turn, should I argue about that? If He uses someone else to pass on those directions, should I complain about His choice of messenger?

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