“I’m hungry!” announced my 9 year old as he exploded through the back door, dripping wet and covered in mud and grass from playing in the wading pool. He walked into the kitchen staring at me expectantly.
I noticed that I felt annoyed with him and checked in for what that might mean. Ah, I’ve gotten out of the habit of requiring him to ask for what he wants.
He has reverted back to “announcing” recently and expecting me to produce whatever the implied desire is. That leaves me feeling like a broken vending machine constantly dispensing food, clean clothes, attention, etc. without any interaction or appreciation. And I’ve been preoccupied and reverted back to dispensing, encouraging the announcing to continue.
Thanks annoyance for pointing that out to me!
I stared back into his blue eyes without saying anything. Now it’s his turn to feel annoyed.
“I’m hungry” he repeated, pointedly, scrunching up his eyebrows.
“What would you like to ask for?”
“Ohhhh!” his eyes got wide and his mouth dropped open. “Can I please have a snack?” he laughed.
“Yes, thanks for asking. What would you like to snack on?”
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”James 4:1-3 NIV
It’s easy to see in a child, but we do it as adults too. We announce our sensations and expect someone to produce what we ourselves have not consciously realized we want.
Sometimes we announce them internally, and when no one dispenses what we want we get angry.
You never texted me back!
You’re always such a jerk!
We never do anything anymore!
You never ask how I’m doing, you’re so selfish!
Does that get us any closer to what we want and need?
All that gets us is a fight, more hurt, more loneliness, more emptiness.
But what if we asked, both God and others, instead of announcing, demanding, blaming, and accusing?
Hey, I’m feeling kinda lonely. If you have time, could I call you please? Could we please make plans to hang out?
I’m feeling angry. Can we talk about this please?
I’m bored with our routine, what if we tried something new this weekend?
I feel really sad, can I please have a hug and some time to talk?
Remember The Formula from the last post? You can use that to figure out what you want if you’re not sure or if your feelings are overwhelming. You can even use it as a prayer –
“God, I’m feeling __________ because ___________ and this is what I want ____________, is that what you want too? Will you please help me?”
We can also ask God to check our motivations. Does what we want match what God wants for us and any other people involved (based on what he tells us in Scripture)? Are we about to ask a human for something we need to ask God for first? Are we asking for God or someone else to take responsibility for our “stuff” (our beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and actions)? Are we asking without being willing to accept the other person’s “no”?
It’s possible to have mixed motivations. When God shows us an unhealthy motivation we can ask him for help to change it and focus on the healthy motivation that honors him, ourselves, and others.
Asking for what we want is another way we acknowledge and lead our feelings. It’s a step toward emotional and spiritual maturity that is surprisingly rare, but you can start it anytime.
So I’m asking: would you please start asking for what you want?