"Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? How much more, then, will your Parent in heaven give good things to those who ask?" - Matthew 7:9-11
Sometimes I think it's worth considering what Jesus doesn't say as well as what he says. Take, for instance, this hypothetical about prayer: Jesus seems to be saying that when we pray in faith to God the process is just as straightforward as a child asking a parent for food: We ask, God gives, everyone's happy. It sounds so simple.
But I wonder if Jesus is familiar with my doubting prayers. The ones where I second-guess not God, exactly, but certainly myself. The prayers in which I think maybe I shouldn't want bread or fish or my heart's true desire. The ones where I ask for the spiritual strength to settle for something less-than.
I'm guessing you know what I'm talking about. Write your unfulfilled, maybe-I-don't-deserve-it longing here: ________________
Now, notice this: Jesus doesn't judge the merits of the hungry child's request. He doesn't try to redirect the child's desires toward something more realistic. Nor does he recommend that the child's parents respond with a reasonable substitute: Not a stone for bread, of course, but perhaps a few gluten-free crackers instead. Not a snake (criminy!), but maybe some organic broccoli instead of fish. Not nothing, for Pete's sake, but have you considered a water-only fast?
Nope. Jesus doesn't say anything about dialing back our desires. He doesn't tell us what we should want. And he certainly doesn't suggest we might not deserve what we long for.
"Ask," is all he says. Then ask some more, because the Source of all your longings longs to make you whole.
Longing God, may I trust you with my heart's deepest desire. And give me the faith to keep knocking on heaven's door. Amen.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.