What a Letdown

My toddler and I have daily disagreements about what he needs.

I say he needs a nap.   He thinks he needs unlimited playtime.matthew6-33

I say he needs healthy food, like the banana I sliced up on his highchair tray.  He thinks he needs the cookie hidden at the top of the snack cabinet.

I say he needs a diaper change.  He feels the need to scream at the top of his lungs, contort his body, writhe and wriggle to avoid being cleaned up.

After I win that battle and clean his little bottom, I say he needs a new diaper on.  He runs away giggling because he thinks he needs to hang out in the nude.

I say he needs to come out of the bath when the water is cold and his fingers are wrinkling like prunes.  He says he needs to stay in the bath.  Period.  Like, forever.

Momma says he needs to play with his books, his blocks, and his toy trucks.  He thinks he needs to play with my smartphone.

I say he needs to color with the crayons on paper.  He disagrees, believing he needs to color with the crayons on our books and then eat the crayon.

I tell him he needs to pet the cat gently or not at all.  He thinks he needs to jump on the cat, pull the cat’s tail, sit on the cat and then stretch out with his whole body covering the cat and ignore the hissing and growling.

I know what he needs in order for him to be healthy, well-fed, well-rested, clean, and safe.

Yet, if I gave him what he thought that he needed, he’d be naked and starving, covered in his own feces, utterly exhausted and mauled to pieces by an irritated feline.

Perhaps part of growing up is learning what we really need.

Or perhaps we never truly learn.

After all, don’t I sometimes pray for what I need and discover through temporary disappointment and ultimate awe that God knew better? His “no,” though painful in the moment, becomes my salvation.

God loves us enough to give us what we really need rather than what we’ve mistakenly asked for.

Four men carried their paralyzed friend on a cot to see Jesus.  They tried to shove through the mob that was packed into the house, but they failed.

So, they climbed onto the roof, hauled the stretcher up there, broke down the thatch, and lowered their friend into the middle of the room.

They pushed and pushed and pushed through every obstacle so their friend could have what he ‘needed.’

Mark writes:

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven”  (Mark 2:5 ESV).

Forgiveness?

Is this what they wanted?

In his book, The One-Year Experiencing God’s Presence Devotional, Chris Tiegreen writes:

 Clearly they came for one thing: healing.  They wanted their friend to walk.  He wanted to walk.  A miracle was all they had on their minds.  So a declaration of forgiveness, while a nice spiritual touch, might have been a letdown.

Let down.

Is that how we feel when we come looking for the miracle, and He heals our heart instead?

So often we come to God with the practical need and the specific requests, telling Him our problems and sometimes even telling Him how to fix them.

His desire, though, isn’t just for our best; it’s for our spiritual best.  It’s to break down every obstacle to His presence and cut through every barrier to intimacy with Him.

We ask to walk.

He grants forgiveness first.

That man stood up off that mat and walked out of the house with his friends.  His physical need was met.  But more importantly, Jesus answered his true spiritual need first.

And, what do any of us really need?

A better job?  A healed marriage? An end to conflict?  A bigger house?  A good doctor’s report?

Yes. Maybe.

But more than that…..we need mercy.  We need grace.  We need His Presence.  We need hope.  We need forgiveness.

When we seek Him, truly seek Him, searching for His face, listening for His voice, longing to know Him and to talk with Him, He gives us what we really need.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33 ESV).

Lord, what I really need is You.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

What I Said and What I Was Thinking

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:1-2)

She was crying and telling me she felt like a total flake.  Life had been crazy, filled with mistakes and missed appointments, misplaced papers, forgotten promises, everything lost and mixed up and wrong.

I remember being partially sympathetic and somewhat compassionate, outwardly consoling her and sharing words of encouragement as other shoppers pushed their way past our carts.

But inside, in the secret places of my mind and heart, that compassion wasn’t genuine.  It was hollow pat-her-on-the-back kind of friendship–the kind that is sorry she had a bad week, but fell short of true understanding or free-flowing grace.

in fact, the all-business side of me was passing unspoken judgment.

Forgetting, missing, losing, making mistakes? It didn’t sound like an attack from Satan to me.  It sounded more like a too-busy schedule and an absent organizational system.  Somehow I thought a few files and a day planner could save the day.

Two weeks later, I was crying at my kitchen table.  It had been a week of misplaced papers and missing items—not little insignificant things—BIG things, like legal documents and Department of Motor Vehicle paperwork.

For someone generally in control and on top of things, the week had been a devastatingly humbling reminder of just how flaky I can be.

An attack from Satan?  Suddenly it seemed possible.  Or even a tool God was using to challenge my heart and burn away the hidden places of self-condemnation and then smother the flames with His unconditional love and grace.

We so quickly stumble into a world of silent judgment, assessing, evaluating, and categorizing the people around us.

The frazzled-looking momma with the crying baby in Wal-Mart.
The parents whose teenager disappeared from church.
The couple who met with the divorce lawyers last week.
The husband and wife holding the bankruptcy paperwork.
The family with the nice new car and large house.
Those who homeschool (or don’t).
Those who have large families (or small).
The mom who commutes every day to work (and the one who doesn’t.)
The highly fashionable woman next to you in church, with perfectly polished nails, a size 4 waist, and a wardrobe that looks like it costs more than your house (or the one in jeans and a t-shirt).

And maybe we think we’re justified, that our own success in these areas qualifies us for positions of authority.  Or maybe we’ve memorized a list of Bible verses that prove our position.  As long as we’re quiet about it, after all, there seems little harm.  It’s only in our heart, only our own private thoughts of criticism.

Sure it might spill over occasionally into snarky remarks and private jibes among our like-minded friends, but mostly we control the collateral damage.

Yet, isn’t that the picture of the pharisees in Luke 5, solemnly and silently sitting off on their own, overlooking Jesus’ ministry and remaining stoically untouched by His compassionate healing?

Scripture tells us: “One day Jesus was teaching and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there” (Luke 5:17).

They had front row seats, a privileged view of the hurting crowd and the four friends carrying a man on a mat and lowering him down through the ceiling.  Jesus saw the faith of the friends, their determination and selflessness.  He saw the paralyzed man, so dependent on others even to carry him to the feet of the Savior.

And Jesus healed him by saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20).

Maybe the crowd marveled at the miracle.  Perhaps the man who had been confined to a mat danced a jig and hugged his faithful friends.

Others remained unmoved:

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21).

It likely seemed safe, passing silent thoughts of judgment.  They were, after all, just “thinking to themselves.”  They didn’t hop up on a soapbox or try to steal the show.  They didn’t argue with the crowd or publicly condemn the healed or the Healer.

It was just an internal dialogue, a private moment of judgment and condemnation.

But, “Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, ‘Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?‘” (Luke 5:22).

Even our most secretive judgments of others have an audience—Jesus Himself.   That’s why Beth Moore, in her book, Jesus, the One and Only, asks: “How do I silently judge?”  Because judgment that doesn’t appear on protest signs or Facebook posts or Twitter feeds or in pulpits is still judgment.

The truth is I’m desperately in need of the grace Christ has poured out on me, and if I need that kind of grace, then I need to show that kind of grace: unhindered, unqualified, unmarred by an undercurrent of criticism and condescension.  Just grace.  Beautiful, pure, deep down honest grace.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in the Fall of 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King