Thursday, October 21, 2010

What to expect when you're not expecting

So, I am once again going to blog my thoughts from last night's addiction recovery group. Yay!

This week we talked about Step 3, Trust in God. In the words of the original Alcoholics Anonymous, this is the step where we make "a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him."

As we read, something stood out to me. It came from a talk by Boyd K. Packer, in which he said:

Perhaps the greatest discovery of my life, without question the greatest commitment, came when finally I had the confidence in God that I would loan or yield my agency to Him–without compulsion or pressure, without any duress, as a single individual alone, by myself, no counterfeiting, nothing expected other than the privilege. In a sense, speaking figuratively, to take one's agency, that precious gift which the scriptures make plain is essential to life itself, and say, "I will do as thou directs," is afterward to learn that in so doing you possess it all the more.

The phrase that jumped out at me was "nothing expected other than the privilege." Maybe this was because I have been thinking a lot lately about some important relationships in my life, and the way these relationships are affected by expectations-- whether my own or someone else's.

For example, I have a roommate we can call Brooks. He's a real clothes horse; he likes to look good. He also likes to help other people look good. So when I leave for work in the morning, I'll often run my clothing choices past him, or ask for his advice. This continued coaching on style is a great benefit that I gain from his friendship. But I did not become his friend because I expected to get something out of it. And he doesn't expect that I will only be his friend so long as I get compliments on the ties he picks out. Of course this must be so, because friends don't treat each other as mere means to an end.

Unfortunately, my relationship with God is sometimes centered around expectations. My prayers are always most fervent when there is something that I want. To some degree this is unavoidable and even acceptable. After all, Jesus said if we want something, we should ask for it, expecting that it will be given.

But my prayers are not always going to be answered in the way that I would like. God gives good things not just to good people, but to all his children. And sometimes the things I ask for, I just don't get. Like, last year some goon stole my laptop. I asked God for it to be miraculously returned (and for the thief to get hit by a bus). But it didn't happen (as far as I know). That was hard. I don't know that I have ever prayed harder than I did in January and February of 2009. But, okay, maybe my desires were a little selfish.

On the other hand, and more to the point of our discussion last night, I have asked a lot of times for God to change my heart and free me of all the stupid self-destructive behaviors that have plagued me since I was a boy. I think that's a pretty good thing to ask for. But it hasn't happened yet, and sometimes that is hard for me to understand. I feel like I've put a lot in, and I want something out.

But that's not the way it works. I don't earn his grace. I draw near to God not in the expectation of being showered with goodies, but because I love Him.

I know He loves me, too, and he has promised me that in His own time, He will remake me into something new and wonderful. But waiting is hard. I don't know when that is going to happen-- and maybe it's wrong even to think that it will happen all at once. Maybe it happens bit by bit. Lots of important things happen that way. So, I wait. And I try to trust God, and keep drawing near to him, expecting 'nothing other than the privilege.'

And maybe a laptop.



Grettle said...

Don't forget about that thief wearing Tibetan cashmere hand knitted articles that I had to remake over and over to fit your cranium. ARGH. I don't like that person. I wasn't sure I could even share that cashmere with you much less a thief.

Stephanie said...

In our house when Shayne is dressed in a particularly dapper tie combination,he says, "I am going for a John Payne look today." Just for the record the most recent occurrence of this was Sunday.

the House of Payne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the House of Payne said...

My friend "Brooks" will be happy for the secondhand praise.

And Mom, thank you for the scarf and hat you knitted for me. The thief may have the physical objects, but I still carry the gift.