How To Get What you Want

The late afternoon sun settled toward the ocean and into the tops of distant palm trees. I was out of time. Chainsaw in one hand and branch shears in the other, I stared at the remaining juniper bushes. The tangle of barbed branches and spiky leaves lined the edge of my property. A couple of hours ago, I’d have said it was a 30 minute task. Now, covered in sweat and blood from a thousand tiny scratches, I was barely halfway through. The construction crew was coming tomorrow. Why hadn’t I cut these things down a week ago?

The job took extra time because every branch had to be dragged up a very long driveway. I needed help and the only pair of hands nearby were my eight-year-old son’s. “Hey Taras, want to earn some points?” 

He earned points for chores, homework, and piano practice. He could trade them for computer game-time or money (which he spent on computer games). 

“How about five points a branch?” I picked one up to show him it wasn’t heavy.

It took a little convincing, but finally he took up the smallest branch and plodded up the driveway.

I watched him for a minute, his tiny hands engulfed in my gloves. He wasn’t happy about the work, but I was proud of his choice to step up to do what needed to be done.

I went back to the bushes, making sure to cut the branches kid-sized. The pile of branches was eight feet high. That’s a lot of work for a small boy. How long did I have before he got tired and just gave up? 

I looked up to see how he was doing. He was running down the driveway toward the pile. With a grin, he grabbed a branch in each hand. “I already have 50 points. I’m making sooo much money!” He spun and ran the branches back the other way.

I always thought “bursting with pride” was a silly idiom, but as I watched him go, I thought my heart would explode. He knew how much he was getting per branch, but what he didn’t know was that by fully stepping into my request, he’d broken the bank. When we got home not only was I going to give him the game-time he earned, I was going to give him so much extra his little eyes would bleed. 

I suddenly felt God standing beside me. “Now you understand.”

I’ve always loved the Bible verses on getting what you want like, [the Lord] will give you the desires of your heart, or ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. I’ve also always loved the way the bible talks about my rewards with language like, rewarded a hundredfold, or opening the floodgates of heaven. What I used to dislike was the way those promises didn’t match my reality. 

In all fairness, they all come with caveats like, delight yourself in the Lord, or abide in Jesus, or tithe, etc. If the promises didn’t come true, either God’s lying or delaying, or I’m screwing it up. I know me so I know the answer to that; I wasn’t abiding enough or delighting enough, or whatever. 

But at that moment beside the branch pile, the reality of God’s audacious promises to me suddenly made sense.

I ask God for a lot of things. Most are probably not good for me. My son, Taras, begs me almost incessantly for game-time. I limit what he gets because I’m concerned for his health and mental growth. But every now and then his desire matches mine, and he does something that makes me unable to resist giving him everything he wants and more. Is my relationship with God really that different?

These days I live an utterly blessed life. I’m embarrassed to tell you details on how good it is with money, work (if you could call it that), love and affection, health, etc. Don’t get me wrong, I have my hurts and frustrations. Sometimes I still cry for no other reason than my heart is irreparably broken. But most of that is the wreckage of a life built on the sand. Many years ago I heard author W.M Paul Young say he prays God doesn’t bless anything he does. Paul doesn’t want God blessing his selfish, shortsighted plans, Paul wants to be where God is already at work and blessing. At the time I thought, yeah. I’m in. I picked up the branches with both hands and started running.

If you think I’m talking “Prosperity Gospel” nonsense, I’m not. Suffering is not only part of life, it’s part of the Christian walk. Jesus asks us to take up our cross. But he also says his burden is lighter than the one I’ll carry without him. I’m convinced it’s because he carries most of the load, and at the same time fills me with a ridiculous joy and peace.

How do I get what I want? Author and international speaker Beth Guckenberger convinced me the answer is in the Hebrew word, “Hineni.” It translates as “here I am,” but it means so much more. It’s what we’d say to someone in authority over us. It means, “here I am and although I don’t know what you have in mind, I’m on board with whatever it is.” 

Not surprisingly, that word is all over the bible. Everyone says it in response to God’s call; Abraham, Moses, and Mary to name a few. It’s what I said to God when I realized he knew what I wanted more than I did. However there is one place that stopped me cold. I re-read the passage and re-read it again. 

It’s in Isaiah 58. God is angry at his people for doing righteous-looking acts while ignoring the hurting people around them. He basically says instead of your churchy stuff, loose the chains of injustice, share your food with the hungry, provide the poor wanderer with shelter, and clothe the naked. 

Watching Taras run up the driveway dragging juniper branches, I knew he was going to get whatever he wanted, and more. I simply couldn’t help myself. God makes his branch-pile clear in Isaiah 58. When I respond, he responds with the most incredible statement. “You will call, and the Lord will answer … he will say: Here I am. (Hineni)”

When the most powerful being in the universe says to you, “Here I am and whatever you have in mind, I’m on board.,” prepare to have your mind blown