All the World's a Classroom
There is something to be said about asking. When we ask for something, we put ourselves in a vulnerable place, because the answer to the request may be a “No.” The aftermath of that answer may send us to a whirlwind of disappointment and hurt, and at the next occasion, we may ask a little more timidly or refrain from it altogether.
It is a fearful thing to ask. But asking is also the key that unlocks an entirely exciting reality that we may never experience otherwise.
The cool thing about asking is that we may actually get what we ask for.
To the Christian, the fear of asking presents a big problem in the spiritual journey. God tells His followers to ask Him for things. “Ask, and you will receive,” He said. But the simplicity of that statement is problematic to the modern, skeptical, and cynical person. Is He really going to give me what I ask for? Even after we fulfill the “requirements” of answered prayers, like being aligned with God’s specific promise, having a pure motive, being thankful, asking for a good thing, etc., we still doubt if perhaps, maybe, possibly God is too busy for our tiny little requests (humility? Or distrust?). If we ask too much, it will be impossible for God to answer it.
Well, the fear of asking will get in the way of intimacy. How can we be close to anyone if we doubt whether he/she wants the best for us?
I believe there is a way to overcome this fear of asking, and it is this: God has done the most impossible thing. For you. For me.
Think of the most unlikely thing, the most miraculous happening that you want to happen. God has already exceeded that.
The most impossible thing that God has done is to forgive our sins, to save a sinner from death to eternal life. Everything else pales in comparison to that. How can we grasp the impossibility of someone who sins and is condemned to death, but doesn’t have to die? Instead, he can still have eternal life as if he never sinned.
Think of the most outrageous request that you have timidly requested to God. What is that request compared to salvation? All of our outrageous requests combined cannot compare to salvation.
When Jacob returned to Canaan and was at the brink of reuniting with his twin brother, Esau, he was trembling with fear. Last time Jacob saw Esau, Esau wanted to kill him because he had stolen something precious. The weight of that sin was heavy on Jacob. But after a night of wrestling with God and after being assured of forgiveness from God, “Jacob no longer feared to meet his brother. God, who had forgiven his sin, could move the heart of Esau also to accept his humiliation and repentance.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 198.
Ever asked for God to change someone’s heart? Sounds pretty impossible, doesn’t it? Yet it is less impossible than the forgiveness of sin.
So, never ask for ‘impossible’ things, because it is easy for God to fulfill it. “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32
Ask. Boldly, courageously, obnoxiously. Like a (trusting) spoiled brat to a doting father. Show Him that you actually trust Him.
Ever wondered if the colors you were seeing were the same colors everybody else saw?
My favorite color is green. It has always been green since I was in my mother’s womb—I am convinced of it. Green is the color of life, the essence of any beautiful scenery. In fact, when I was young, I liked green so much that I could not understand why anyone’s favorite color was anything other than green. How could they like blue or yellow as much as green? These colors were just not on equal grounds.
My sister’s favorite color used to be red, and I just could not reconcile it in my mind why she would like red more than green. So to resolve this conundrum in my mind, I had this thought: What if what she was calling red was actually green? What if the color that we were all calling our favorite was actually the same color (i.e., my green), but we were just calling it by different names?
But how would I prove this thought? I could only experience the colors that I saw and I couldn’t jump into another person’s body to see what they saw. Even if I had an eye transplant, that organ would be in a new body, and who knew how that organ would function in a new environment? How could I be sure that my green was the same as my sister’s green? I had been taught to call green “green”, but how did my parents know what I saw?
I was old enough to know that if I pursued that thought further I could just go crazy. So I stopped and accepted, by faith, that what everyone called green was in fact the same color, and left it at that.
But was that not a freaky thought?
One of my personal concerns in life is the danger of self-deception. The catch is that I wouldn’t realize it if I were being deceived—it wouldn’t be called deception otherwise. I care about whether something is true or not. I care whether or not what I see is equal to my perception. I care whether or not my understanding about anything or any person is correct. I ask myself this question a lot: Am I blind? Am I seeing reality as it really is? Or is what I call reality (i.e., the reality of any situation) is some illusion I conjectured in my mind?
I don’t know how other people handle this, but for me, multiplicity of perspective from other people is crucial is gauging any situation. Most importantly though, is my relationship with God. One of my continuing prayers is for God to help me see clearly and to show where I am in the wrong. I don’t think the question of reality can be answered without touching the issue of faith, just like we can never be sure of colors without putting some faith in a collective claim or reality. You can measure wavelengths, but you still can’t see what another person sees.
If there’s anything close to a conclusion I’ve made regarding this issue, it would be this: Your chance of being self-deceived is inversely proportional to your openness to be wrong (and be shown that you are wrong).
Isn’t is a wonder that it doesn’t take 20/20 vision, glasses, or contact lenses to notice the tiny faults in other people? Out of all the faults ever existed in the universe, the hardest ones to see are my own.
There’s this really wise saying that asks a cute question, Why do you worry at the speck in your friend’s eye, while there’s a log in your own eye? It’s a good question, wouldn’t you say? Consider the irony of the person who has the log in his eye offering help to remove the speck in the other person’s eye. (Sounds familiar, anyone?) Naturally, the counsel goes something like this, Why don’t you first remove the log in your eye, then you can see clearer to deal with the speck. (Duh!)
A story was told of a king, a generally good one, who did something terrible. (Yes, normal, good people can do terrible things.) He got hooked on a lady, and he took her to his chamber. Problem was, she was married. To one of his captains no less.
To make matters worse, she got pregnant. So to hide his deeds, the king called the captain home from the battlefield and told him to rest and go home to his wife. But the good man refused, because he felt wrong being home while his compatriots fought in war. So the king arranged that the captain returned to the forefront of the battle, to essentially ensure his death. Terrible, I know.
In came a trusted advisor of the king, the Rebuker. He told the king a tale of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man owned many sheep and cattle, but the poor one, only a little lamb, which he took care tenderly over the years. One day the rich man decided to party, and instead of taking one of his flocks, he went to the poor man, took his lamb, and killed it for his feast.
The king was outraged by this injustice. He said, “That rich man deserved to die!”
The Rebuker’s next words must be really piercing. He said to the king, “You are that man.”
At the end of the story, the king was in horror when he realized what he did, who he was. But the interesting thing was his end was better than the ending he would have given to the rich man in the story; he was ready to kill the rich man.
Isn’t it a wonder that we can be harsher to others’ faults when we are blinded by our own? It really is a good idea to remove the log in our eyes first, before we deal with others’ specks. Perhaps a few of us really need to be good surgeons to help remove those specks. But what likely would happen is, when we remove the log in our eyes, the specks disappear too.