by Mike McKinniss
There was a time when I knew, just as everyone else did, that if you cozied too close to the Lord, he was bound to send you to the very place on the planet you least wanted to be.
As a teen, this was Africa, the dark continent, so called because I was entirely blind to anything remotely approaching its beautiful reality. I knew nothing about it, except that probably everyone lived in mud huts, drank dust and shooed cobras out of their kitchens.
What’s more, it was best in those days to rid yourself of desires altogether. These would only lead to pain, since the Lord was unlikely to fulfill them anyway. How could we be so selfish?
The real question—the holy question—was what God’s will might be. Never mind what I wanted. My desires would surely be laced with a good dose of my own conceit and vainglory. But God’s will, that was the thing to strive for, even if it would send you to Africa. And like castor oil, it’s best to take it quick and get it over with. It might be good for you, but you’ll hate it going down.
Then I began to learn, slowly, just how good God is.
When I finally began to take the plunge into God’s will, I did so with the trepidations articulated above. I took risks. That is, they felt like risks at the time. Yet as the Lord led me through one difficult decision after another, yielding my will to his, I found I repeatedly came out the other side not only unscathed, but quite happy.
I was discovering, first, that when I surrendered my will to his, it took me to good places. Jesus’ words from Matthew 13:44-46 were becoming true to me:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
A bit farther down the road, the Lord started unveiling a fresh lesson. Faced with new decisions in which it felt my entire life hung in the balance, I dutifully inquired of God: “What do you want me to do?”
Now, however, I was rather shocked by the response that began to return to my spirit. However often I would ask the question, the same puzzling thought arose. “Well,” God seemed to be saying, “what do you want to do?”
I knew better, though. There was no way, I had learned early on, God could possibly be interested in my desires. He was far too holy for that, and I less holy.
And anyway, this dialog with the Lord was sounding far too much like conversations with friends on a Friday night. “What do you want to do tonight?” “I don’t know. What do you want to do?” “I don’t know.” And so on. It could go on forever.
Surely the Lord was not engaging me on this level.
Then the key to God’s bizarre interest in my wishes was delivered. It came in talks with my wife. They began much like the conversations with friends, searching for something to do over a weekend, but it carried a very different overtone.
I might first ask what she was interested in doing with our evening. Having no set idea, she inquired of my wishes. It might have gone back and forth a few times, and the indecision between the two of us might have fed frustration.
But there was embedded within our circular dialog a positive note. She was genuinely interested in my desires, and I in hers. She was not asking about my hopes for the evening because she had no ideas, but because she wanted to take into account my interests. I was not asking for her ideas because I had none, but because I wanted to please her.
Love made us interested in each others’ desires, such that we were eager to have them blend together. I wanted to incorporate her wishes into mine; she wanted my dreams to inform hers.
It was dawning on me, then, what the Lord doing with me. He wasn’t interested in dictating my hopes. He wasn’t interested in overruling my every thought. Rather, he wanted a conversation that took my thoughts and feelings into account. He was inviting my into the process of determining his will, intertwining his will with mine.
So now when I ask the Lord his hopes for a given situation, I am no longer surprised when he responds, “Well, what do you want?” And the conversation begins.