It is birthday season for the Johnsons! Lilli turned 5 last August, Patton celebrated number 3 last week, and Aidan will be here soon! It is a great time to thank God for where He has led us and for a brief moment, when the huge cake is sitting at your place with ever increasing numbers of candles, you can dream about what you desire the future to be, make a wish and blow out the flames. Of course, you cannot tell anybody about your wish, because that will hinder it from coming true. So we keep it tucked away deep down in our hearts.
Why do we keep it a secret? Interestingly, Jesus tells us to ask the Father and He will give it to us. We do not have because we do not ask. Are we sure about this? Then in Psalms, David says that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, then He will give us the desires of our hearts. Really? I have often pondered these verses, vacillating between questioning the validity and seeking ways to cash in on the promises.
Over the past few months, I have spent a lot of time reading Psalms 37- the one that promises God will give us the desires of our heart. Going to Uganda, though it fits us, is completely out of left field. Before 8 months ago, I never thought we would be headed to Africa. China, India, Europe- maybe, but not Africa. I was careful not to tell God that we would never go to Africa- as you know that is a sure ticket on the next boat. Instead, we half jokingly pray that God will “not” send us to Hawaii. We actually just had never thought about the idea of missions in Africa. We did not even know where Uganda was on a map. Yet, we are on a fast track to Bundibugyo. How does this fit in with our desires?
In the past, when I would pray about my desires, I worked out a formula in my head. All day I would try extra hard at delighting in God and then, that night ask Him for a new bike or a certain date or whatever was next on my wish list. As I learned a little more, I began to see that everything I wanted was not always what God wanted. So I spent extra time trying to figure out what desires of mine were godly and then ask God for those. (I may have stretched the godly qualifications of some.) However, this Africa thing has thrown all my thoughts and ideas for a loop. Not to say this is even the right answer, but I am now wondering if maybe Jesus knows the desires of my heart more than I do. Maybe there are things out there that I want and do not know it. Maybe it is not about me picking out my greatest hopes and asking for them, nor is it trying to deny my wishes so I only have godly ones. Maybe God does want to give me what I want and I just do not always know what it is that I want. Lilli’s and Patton’s favorite foods and activities are often ones they initially did not want to touch. Now you cannot keep them away from it. They just didn’t know how fun bike riding is or how good olives taste. How could they if they had never tried it? The unknown often strikes more fear in our hearts than our current reality. We remain clueless about so much in this world. Wonderful things may lie on the other side of our wardrobe. Difficult-perhaps. Challenging- usually. Fun, delightful, and even desires of our heart? I don’t know. I don’t know what they are. But they may be!
I cannot honestly say that we are thrilled or even excited about going to Uganda all the time. It is a beautiful place with neat people and a job that fits our training. Still, it is so far away from those we love and so different from us. We find ourselves hesitant most of the time and fearful a lot of the time. There are no big houses or big paychecks. We will not have Sunday afternoon dinners with parents, boat rides on the lake with Papa and T-ball practice with Poppy. These are deep desires of ours. It is difficult to see how anything in Uganda could measure up. Yet, I am gaining hope that there are desires in Amy’s, Lilli’s, Patton’s, Aidan’s and my heart that will only be met there.
Thomas is one of my favorite Apostles, because he is honest. When Jesus sets out for Jerusalem the last time, the apostles think he is crazy because they know it will be certain death. Many counsel Him not to go. Seeing that He would not be persuaded, Thomas says, “ Lets all go that we may die with him.” What he sees in the future is bleak. But he would rather be with Jesus in bleakness than at home and safe. Jesus had asked him to go, and though he did not see anything hopeful in the situation, and said so, he went. And, as he predicted- Jesus died while everyone ran away. The disciples gathered back together to hide and I am sure Thomas was the one sitting in the corner waiting to hear the knock of the soldiers on the door. He questioned any hope that something other than death would occur, even when everyone was talking about a resurrection- life greater than death. God was setting up Thomas for something marvelously beautiful. Something just for him. His deepest hope, the most secret longing was met. His Lord suddenly stood in front of Him, asked him to touch Him. It was real- everything. The promise was true- all of it. What he dared to ask- happened. Thomas could not even reach out to touch Jesus. He fell face first and was the first to declare our risen Lord, God! God was his friend. God loved him. God sought him. God answered his question. God met his deepest longing. God was there, with him. He knew God and God knew him! Thomas’s greatest desire was met because he followed though he did not understand. He must have delighted in this Jesus. tj
Matthew 7:8, Psalms 37:4, John 11:16