Saturday, June 6, 2009

Accepting What Is Given, Found and Opened to Us

To be totally honest, I am knee-deep in move preparations, and wrapping up the responsibilities for my church calling - and I forgot to write this post before midnight, so it would post right away this morning. It also is an interesting resolution for me - not because it is something about which I don't think often, but because it's something about which I am a bit conflicted.

My resolution for this month is to ask God for more specific desires and is taken from Matthew 7:7-8, which says:

7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

I am conflicted by this passage specifically because the most straightforward, parsed interpretation (which is my standard initial approach in every case) turns God into something like a vending machine - giving something to anyone who puts enough money into the slots. When I read the words, I am torn somewhat, since I don't see God as that type of being. I believe obedience is rewarded, and I have no problem with the idea that I need to ask, seek and knock - but I do have a problem with the way that this passage is used to justify lots of practices and interpretations with which I disagree strongly.

As I thought about this post, however, something struck me that I had not considered perviously - and it was an eye-opener for me:

When I actually read it again (both verses in conjunction with each other - as two separate statements), it hit me that the parsed meaning does NOT equate to the vending machine analogy. There is a huge difference between that analogy and what the words themselves actually say. I am going to break it down phrase by phrase and show, hopefully, what I mean.

"Ask, and it shall be given you. - For everyone who asketh receiveth."

The first part (verse 7) seems to imply that the person who asks will receive exactly that for which s/he asks. The second part (verse 8), however, is the echo / resolution. It doesn't specify such a direct, one-on-one relationship. Rather, it leaves the receiving open-ended and non-specific. Also, the first says "it" shall be given you (placing the emphasis on the giver); the second turns the emphasis around and says those who ask "receive" (placing the emphasis on the asker accepting whatever it is that is given).

This same re-orientation applies to the other two phrases about seeking and knocking - leaving what will be found and what lies behind the door open and unspecified, and putting the responsibility directly on the seeker and knocker rather than the provider and the opener.

This perspective has been interesting for me to ponder, as it opens all kinds of interesting possibilities for what will be received, found and opened. More than anything else, this has led me to recommit to continuing to ask, seek and knock - even if what is given, uncovered and revealed is not exactly what I expected when I asked, sought and knocked. I need to believe "it" will be right for me, regardless - to believe that God knows me well enough to allow me to receive, find and reveal what will help me personally return to and become like Him and His Son - even if that is slightly or radically different than what he provides for someone else.


Jami said...

I think the next verses are interesting too.

9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, abeing evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

It doesn't say the son will get bread or fish specifically. It says "good gifts." Perhaps the son will receive pottage or something else that will nourish, not harm, him.

God does give us good things when we ask. But sometimes the specifics are not at all what we were expecting.

Christy said...

I've always struggled with this: trying to reconcile asking so that I can receive, and submitting myself to the Lord's will. So far I am trying to resolve it by trying to be in tune with what the Lord wants of me, and asking for the ability and gifts I need to do it.