Sunday, November 20, 2011

When what you want is not really what you want

I'd like to take this fine Sunday evening to talk about the negative revelation I get from God. By negative, I don't mean he tells me that I am an ugly-faced stinker, I mean the revelation in which he says, "No."

I get more "no's" than "yes's" and I think that makes sense. I'm more likely to give clear guidance to my daughter if she wants to go play in the street than if she is quietly reading a book or playing with her ponies. So it makes sense that my Heavenly Father would be most emphatic in his "no's." Mostly I get this negative revelation when I have firmly decided on a course of action. It happens sort of regularly but here are the clearest times in my life:

1. When I already had a slot in the Peace Corps to go teach bee-keeping in Africa and I was told no, I needed to go on a mission. By the way, the Peace Corps was pretty angry with me backing out. Not so peaceful in their use of language

2. When there was no way in this world I was going to let my husband join the army.

3. When I had decided we wouldn't have any more least not for a long time.

For all these things I got a "No" and the reasoning I understood from it was (and continues to be the same): "What you think you want is not really what you want."

Have you had this experience too? It's a little frightening. You do the best you can to figure out what you want in life. You look at the experience of others. You evaluate yourself to find what really makes you happy. You do some research. You pick your goals and you go after them...only to find out your choices are wrong. You've somehow forgotten that what you want in life is not to be happy, it's to be like Christ.

(Caveat: Okay, I know that man is to have joy,but by the way, joy and happiness are different. And Christ is definitely not happy all the time. We have lots of his sad moments in writing.)

I am grateful for each of the "no's" I have received. My life is better and I am a better person because of them. I hope I continue to receive them. Still, each time I get one it shakes me up a little. I hope to eventually be more like my mother who has spent more time in study and prayer than I have, and has a more open conversation with God. I think this makes his comments much less of a surprise to her than they are to me.

To conclude this slightly too introspective blog post, I am posting a poem about prayer I wrote as a freshman or sophomore in college, which I hope will let you forgive me for my weird use of the term "grapeshot."


When you kneel

your prayers, clear and light,

sing forever upwards.

My words, like grapeshot,

shoot out in all directions.

Hitting the walls, they echo and reecho until

They bounce back around my ankles.

You say God speaks to you in warmth.

“Like cocoa on a cold night, like

stepping out of a shadow into the sun, or

the hot weight of a baby asleep against you.”

This heat, this rise in temperature, is God.

Sometimes you hear a voice like

pages being turned, like

someone calling you in a library

like your mother saying goodnight or

a flock of birds taking to flight in the next field over.”

Soft but so noticeable.

God, you say, is everywhere,

and he loves


Your arms stretch as wide as your smile

encompassing not only me

and every other lost soul in the world

but also our coffee table, the houseplant,

and your box of Wheat Thins.

As for me,

I almost see God all the time.

Lurking in the corner of my eye he

unravels the soft curls of ferns

tears flowers open

pushes chicks out of eggs

and he is always in the wind.

When it blows, cold and thorough, sounding out each of your bones,

that's God.

I come to my knees,

like a gazelle to a water hole

terrified of hidden danger

but compelled to drink.

Every possible spiritual sensation

makes me jump

(was that God or a hiccup?).

And every so often

I squint through my eyelashes

to reassure myself there is no ambush,

no shower of gold waiting to make my life a calamity

of divine responsibility.


Kathy Haynie said...

You should have known when you used "grapeshot" in a poem as a freshman or sophomore in college, that someday your future husband you hadn't even met yet was going to end up in the army. Because I had to look it up on Wikipedia and it is definitely a militaryish term.

I love your writing. I love your thinking. Thank you for your poem and your thoughts. I hope everyone at your home is well, including the little future Bavarian.

Katie said...

1. I thought you made up the word "grapeshot" until I read my mom's comment. If this doesn't prove my point about me not being into research, then I don't know what does. (Unless you count any of the research papers I've been assigned to write... ever in life.)

2. I like your poem. Okay, that sounds trite, but I really do like it. I just don't have anything extra cool to say about why I like it.

3. Olivia calls Jesus on the phone all the time. So, ya know, feel free to give that a shot. It probably works because, as much as I kind of hate to admit it, Olivia is usually right about things, even when I think she's talking gibberish.

P.S. I'm glad you went on a mission instead. Mainly because--duh--then you married Chris and now I know you. And you that is awesome.

Katie said...

P.P.S. I would also like to take credit for the fact that my mom knows you. BAM.