Matthew 7:7 - Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
We get to seek in life, and we are promised some type of response. You don’t have to be a Christian or believe in God for this to work, as many disciples of “The Secret” know. It’s given to all of us, this strange attraction of what we want–whether it’s good or not. As Richard Rohr often states, God gives us our desires, so desire something good.
Sometimes I feel . . . sheepish about how often I ask. I asked as a child, begging God to give me x, y or z. Even as an adult, I asked for things to happen, things to not happen. Sometimes I got what I was asking for, oftentimes I didn’t. I would feel frustrated, wondering if I prayed right.
Now that I’m further along in my journey, I ask for different things; but I still get frustrated. Whereas before I might have asked for a thing, now I just ask whether or not that thing is “right” or “wrong.” After a few fits and starts, I realized that I’m actually just as simpleminded as I was before. Getting frustrated for all the wrong reasons.
I’ll give you an example. Recently, I booked a trip to see my family. It was a significant event, given we’ve been apart for so long. I was really looking forward to it. Not only to reconnect, but also to get a break from my duties at home (short order cook, maid, book-reader, dog walker, etc). A day before I left I got a cold. I could FEEL the desire to go on this trip in my bones, as real as the ache in my ears. I knew if I got on that plane, I would probably feel worse, not better, yet something in me (desire) drove me to go.
So I asked. I asked for a sign to go. Usually when I do this, I ask for something specific, a symbol of sorts. Otherwise I’d be looking at every bird, feather and cloud to get the answer I wanted. So all that day, I looked for my symbol, more and more desperate every moment when it didn’t turn up. I knew the decision was made at that point, cancelled my trip and promptly burst into tears.
I got very angry after that, frustrated that when I ask, I never “receive” and even though this is one example, there have been others that I didn’t land as I had expected. In short, I had forgotten how to ask. Even worse, I no longer knew how to receive.
How To Ask
I had to look into the WAY I was asking. I went back in my mind to the things I was asking for, and the situations where I felt I needed guidance. There had been times when I had asked a direct “yes” or “no.” As in, “Should I x, y or z?”
One stands out in my mind. Arizona was the last place I was with my mother before she passed. With this in mind, I booked a trip to Phoenix admit the pandemic madness. Immediately after booking I felt unsure of my decision. Was I risking my life by going? Is this the right decision? I asked for a symbol, a cactus, and went about my day. It happened to be my birthday, and by the time my family party came that evening, I had forgotten about my ask. Imagine my surprise when I received a live cactus–AND a journal with a cactus on the cover. I knew then, like a punch to the gut, that I had received my sign.
I approached this ask with true ambivalence. I didn’t know what was right. When I compare it from my most recent, “should I go,” I knew in my gut what the answer was, I just didn’t like it.
Which gets us to the next part…
How to Receive
Say you give someone a gift, a sweater you knitted. This person thanks you for the gift, and then wears the sweater. The next day, they break out in hives and blame the sweater–and you. Every time they see you, they remind you of the itchy sweater and how you landed them in urgent care.
Would you want to hang out with this person? Would you give something to them again?
I don’t believe in a vengeful God. There is no naughty or nice list. But I’m framing the scenario in this way to see what we can learn from such a reaction. My angry reaction from my last failed “sign” attempt had everything to do with my desire to go, and my resistance to the truth. It is this resistance, I believe, that prevents us from truly receiving.
Now I’m on the mend, I’m looking back to see what’s happened in the past few days that I needed to be there for. My kid got a cold, the puppy is potty training. . . who knows what else? Spring is here, seeing the birds makes me happy, noticing the warmth of the sun, planning the garden. Staying here, something I dreaded, something I convinced myself I needed an escape from, wasn’t the worst thing in the world. What I love about life, is that it proves to you constantly that you can do without. Without a run in the morning, without your morning coffee, without a trip to see your family. You will survive, you will thrive, you just need to let go of the idea that you have control.
To quote Michael Singer, so many things happen in this world that you have absolutely no control over. You can continue to try and corner them, tame them like a lion. But eventually the wheels will fall off. The lion escapes. Isn’t it better to train yourself?
I still get mad, frustrated when I don’t get what I “ask” for. But in rare moments of clarity I realize it’s not about “me” at all. Whether or not I take the lesson doesn’t matter to the world around us, it continues its chaotic churn. So next time you ask, really search your heart to see what’s behind your words. And when you look to receive, make sure you are open to getting the answer, no matter what it is. Or what it is not.
Have you asked for something recently? Tell me your process.