Over the 15 plus years since I started following Christ, I’ve spent a lot of time begging the Lord to change my circumstances.
I prayed throughout the two semesters I taught high school in Hawaii, experiencing the condition of the local public school firsthand, and fretting about my children’s futures in them, “Make a way for me to homeschool.”
He answered, leading me across the Pacific to my mother’s new house in Prescott, Arizona where I was able to live rent free, and homeschool my kiddos despite the fact that I was a single mom with no source of income.
I changed my request to a job for the half year we lived with my mom,”Anything,” I would plead, “Any source of steady income to support us. I am too old to live on my mother’s couch.”
He answered with work in Phoenix.
The two hour commute each way, each day between Phoenix and Prescott took its toll and I asked the Lord to lessen my commute.
He answered by prompting an old friend from Hawai’i who now lived in the valley to offer up her couch to me and my children during the week.
I began to beg for my own place, “Constantly couch hopping in other people’s homes is no way to live, Daddy!”
He answered with a clean and spacious condo in Phoenix at a ridiculously low price. However, in the year of moves, transitions, and residing in other people’s living rooms, I had gotten rid of virtually all my things. For over a year, my new apartment had no couch at all. Well played, Lord, well played.
I pleaded constantly for the four years I lived in Phoenix, “Daddy, get me out of this desert! I am not a city girl. Make me obedient so I don’t have to wander in this wasteland 40 years.”
He answered me with another job, this time back in Prescott.
Before my husband and I got married last year we went back and forth about where to live. Should I pack up my girls and head to his hometown, Denver, or would he and his girls move here? “Father,” I would cry out late into the night in tears, “I just moved to Prescott. I don’t want to go to Denver. Please let Jason decide to relocate here!”
He answered by laying the move on Jason’s heart, even though he had no job prospects after months of searching for work in the area.
“Father,” I beg now that my husband can’t find a decent job in this tiny little town, “Should we move to a bigger city where Jason can find work in his field? There’s tons of electrical engineering jobs in the Valley! Or maybe we should move to Denver.”
It’s not just in this arena that I’ve been so fickle.
For the fourteen years I was single, I prayed to be married. I’ve been married 4 months and I’m already furtively pleading that the Lord teaches me how to be kind and patient towards my husband. And quick! Marriage is hard, ya’ll!
I prayed like mad for more children. I’ve always wanted ten! God answered for years with a constant flood of students, my surrogate sons and daughters, that drove me nuts. They failed to show up for appointments, didn’t do their homework, and sometimes even bold-faced lied to me. It was just like having hundreds of my own! Gah! So Mama Kate had to switch to petitioning for the capacity to love the unlovable.
And then there’s the never ending over-work, under-paid dance the Lord and I seem to constantly engage in. “Daddy,” I whine, “Increase my income!” Suddenly, new tutoring clients flood in. “I’m burned out,” I moan, “Give me rest.” Just as quickly, my flow of clients dries up. Within days, I start fretting him about money again. Back and forth we go.
Through everything, I’ve clung to the vain hope that a change of circumstances will finally bring me joy. Yet, most often, shortly after getting what I want, I’m on to the next thing. Then the next. And the next.
This morning God hit me right in the heart with a verse.
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” ~Exodus 33:15, NIV
I’ve been praying the wrong prayers, ya’ll.
I’ve had it all backwards.
Sure, when I’ve prayed, “Lord, send me here,” he has complied. Then when I switched to, “No, Lord, never mind. Over there,” he has allowed it. Even when, dissatisfied, I have pleaded, “Better yet, over there!” he has eventually given in.
He is a good good Father. Yes. One who does not, when his child asks for bread, give snakes. Yes. But He is also a wise Father. One who knows best what his children need. O, yes!
And what I need most, what will finally satisfy me and bring me joy, is not a location. It’s not a husband. It’s not children. It’s not a job or a house or a group of girlfriends.
What I need is the presence of the Lord.
All I need is the presence of the Lord.
Daddy, I want to go where you lead. Nowhere else. No matter how perfect a circumstance appears, if you’re not there, it will fail to deliver. No matter how difficult a circumstance may be, if you’re present, it will be used for my good and Your glory.
Let me be brave enough to proclaim, like Moses, “Lord, if your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”