Sunday, April 8, 2018

A String of Stickers

Carefully coached by her mother, the little girl stammered out the words.

“Can I...please... have...some stickers?”

Having blurted out her request, she hid her head in the sleeve of her mom's coat, overcome by shyness.

“Sure!” I answered, tearing off an especially long string of smiley faces to reward her for her bravery, and handed them out to her. Her face emerged again, beaming, as she reached for them and immediately started peeling the first off the waxy backing.

“What do you say?” her mom reminded her.

“Thank you!” came her quick response, her smile soon hidden behind paper versions of the same which she plastered all over her face, laughing in delight. Those of us nearby found it impossible not to join in her joy.

It was amazing how such a simple request, so easily fulfilled, could bring such overflowing happiness. Perhaps we need the reminder that the weighty burdens of our hearts are as easily handled by a mighty God as the simple sticker tape requests of a small child. Maybe that's why God tells us to look to the little children to know how to enter the Kingdom of God...and how to live on earth, till we get there!

Most moms coming through my line insist that the child ask for the stickers themselves, rather than making the request for them. For some, like the little girl above, it's a very difficult task. And so it is sometimes when we want something from God. I wonder why it is that we struggle so with articulating our requests...and why it seems to be such a requirement in the process of receiving from God. Yet over and over in the Bible, Jesus' first words to someone who confronts Him with a need is, “What would you have me to do for you?”

It's not that He doesn't already know what the problem is. The stating of the same must therefore be a necessary and important step for us. Perhaps it's just that a specific request is more readily identified when it is answered than the wildly general “bless me” coverall prayer we resort to when we don't want to go to the time and effort of listing the details. It shows that the issue is important enough to us to merit some thought ahead of time. I've seen enough shopping carts push past the candy display in the checkout lane to know that not all requests children make of their parents are answered. God is a loving Father who knows what requests are serious subjects to us and which are passing fancies triggered by something in our sights. Perhaps it's important that we learn to identify the same.

But maybe it's also to remind us that we can. So often we run to others to petition God for us. While the Bible encourages us to call for the elders of the church and to gather together to pray over an issue, it's important to know that we can also “come boldly before the throne" ourselves to make our requests known to God. I think it brings special delight to His heart as we evidence our faith in Him and His goodness with that effort. How He must smile as He waits for us to push the words out there...knowing that in the end He is going to bless us above what we ask, perhaps, because we had the heart to address Him directly.

Maybe the most important moment in this interaction came at its end; the reminder to vocalize our thanks. It's woven into the instructions in Scripture that urge us to bring our requests to God...with thanksgiving... and told repeatedly in the stories in the pages of His Book. Those who praised the Lord and thanked Him for His goodness while yet in the midst of their struggle touched the heart of God in a special way and prompted an immediate response. Perhaps the two most important words in any vocalized request are the “thank you” we include in its midst.

It's God's joy to answer our requests; perhaps that's why He used smiley stickers to illustrate His point...that the smile He puts on my face with His response is just a reflection of the one that beams from His.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
(Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV)

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