I like to be able to take care of myself. And I’ve tried to raise independent kids. Who can cook, travel alone, fill out forms, and get along wherever they are. I don’t want to have to depend on other people- for myself or for my kids.
But Jesus says ask. In order to receive. Asking is hard. It means acknowledging that I don’t have everything I need. That I can’t provide for myself. Or maybe for my kids.
My daughter and I were recently in Florida for her volleyball tournament. Away from our everyday lives, I noticed how I enjoyed being able to provide for her. Cut-up strawberries and Caesar salad. A room with a kitchen so she could make her morning pancakes. Cooking dinner while she cleaned up after a long day on the courts.
I came back a day early to preach on fear, leaving her to take care of herself, with a little transportation help from other parents. But I missed her, wishing I was there to give ice, ibuprofen, and plenty of healthy snacks. Thinking, “Next time I will plan better, so I can take care of her the whole time.”
Jesus compares our relationship with the Father to our kids asking us for bread or fish. To feed them with good things. It is a pleasure to be asked. A joy to give and provide for them. Good food that makes them strong and happy. Is that how we imagine God? Glad to be asked, happy to provide generously with good things.
When weather hit Orlando Sunday, everyone’s flights home were canceled. And I remembered how difficult it is for me to ask. Ask other parents to take care of my kid. Because my plans weren’t sufficient for the unexpected. I had to rely on the kindness of (not quite) strangers.
If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him. Matthew 7:11 (CEB)
I realized that I don’t like to ask God for things either. I want to use the skills and resources I’ve been given. Mostly, I’d rather just manage on my own. The myth that I provide for myself and my kids.
But sometimes my provisions are like the moldy bread left in the cupboard last week. Like fish that might just have started to stink. Both bread and fish need to be fresh. Frequently asked for, graciously given. We need to come back to our Father daily. Requesting is part of the relationship.
The parent-child dynamic is only the starting point. To trust God’s goodness. To generously feed those around us. And to graciously accept being fed.
Therefore, you should treat people in the same way that you want people to treat you; this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12 (CEB)
It is humbling when someone fulfills this. When another parent takes care of your kid. Knowing I will probably never have the chance to return the favor. To even it out. But good gifts are never quite repayable. They are gifts. Not transactions.
Every once in awhile, Jesus sums it up for us. That our relationship to God is expressed through our relationships to other people. Giving good gifts generously. Asking and receiving. As we do for our children, as God does for us, as we do for others and let others do for us.
Summarizing the Torah and the Prophets in one statement doesn’t make it easier. To treat or be treated. So we keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking. Because we need more. More faith in God’s goodness. More generosity with our fellow human beings.
May we have humility and boldness to ask, to receive, and to give.