Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Denied Gratification

I don't think I'll ever cease being surprised by my own capacity for selfishness. We have had an expensive year. We had foundation repair work done early in the spring, followed by purchasing a new air conditioner in the summer, and--coming next week--we have to get a new roof on our house. I'm grateful to God that we've both got good jobs and are well provided for. Otherwise it would have been an even rougher year.

As I was doing my trash duty around the house, reflecting on what money we'd spent, I noticed my thoughts all centering around what else I still wanted to spend. Some of it was charitable, but the bulk of it was selfish. As I thought about what purchases I'd have to delay, I started calculating how long it would take me before I could get everything I wanted.

And then I realized: it had never once crossed my mind that I wouldn't get everything I wanted.

I have been proud of my ability to wait on the things I've wanted. I don't have to have the newest gadget when it comes out. I know that in waiting and saving, I'll get it eventually. I don't accumulate credit card debt. I like to consider myself reasonably patient.

But maybe I'm still looking at things in the wrong way. Maybe the practice in life I need to master isn't delayed gratification, but instead denied gratification. I need to learn how to not get what I want, and still be ok with that. In fact, in many instances, what I need to learn is how to want different things. I need to "seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness" because those are really the things I seek; not just so I can eventually get "all these things" added unto me.

I think the first time I ever received a definitive "no" from God was when I prayed--fervently--for an elder's healing at my church when I was a teenager. He was suffering from a brain tumor. I thought he was too important to my church and to my life to lose, so I asked God to heal him. I believed God would heal him, because I knew Jesus said that if you believe that you'll receive what you ask, you'll receive it. I asked. I believed. And after several months of setting a great example of faith during terrible circumstances, this elder passed away. God had different plans, and I have never understood why. But I hope I'm at a place now where I can trust in the wisdom and timing of God. God will give me what I need, and not always what I want, for reasons I don't have to understand.

"If anyone wants to come with me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." - Matthew 16:24

So today I pray that God will help me to grow beyond a life of delayed gratification. I want to learn to deny myself of what I foolishly believe will gratify me. I want to learn to seek what God wants so earnestly that my deepest gratification comes from God's will being done, in my life and in the lives of those I'm blessed to work with. Being a Christian is really hard, but it's also the only thing in this world worth doing. Jesus asks us to give up everything for his sake, and the reason we do is because what we receive is greater than what we've given up.

"My heart is restless until it finds its rest in you." - Augustine of Hippo

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