When we were younger, my older sister and I knew we couldn’t ask for too much for Christmas. My mother did her best raising two kids on one income, but the task was obviously wrought with difficulty. Still, she provided as best she could for us.
If the amount of material wealth were the only indicators of her love for us, you’d think she hated us. But, if character, respect, and virtue were indicators of her love, we were lavished beyond abundance.
No No No… Santa?
We were never allowed to believe in Santa Claus (I feel the better for it today) so I never felt the anticipation of meeting and asking him for gifts. The lessons that were taught to believe year-round instead were: trust God to provide and be grateful.
Displaying an ungrateful attitude for not getting what we wanted was always – and swiftly – met with a “boy” or “girl, you better be grateful!” My mom didn’t play games when it came to gratefulness and thankfulness (I feel the better for it today).
Afraid to Ask
My heart is flawed. I took our mother’s principled virtues and transformed them into negatives. I became timid and fearful to request any thing. I feared that if my request was answered with a “no”, my responses could be misinterpreted as ungratefulness. I was insistent on avoiding all confrontation.
This illicited responses that came across as “humble” when asked what I wanted for Christmas (or my birthday – or, anything). But, underneath the layer of faux-humility was the false idea that I had no rights to request what I wanted for Christmas – even if it was something good for me.
A heart that is positioned for gratefulness, ready to receive whatever it’s gifted, is honorable and exemplary. But could a timid heart, fearful to request what it needs, be self-crippling and deleterious?
Infrequently, I am still plagued with a notion that I am unfit to ask God for what my heart needs and wants: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). I sometimes feel too forward inciting God to move upon my heart with blessing. Other times, the enemy uses past sin to haunt and testify against my qualification to ask for help. Furthermore, asking Him for material needs, gifts, and justice feels absurd and blasphemous.
The resulting equation is self-reliance – depending on my own feeble means to get what I need. I try acquiring a reputable status in mainstream culture to gain acceptance and things that I want or need. I sacrifice my identity in an imbalanced exchange for lust, anxiety, envy, depression, and loneliness. And its all because I didn’t feel I had the right to ask God for what my heart desired most – Him. What seemed humble was only a veil for pride.
Our conversion as saints is a gift from God. This gift, the light of Yeshua, wasn’t one we had to ask for, as much as it was thrust upon us. Upon seeing the light, we had no other options but to receive such a beautiful gift. And upon receiving this gift, we also inherited the right to become children of God (John 1:9–13).
Many people probably don’t ask God for help enough, going about our days making plans and decisions on a whim. As children of God, we do not have to doubt, be afraid, nor be too self-dependent to ask Him for anything. We are called to ask with grateful hearts, trusting that The Lord will give us exactly what we need.
On the other hand, demanding God give us everything our heart’s desire is evidence that we don’t know our Father as well as we think we do. We are akin to spoiled, ungrateful, bratty children who do not value the gift giver. Additionally, the problem may not be that we’re asking, as much as it is what we’re asking for and how we’re asking for it. Are we asking with the sole purpose of only having our passions filled? Or are we seeking the glorification of the gift giver in our enjoyment of His gifts?
We ask God boldly with open hands for everything we need and desire. This is more humble than not asking, because our asking signifies our dependence on God. We ask as children who look at the evidence of the cross, knowing exactly how much good our Father is willing to give us. He sacrificed His only Son for us (John 3:16–17).
So as my mom preached to my sister and I daily the value of a grateful heart, I hope we can all approach every Christmas, and every day, similarly. Because we are in Christ, let us abandon any fears we have to request from God our desires and needs. We can ask with confidence for more of God, looking to Him for more of what we need, knowing He’ll give us only good things (Matthew 7:11; Hebrews 4:14–16).