A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of participating in the Trunk N Treat event at ARC. It takes some preparation and commitment, but it is an exciting time as we share God’s love with those that come. As the crowd appears and the lines begin to form, it is a delight to see all the smiling faces of both children and adults. One child, however, seemed to stand out from the rest. It wasn’t that his costume was out of the ordinary, or that he was too old to be trick or treating. What made this child memorable was his lack of a smile, his lack of patience and his lack of manners. This particular child came to my trunk, walked directly up to me and began to reach his hand into my bucket of candy. I quickly moved my bucket of treats, made light of his boldness, and told him the shortened version of my trunk’s theme before I proceeded to give him the candy that he desired and the Bible verse bookmark to go with it.
As the evening wrapped up, and cleanup began, others that had been hosting a trunk began to share stories of the evening’s experiences. Again and again, a story surfaced of an audacious young man who had no time or desire to listen to the Bible stories, but who only wanted the candy and treats. Some remarked on his lack of respect or lack of manners, others commented that he may have been the one child there that needed to hear of God’s love the most.
At first I was somewhat offended by the young man, but as I continued my cleanup efforts, I began to recognize similarities in my own life and swallow the medicine of conviction. Do I take time to hear God’s lesson, or just extend my hand to receive what I want? Is my God willing to offer me something sweet when I listen and learn, but I grumble throughout his instructions? The Creator of the universe and the Savior of the world desires to spend time with me and yet more often than I care to admit, my prayers replicate this child’s actions of give me, give me, give me. Quite often, my prayer time looks less like a privilege to soak in the love and words of my heavenly Father, and more like an opportunity for me to share with God the spiritual to-do list that I have made for him.
We have been taught from a young age that prayer is talking to God, just like talking to a friend. We fail to state the obvious that talking to a friend also involves listening. I would dare to say that a friendship wouldn’t last too long if one person did all the talking without doing any listening. So, I have been trying to do more listening and less talking to God, to bask in his presence, to ask and then pay attention to the answer. It hasn’t been easy. The chaos and clutter that jockeys for position in my mind is hard to silence, but to hear his voice is better than any candy or treat this world has to offer. Jesus says in John 10:27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” That is my desire: to spend time with the Shepherd, to know his voice, and to follow. May that be the focus of your next prayer time – not getting what you want, but listening to the Giver.
Trying to listen, Erin