For the past week we’ve enjoyed the company of our out-of-state daughter and two granddaughters. Gwendolyn is now three months old, Willow recently turned two. I’ve loved every chaotic minute. I’ve spent the week reading cardboard picture books, filling sippy cups, and moving sharp or breakable objects to ever higher shelves.
Like all grandchildren, our grandkids are nearly perfect, but they still need a lot of civilizing. They weren’t born polite, considerate, well-behaved little girls. Our kids are doing a wonderful job of teaching and training, but if you’ve ever wondered about the concept of Original Sin, just spend a day with a toddler!
One of Willow’s current lessons involves the words please and thank you. To her mind, those words are totally superfluous. Now that she has a larger vocabulary, she can state what she wants and she expects us to acquiesce. “More milk,” she demands. “No baff!!” she wails. (She used to love baths.) “Pickie up!” she insists. Why bother with more words when these will do?
Of course, the adults in her life believe otherwise. With lots of prompting, Willow is slowly learning that saying “please” and “thank you” (and asking nicely) will encourage others to do what she wants, and with much less fuss. Even more importantly, as she matures she’ll learn that being polite is part of caring about the feelings of other people, instead of only her own desires.
Last night as I was spending some time with God, politely informing Him of my current list of requests, I was thinking about why I tell Him please and thank you. I’m pretty good about saying please (my parents were emphatic about this, and the lesson stuck), and I try to thank Him afterward (if I remember what I prayed for and notice that He has answered), but it suddenly occurred to me (maybe with a little nudge from the Holy Spirit?) that my motivation is more about kissing up to God for my own benefit, rather than out of respect or consideration for His feelings. Subconsciously, I was treating him as a genie, reasoning that if I’m polite (and rub his lamp just right), maybe I’ll get more goodies.
Good heavens, I’ve been acting like a two year old.
Worse, I realized that sometimes I totally forget that God has feelings, much less that I could hurt them. But of course God has feelings! The Bible speaks eloquently of God’s longing for our affection. He tells us that He’s jealous for us. He gets angry when we hurt other people, or ourselves. He’s tender and compassionate. He loves us unconditionally.
Prayer isn’t about the goodies. It’s about spending time with One who is passionate about us, sharing our hearts and listening to His. Maybe it’s time I grew up and started trying to make God happy—not for the goodies I might get, but because I love Him.