As a parent there is a certain obligation that I have to attempt to pry my kids’ mouths open and force them to try foods that they wouldn’t normally eat. Truth be told, once they get old enough to realize what’s happening, they will see that I am not eating most of what I am trying to get past their lips, and then we will have different problems. I await the day that a half-chewed brussel sprout winds up in my eye.
What I am doing for them is simple, I am trying to help them navigate the treacherous waters of dietary variety by giving them opportunities to taste different foods in the hopes that they will begin desiring new foods, healthier foods, or just the things that I like to buy and/or order (this is a parenting perogative, save your judgments for someone else). So the whole thing boils down to this idea: I know that there are things that are good for my children in a way that they aren’t yet capable of knowing, so I lovingly give them the ability to desire those things by providing them with what they cannot provide for themselves. Be clear here, I am not just giving them the food, but I am attempting to give them the desire for the food so they will want it again.
At the end of 1st Chronicles, after the tedious lists of people and resources, there are a couple of chapters dedicated to the transfer of power between the current king, David, and his chosen successor/son, Solomon. David is is in the twilight of his reign, and life, and he is praying over the nation of Israel and over his son who will soon take the throne. David’s words of prayer for Solomon, and the Israelites is important in a revealing way:
1 Chronicles 29:17a, 18
I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness…O Lord…keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people and direct their hearts toward you. ESV
David reveals something that we should all be aware of. It is paramount that we realize that only God can incite a desire for God in our hearts. We do not simply wake up one day with a passionate desire to know the God of the universe. He works in us (and around us) to shape and mold our desires so that we might “look for Him.” For those of us who walk in relationship with God, we should be very careful when we say things like, “when I came to God”, or “there came a time when I knew I needed to be saved”. Those statements betray a subtle pride in our view of the process of salvation. The reality is that if we did indeed come to a time in our lives where we began to be stirred to seek after God we can rest assured that He was working in our hearts long before we ever realized it. That is, in fact, grace. He didn’t wait for us to do something worthy of His attention or affection, He graciously showered His affections on us before we were worthy.
In David’s words we see, I believe, more than just an explanation about the conversion experience but one of the most important pictures of what it looks like to grow in Christ: recognition that grace is not merely for conversion but for growth and progress as well. The grace of God doesn’t stop being useful to us after we’ve asked Jesus to forgive us and we’ve given our lives to Him, it is this same grace that gives us the ability to carry out the life-long task of becoming like Jesus.
I give my kids new food because they don’t know to ask for it, they are the two-part recipients of nourishment and desire. Nourishment in the food they eat, and desire in the form of an experience that they didn’t previously have the framework to understand was possible or available. When we come to God, maybe one of the most important prayers we can offer is one that sets us at His table with an empty plate and a willing tongue.
What kind of an amazing life would we open ourselves to if we would tell our Father, “I know what I want, I know what makes sense to me, but Father I don’t know what I SHOULD want. Give me desires that I do not currently possess. Give me passions that I do not currently experience. Awaken my soul, not only to long for You, but to WANT to long for You.”
He changes the tastes of our heart and will. Our best efforts are merely the result of what He has miraculously does inside of us. May we pray in this way, and take comfort in the reality that He alone has the power to change us, and we alone are simply to respond.