Monday, February 22, 2016

How to Make Wishes


If you read fairy tales, then you know that eventually as you trip through a sunlit meadow one golden afternoon, you will stumble across a fairy godparent (or a talking woodland creature or a small, warty troll) who will grant you three wishes. I mean, it's just a matter of time. If you read fairy tales, then you also know how easily that whole situation can backfire.

When your turn comes, follow these steps to keep yourself out of trouble.

Step One: Wish for more wishes. Obviously. That's just Wish-Making 101. The only question is how many wishes to ask for.

Requesting unlimited wishes might sound like a no-brainer, but there's a pitfall. Given what we know of the human condition, unlimited wishes could cause more harm than good. After all, aren't the children who always get what they want often the most unpleasant, unhappy, impossible-to-satisfy children of all? Of course they are. Contrary to expectation, selfishness doesn't make us happy: ironically, it merely makes us less content and impossible to please. None of us would wish that sort of character development upon ourselves; therefore, it seems wise to take unlimited wishes off the table.

You can request a large number of wishes if you want, but keep yourself in check. In doing so, you'll retain a measure of perspective, retain gratefulness for each wish, and use each one with measured caution. Think of it as a failsafe to curb megalomania. 

Step Two: Wish that none of your wishes will backfire. Don't skip this step: otherwise those of you wishing for a "smoking-hot husband" could wind up married to a partially-immolated burn victim.

Step Three: Wish to know what you should wish for. Would we spend our wishes differently if we could see every implication of every wish we could possibly make? What if we knew the implications of everything--everything that's ever happened, everything that ever will happen, and everything that ever could happen? How would our wishes change? 

I planned this post to be wholly lighthearted with no overt spiritual connection, but as I worked on this last point, I couldn't help but consider the correlation between wishes and prayer. Obviously, real prayer is different from seeking outright wish fulfillment; however, Step Three highlights a clear overlap.

When we pray, we don't just seek our own desires but the will of God. Praying in the will of God is less about knowing exactly what to pray (at least, in situations that are not clearly addressed by scriptural command) and more about a willingness to say, "Here's how I'm feeling, and here's what I think I want; but Lord, give me what I would ask for if I knew everything that you know."

If we really believe in the sovereignty and omnipotence of God, why would we attempt to mandate his actions based on our own limited perspective? In doing so, we might not be much different from fairy tale characters who can't see the far-reaching implications of their own wishes until it's too late.

In the end, I'm not sure I'd ever want to have any of my wishes automatically granted. I know what I've desired in the past, and I shudder to think what might have happened to my life if I'd been given all I wanted before I'd matured enough to realize that it wasn't what I should have wanted at all.

***

"...Lord, give me what I would ask for if I knew everything that you know." Tim Keller, The Songs of Jesus, p. 52. 

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