The other day, Sophie and I were sitting in the living room enjoying a relaxing evening. As we sat there, Sophie looked up at me as only little girls can look at their daddies and said, “You know, Daddy, I didn’t eat very much for supper.” Now, I knew where this was headed. Anytime Sophie starts in with the I-didn’t-eat-very-much-for-dinner routine she’s on the hunt for dessert. And I knew very well that what she wanted was one of the brownies my wife had recently made. I could have just given her the brownie, I didn’t mind her having one. In fact, I was looking forward to one myself. But Alyson and I have really been working with Sophie on asking for things directly, so instead of instantly granting her unspoken wish, I decided to play her game.
“Oh yeah,” I said, “Are you still hungry?” Her eyes lit up, no doubt with visions of chocolate and milk. “How about a banana, then?” I added.
Her face fell and then twisted as she pondered her next step. “Sure, half a banana. You can eat the other half,” she replied. So, the two of us sat there eating a banana. After we finished, Sophie again looked up at me, undaunted in her quest for chocolate sweets, and commented, “You know what kind of food we haven’t had in a long time?”
“No, what’s that?” I responded.
“Brown food,” she said.
“Brown food? Hmmn,” I fictitiously pondered. Her exasperation built with Daddy’s apparent denseness. I continued, “I guess we haven’t had brown food in a while. I guess we could have some beans or some bread . . .”
“No, no, no,” she interrupted. She’d had enough. “Brownies, Daddy. Brownies are brown food. Can we please have some brownies?”
I smiled, “I’d love to share a brownie with you.” And we did. What’s the point of all this? Why did I force my daughter to go through verbal gymnastics just to get dessert? The point is, I didn’t force her at all. I just wanted her to ask. Had she asked for a brownie to begin with, I would have gladly given it to her. This verbal dance she does in not asking for something may be cute as a three year old, but it’s hardly a mature form of a communication for a healthy relationship. She needs to know that she doesn’t need to manipulate me into giving her what she wants. She needs to learn to ask me directly for what she needs. Will I always give her what she asks for? No. She can’t have ice cream for breakfast, but often, perhaps more often than she realizes, I’d be glad to give her what she wants if she’d just ask for it. What I want more than anything is a true relationship with Sophie, one in which we trust one another, one in which we care for one another, one in which we openly communicate with each other. To teach her that lesson, it means sometimes no giving her things that I’d gladly give her until she asks for them.
Weeks after the incident above occurred, I was listening to a sermon on prayer. The speaker asked the question, “Why does God want us to ask him for things that he already knows we want?” I don’t even remember how the preacher answered his own question. My mind went straight to Sophie. God wants me to ask him for the things I want, both for myself and for others, because he longs for true relationship. God wants me to grow up in Christ, so that I no longer presume upon his grace or fear his response, but am mature enough to boldly approach his throne and ask for the desires of my heart. Will he sometimes tell me no? Sure, God is not a cosmic vending machine. But often, perhaps more often than I realize, God will gladly give me the desire of my heart, because to do so, is exactly what he’s been longing to do all along – if only I’d asked.
“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” Psalm 37:4.