Prayer breaks the habit of always making the best deal.

A mother’s two-year-old wakes up at five when she was painting until midnight. How does she get out of bed and go love the little bundle of trouble instead of saying, “Why can’t he just wait until I’m rested?” Maybe, “I painted his room, why won’t he stay asleep?” Irrational, but almost automatic — I never get the deal I want, but I want it.

How do we learn to love when we’d rather make a deal?

I mean, how do we end up like Jesus — even like Jesus dying for us on the cross? Paul says Jesus was not only looking out for his own interests, but the interests of others — that was his attitude, his mindset, his way. How do I go His way instead of using my “superpowers” to get what I deserve?

What were the Lord’s “interests?” I know I will get up and care for the toddler, but what about my interests? Are they just not important until he is eighteen? In the Lord’s case, it was joy to complete his work and be his true self—that interested him. There was joy set before him as he returned to the dimension where he was free from sin and death—that’s something I can look forward to. But I am not Jesus. I don’t think we have the same interests as Jesus, specifically. But it is good to know that self-giving love does not ignore my interests. Jesus had interests, he was just “not only” looking out for them. He was not giving and always waiting for the other half of the deal to be realized — I give you give, I love you, you love me, I paint your bedroom, you are grateful and stay asleep, I do the right thing, and my life works out reciprocally.

Perhaps we are not THAT self-interested all the time. I think you realize the child is going to grow up. Don’t we all think a parent’s love is innately valuable, even if it is not valued this very moment? Even if I am not rewarded, I think it is rewarding to love my kids when they are displeasing. I can go with that.

But I really want to make a deal, not be good. I want to say, “Stay in bed until at least 7” and have that stick. I want to say, “Can’t you see I am painting your bedroom?” and have that be recognized. Can’t I ever love and be effectively loved in return?

I have experienced the kids, but I also have my own present troubles.

Lately I experienced the Brethren in Christ General Conference in Florida. I put my whole adult life into being a committed part of this denomination and worked to reflect its character and history in Circle of Hope. When I first joined up, many leaders called it a “brotherhood” and would not use the term “denomination” — even though their preferred term was sexist, it was still great. Now that it is being reformed into a new denomination without that character and free of its history, I have to decide how to love. The temptation is to dwell on: “Can’t I get what I wanted? Don’t we have an implicit deal? I put a lot into this and THIS is what I get?” You probably relate to that feeling.

The whole country is in turmoil right now because so-called black lives don’t matter as much as so-called white lives. I am sick of the bad deal enforced by the militarized police on a whole segment of society! A police officer killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop outside St. Paul not long ago. The deceased apparently had the “right to carry” that is so well-protected by the government. He apparently told the office that he had a gun. The officer apparently wanted ID. When he reached for his wallet for ID he was told to stop. He apparently did not stop fast enough and was shot. It is all on a Facebook livestream. Shouldn’t people expect the police to love them? They are all in uniform; can’t I expect them to uniformly serve and protect? Shouldn’t the police have a self-giving love that can do better than give orders, then enforce their bargain with a weapon? Wouldn’t a policeman rather die than kill someone? About 15% reportedly would. I’m in the street demanding a better deal — “I pay taxes, I vote, I follow the laws, now stop harassing and killing people!”

As I thought of all these things I realized I needed to pray.

For one thing, I need to pray so I can clear my mind and remember the attitude Jesus has when it comes to me. After all, I, in my own way, have often gotten up too early and screamed irrationally out of my need and I was also hard to comfort; but we got there. I was offered change and I wanted the “justice” of never needing to lose what I had “earned.” I pulled my gun and he did not kill me.

I need to pray every day so I can remember that I don’t really have the deal I want and my incessant grasping for it is not really getting me anywhere. I am legitimately needy. What I want is not wrong. I need comfort, reassurance, safety, etc. etc. It is no surprise I try to take matters into my own hands out of desperation: get angry, sulk, withdraw, shoot, disobey. People have often not wanted to make a deal with me because I don’t give what they want because I am too busy desperately getting what I want. If I don’t pray, things will just keep going as badly as they are going.

The one who breaks the deadly cycle is Jesus. He did it on the cross. He does it when I pray. When I pray I don’t just get a better idea about how to act, I receive the inspiration (the in-Spirit-ation) and power to love like He does; the Lord’s own Spirit becomes one with mine and we are back doing what Jesus does best, even when my mother or the memory of her is absent and I feel fundamentally in need of a better deal, even when my intimates don’t come through, even when my hard work does not pay off, even when the country is against me.

So for the joy set before me and the joy of being my true self in a living relationship with God, I also endure my crosses. The bonus is, I manage to attach a lot better too when I am loving those needy people around me. I actually am less desperate. When that baby in the picture above realizes he is in mother’s arms, he’ll probably snuggle in, rest, connect, and take that big breath one does after they have cried their lungs out. My prayer is often like that; I have learned to look forward to the trusting moment when I give up, connect with God and realize I already have the best deal I could ever get.

Leave a Reply