Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish,do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?” – Matthew 7:7-11 (MSG)
When I worked in wilderness therapy I witnessed a lot of interesting behaviors, and often had to think out of the box in how I responded. One day a youth ran up to the lake house on base camp.Nobody was there, nobody was telling him anything, or even talking to him. There were no triggers to indicate why he would be acting out, but he was. When he arrived at the lake house porch he grabbed one of the chairs off the porch, he went to great efforts to pull it off the porch while I watched from a distance. Once he got it off the porch he then did his best to throw it into the lake. He had to wade into the water in order to get it in deeper, because he was not able to throw it very far. Once he was satisfied with the chair’s submersion depth he grabbed a second chair from the porch and he threw it off the porch, and started the same process again. I started to approach and he looked at me with a wild look in his eyes. He wanted to be challenged so that he could justify his behavior to himself. I looked at him thoughtfully and I said, “You have to put your hips into it”, and I gestured the motion that would help him throw it further. He responded by melting to the ground and crying for the next 30 minutes.
As I processed with the young man he eventually told me that he was upset because he wanted a different pair of boots. The boots he had were giving him blisters and they hurt when he hiked. I checked the fit and they were indeed a little snug. He had an upcoming weekend trip that included a long hike and he was frustrated because he knew it was going to hurt. The strange thing is, he never asked anyone for a new pair of boots.
He had grown up with a great deal of trauma in his life. He didn’t trust the adults in his life to provide for his needs. When he asked his father for something, he was indeed tricked, scared, given sawdust and snakes on his plate, metaphorically speaking. I encountered this young man when he was in need of something without any perceived way to get it, he relieved the stress through conflict, the only model for stress relief he ever encountered. When I did not enter into conflict, he no longer knew what to do.
As you encounter difficult people in life you may be tempted to judge them, but remember that there is always a need behind any behavior. Some people never learn to ask, so they act out their needs instead. They have been taught by life experience that it is not safe to ask for anything. As you consider your response, remember that you may be the only example of a good gift giver they ever have. That is high calling indeed.
Thought for the day: God, help us to see the need behind the behavior when we encounter difficult people. Give us patience, strength, and most of all empathy.