My dear son Judson, who is now officially six years old, spent an afternoon with me at the zoo back in May. It was just the two of us. I was able to appreciate what life can be like when the timing of our outings is not dictated by naptime and we don’t need to drag out a stroller and diaper bag every time we leave the house!
We have an annual membership to the zoo, so we can go anytime we want – which is pretty awesome since the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo is ranked one of the best in the nation. Often we’ll just go late in the afternoon on a weekday, right before the zoo closes. The crowds are gone and we can enjoy the exhibits to ourselves.
Another perk is that the things that cost money – the carousel, the train, the tram, the concession stands, the chair lift, and the many souvenir shops conveniently located to scam us parents out of money – are all closed. My kids are disappointed, of course, but we’ve got a great excuse to not shell out a bunch of cash every time we hit the zoo!
So, Jud and I were at the zoo – just the 2 of us – on a Sunday afternoon . We truly enjoyed our time together. As a special treat, we took the zoo’s Skyfari, the chair lift that goes over the park. It was peaceful and a fun, special thing for the two of us to do.
But as soon as we were done the pleas began: Why couldn’t we do round trip? Why can’t we go on the train? Why didn’t we buy snacks from the concessions? I tried to explain that these things all cost money, and that it was frustrating to get him something special and immediately be asked for more. It really put a damper on the afternoon. Why couldn’t he be satisfied with what he had? Why just keep asking for more?!?
I keep coming back to this “God as parent” image. Is this how we appear to God? When our prayers are answered, are we slow to be thankful and quick to just ask for more? I can understand why God doesn’t respond to our every request with exactly what we think we “need.” Just as I do not respond to every request from my kids.
I came across two scriptures when thinking about this – and they seemed conflicting at first, but I actually think they work together for us well:
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:22-24
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26
In Mark, we are reminded to take everything to God – and believe in God’s power to respond to our prayers appropriately. And the wonderful verse from Romans reminds us that we don’t always know what we need. God does answer prayers – just not always in the way we planned. The important thing is to communicate with God – and listen to the response. For our God is patient.
I can learn from this. I need to be patient. Patient as I wait to see how God will respond to my own prayers, and patient with my kids. Who much like me, are too quick to ask for things when they truly do not understand what they need.