Another Saturday Reflection with George MacDonald:
Even such an ask amiss may sometimes have their prayers answered. The Father will never give the child a stone that asks for bread; but I am not sure that He will never give the child a stone that asks for a stone. If the Father says, “My child, that is a stone; it is no bread,” and the child answer, “I am sure it is bread; I want it,” may it not be well that he should try his “bread?”
Like last Saturday’s reflection on prayer with George MacDonald, the above insight is aimed at another enigmatic saying of Jesus with regards to prayer. He told his disciples, while reflecting on the goodness of the Father, that even human fathers know how to give good gifts. If their child asks for bread, a human father won’t be so wicked as to give the child a stone. Even more so, then, is our Father in Heaven a giver of good gifts.
But what parent reading this post hasn’t had a conversation like the following:
Child: “Daddy, what is that?”
Dad: “It’s a lemon… (other possible answers: coffee, wine, or salsa)
Child: “oooh, can I try it?”
Dad: “I don’t think so, buddy. You wouldn’t like it.”
Child: “yes I would! I will like it, I promise!”
Dad: “No, really, you would not enjoy this. It is way too sour (bitter, strong, spicy, et al)”
Child: “Please Daddy, I really want to try it!”
Dad: “Okay, fine. Here ya go…”
The child takes it, excitedly, and puts it in their mouth. And you wait for it… Waaaait for it…
Child: *spits and gags… and looks at you like, ‘how could you have DONE that to me?!?!”
Jaemien, my three old, has a word for this: “pplegh”
It’s kind of like the noise one would make when they spit something out. But he doesn’t make the noise, he just says the word. As an adjective. Pplegh.
“Buddy, eat your spaghetti.”
“No, I don’t like it… it’s pplegh”
It took Kate and I a few times of hearing this before understanding what was going on.
It’s gross. It’s no good. I’m not eating that.
Does God Grant Pplegh?
What if the precise thing we are asking of God, pleading of God, is something that we are convinced in our minds is going to be awesome. We just know that this thing, whatever it may be (a promotion, a relationship, a material object, whatever), will be really good for us. And so we pray and we pray, and we ask God for it.
But what if God, as our heavenly Father, being slightly wiser than we, knows that that is not bread we’re asking for.
It’s a lemon that looks sweet but will turn us sour.
It’s salsa that starts out really nice but will only ever lead to something much too spicy for us too handle.
It is wine that our underdeveloped sense of taste will deem as nasty.
That’s no bread, you dear sweet child, that’s a stone.
It will make you turn in to a worse form of yourself.
It will end in pain for your or someone else.
I would love to give that to you, but not now. Not yet. You’re not ready.
But we ask and we ask. We stand and knock like the persistent widow, not letting up.
Would God possibly, like we human parents do, finally relent?
And answer our prayer? Give us what we ask for? Let us taste our “bread?”
Perhaps that is the only way we might come to see it for what it is: pplegh.
And the child grows, just a little more, both in wisdom and in trust in its Father.