Head First: Feels Like the First Time

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Feels Like the First Time

Thanks to all for the comments on the last post. Whether, you "get it" or not, I profit from hearing your thoughts.

I was over at godevenlovesidiotslikeme.blogspot.com, and there's a good post about how God so often answers prayer in a different way than we expect.

In my 42 years, God has distinctly responded many times to my spoken desires. Sometimes, He's met a great need. At other times, He's been gracious to bless me with something I really wanted. I can't think about this without recalling the first prayer I ever remember praying. I don't mean saying grace, or bedtime prayer. I mean the first time I came to the Lord with a request.

I was about 5, kneeling at the altar at Glad Tiding Assembly of God in Pocomoke City, MD on a Sunday night. That week had been hot, and the Stevensons up the street had a 2-ft. deep above-ground swimming pool in their yard. I was invited to swim one day, and decided that having a pool in your yard was just about the most awesome thing in the world. You could just get in and cool off whenever you wanted!

I didn't even bother asking my parents about it. The Stevensons owned the big John Deere dealership out on the highway and we...well, didn't. But we were called to the front to "seek God" that Sunday evening, and I remember kneeling at the end of the altar, on the far right side, next to my dad. It wasn't a long prayer, it wasn't a covetuous prayer, it wasn't greedy. It was a simple, "Lord, can we get a pool?"

I didn't really think about it after that. It's not that I didn't think the Lord had heard me. I guess I just didn't have much in the way of expectation. That is, until that Tuesday, when my dad came home from work a few minutes late. I saw him pull up in front of the house, and I could see that something was taking up most of the back seat of our car. I had to pick my jaw up off the ground when he reached into the back an pulled out one of those flexible molded plastic wading pools like you get at Newberry's (that was before Kmart). It was blue with little fish all over it.

I didn't notice that it wasn't as big as the Stevenson's pool. As my dad dropped my new gift near the back steps and grabbed the hose, I stood, mesmerized. All I could think was that God had heard me. He heard me, and He loved me enough to answer.

Before some of you complain about the frivolity of my request, let me say that's not the point. Yes, I know we could have sent that six bucks to feed the hungry or buy bibles for the Gideons. But the result of the experience was that a 5-year old boy's faith took root that day. For all my accumulated cynicism and worldly-wisdom, I've felt that same sense of wonder every time a prayer has been answered since.

What about you? Do you remember your first time?

16 comments:

Brooke said...

No, I don't remember my first time. But I do sometimes listen to my children's prayers and find myself begging God to answer one, for just the reason you explained.

da said...

I remember praying that my Grandpa and uncles would accept Christ and stop smoking. After praying for five years from the time I was 5 to 10 years of age, my prayers were answered. Ober that five year span 4 people (my grandpa and all three of his brothers (who were all of his siblings)) stopped smoking and accepted Christ. It was something that has stuck with me for 25 years. I truly understand that God can do anything. Not that I'm perfect because I'm far from it but those years of prayer helped mold me into what I am today. Thank you so much Jesus for your mercy on my family.

Son of many preachers said...

Wow--another excellent post; I love it.

Sometimes it's the simplest of things that can water/nourish our faith, and cause us to stretch and to grow.

A few years ago, the pastor of my church unexpectedly died--it was very sudden. As a result of my being in leadership and emotionally close to him, and by being the same age as him, it affected me greatly.

Shortly thereafter, I went to the cemetary to reflect at his gravesite. Up until that time, I hadn't processed my emotions or grief. I had been shaken to my core.

It was so quiet that day, and so serene, with no one else in the cemetary with me. I remember that as tears began to fall, I quietly whispered through sobs, "I wish there was some way you could know how much we miss you."

And just then, a flock of 100+ birds that had been sitting quietly in the treeline (over 100 yards away) stirred, and flew from that edge of the cemetary, directly over me, and then off into the sunset.

And just then, I knew that he knew.

No, it wasn't a formal prayer, just the sentiment of a heart racked in grief. And some how, God found a way to blast through, and assure me that all was well.

Bar Bar A said...

I don't think of that as frivilous at all...You still remember it, God used it in a powerful way :)

Hey, glad I found your blog through Joe's!! I'll be back!

Anonymous said...

Your post reminds me of lyrics from Celine Dion. Each time I listen to this song, I get goosebumps. When I hear the words, I think about when I first fell in love with the Lord...aaahh.

Have you ever been in love?
You could touch the moonlight;
When your heart's shooting stars,
You're holding heaven in your arms.
Have you ever been so in love?

Have you ever walked on air?
Ever felt like you were dreamin'?
When you never thought it could,
But it really feels that good;
Have you ever been so in love?

Have you ever said a prayer,
And found that it was answered?
All my hope has been restored;
And I ain't looking anymore!
Have you ever been so in love?
Have you...?

scriblegurl said...

god does work in wonderful ways, i don't really remember my first 1, but i can remember that when my family started having faith in the lord, our life seemed to get better, many of our prayers were answered, n we knew that god was listening to our every needs, we were very poor, but now, god has helped us, n now we have a pretty nice house that we can call home, all thanks to the lord

stshores24 said...

I don't remember my first, but I do want to get back to that childlike faith...I was walking through Sam's Club the other day and thinking about my little girl, and the thought occurred to me: "What would happen in my life if I just really believed God to take care of me?" Would I be stressed any more? Childlike faith is something I desperately need to get back to.

jeff said...

Okay... I was only 1 when we got that pool. I don't remember it. But I do want to say thanks to my big brother for his awesome faith... because when we were in our teens, we got a freakin' awesome in-ground pool with a diving board!!! (Yes, I'm the materialistic one, apparently).

Was that a product of my brother's prayer almost 10 years earlier. Who cares?!? We had a freakin' awesome in-ground pool with a diving board!!!

Yay God!

(apparently I'm also the shallow one...)

Jot said...

My little brother and I never had a pool. Then again, I can't swim, so that's probably a blessing in itself!
I do remember the blessings of spending summers at my grandmother's house when I was a kid. She used to make my brother and I get up a the crack of dawn and work in the garden. I didn't realize what a blessing that first-hand education was until recently, when my wife and I planted our first garden. I could hear Granny with every shovel of dirt we turned.
God waited 30+ years to reveal His blessings received in the early morning hours at Granny's garden. Isn't He awesome!

Peace, love and a multitude of blessings...

not1jot

"You boys quit throwing those dirt clods and get to pickin' them peas!"
- Granny

Steve said...

Well....I am not sure what to do with this post....because well, quite frankly, I have issue with it...

You see as a 12 year-old boy I prayed a very different prayer than you...it was that my father's life would be spared as he faced open-heart surgery after suffering his second major heart attack. I prayed all night as the doctor's worked to replace the broken part of his heart and at the end of it all, my father died.

I discovered that day that no matter how good of a "Christian boy" you are, that no matter how hard you pray, no matter how much faith you have, no matter how good and genuine your request is...that God just doesn't answer prayer.

Yeah... I remember my first time...and in a little 12-year old boy skepticism began to take root that day. For all of my accumulated Biblical knowledge and Christian "wisdom", I've felt that same sense of skepticism every time a prayer hasn't been answered since.

Much love to my dad, William (Bill) M. Chastain.
b. August 12, 1927
d. September 25, 1975

jeff said...

Steve,

I mean you no disrespect when I post this, but do you really believe that God doesn't answer prayer?

Do you really believe that the heartfelt desires of a 12-year old boy mean nothing to God?

Do you really believe that the God who "forsook" his own Son cannot relate to the father/son separation anxiety you felt/are feeling?

Do you really believe your father would want to give up paradise to return to this earth?

Do you really believe that "finite-you" can possibly conceptualize "answered prayer" from God's point of view?

I cannot relate to your pain. My dad is still alive after open heart surgery. I have no concept of the struggle you have faced. But I DO know that God is perfect and faithful. If He is not, then He is not God.

I'm truly sorry for your pain. I am sorry for your skepticism. I wish I had a quick statement that could make it all right. But I cannot fathom God... and neither can you. So all we have is trust.

I hate that you had to experience such loss. But in the arms of a loving heavenly Father is reconciliation, peace and healing. I pray that, as you seek Him, you find all that you are looking for.

If I am insensitive for posting this, please forgive me. But there is no pain, disappointment or doubt that is bigger or more powerful than the love of God. It is in His love (and only in His love) that you will discard skepticism and find peace.

BruceD said...

Good post, and nice comments!

I don't ever remember feeling good enough about my relationship with God to ask for anything. My prayers were always, "help me do better, God. I know I disappoint you, and will probably to to hell."

I feared God terribly. I couldn't feel his love through all the doubt. I knew I couldn't measure up, and lived in horrible guilt.

I was convinced that the good news was more like "bad news" for me. And that continued through to my adult years, and at 52, I can tell you that it was only a few years ago that I began to learn about God's grace. I heard about the depths of his amazing love, and started to let go and let myself be drawn into it. My life has changed so incredibly in the last few years. I have found the peace of his outrageous love. I found rest in his arms, free from fear and doubt... free from guilt and shame.

This is a much nicer place to be!

Nice blog, friend!

Steve said...

Jeff (and others),

No direspect taken in your response. I would expect some of the questions you ask, especially if you are of the mindset that God is actively involved in answering prayers for the things we want in this life...whether it be a pool, a father's heart physically restored, for a certain president to be elected or simply to know his will.

It is much easier to believe in a God that normally operates and controls circumstances and situations around me to meet my myopic needs. I just don't believe that to be the case.

So to answer your questions as briefly as possible:

1) Do you really believe that God doesn't answer prayer?

I do not believe the purpose of prayer is to change my circumstances. God delights in our prayers, but prayer is primarily for our own benefit, not God's. Prayer is the process of aligning my will, attitudes, and perspectives with those of my Creator.

2) Do you really believe that the heartfelt desires of a 12-year old boy mean nothing to God?

Of course, God cares about my desires. He just normally doesn't intervene to meet my desires. If I view God as my "cosmic Santa Clause" then I am missing the point of prayer. Also, this type of thinking (God sometimes answers yes to our wants and desires) presents all sorts of logical problems. But please do not misunderstand. My problem is not with God.

3) Do you really believe that the God who "forsook" his own Son cannot relate to the father/son separation anxiety you felt/are feeling?

God relates in every way with my pain. I never said he didn't. The night my father died I literally cried out to God until I couldn't speak. But you know, God gave me incredible rest that night, and incredible peace. I still miss my Dad, but I do not blame God for his death. I can't blame God. Simply, God was not in control of his death.

4) Do you really believe your father would want to give up paradise to return to this earth?

I don't know. I've never been to heaven. I used to think it was selfish for me to want my Dad here instead of enjoying his time in heaven. But I sure could've used him growing up, and I know that I would rather be here on earth to help my sons navigate their adolescence and young adult-hood...I really don't care how great heaven is. I want to be here for my boys. I am just selfish that way I guess.

5) Do you really believe that "finite-you" can possibly conceptualize "answered prayer" from God's point of view?

Well this is a tricky question. I can't win with this one now can I? But, what the heck. Yes...I believe God gave "finite-me" a brain to conceptualize all sorts of things. You just did with your last question about heaven. Do you think "finite-you" can possible determine "heaven" and what it is like? Obviously you do.

Finally you wrote:
It is in His love (and only in His love) that you will discard skepticism and find peace.

I am thankful for my skepticism. It is God that created me and he knows me better then anyone. It is in his love that I have embraced skepticism. My questioning of God has made me feel more fully alive then ever. And the more I question, the more alive to I feel. It is through doubt that I am discovering faith...and the myth of certainty I possess gives wings to my faith. Like a moth to the flame I am led by my wonder.

This is the short version of the response to Jeff's questions. I am more than willing to discuss this at length and will probably delve into it a little more on SCP. But if you would like the more complete version of my answers to these questions just email me. I just didn't want to take too much room on the comments.

Jeff, you weren't insensitive to question me. I welcome the discussion. It's good dialogue. And I am certainly glad to hear that your Dad is still here and healthy after his surgery.

Steve

jeff said...

Steve,

Thanks. I was hoping you would answer in the manner that you did.

While we may not totally agree, I am thankful that I wrongly "read into" your previous post. My concern was your blame for God. I am glad I was wrong.

For me, there is a beauty in everything God does. Of course, it's much easier for me to have the view I have, since I have not even come close to walking the road you have walked.

With that being said, I appreciate your openness as well as your tolerance and understanding of a differing view (it's quite rare these days...).

Now if we could only get you to stop farting in the mic, I think you'd be "there"...

peaec.

dorsey said...

(So much for lightening up the mood of the blog. lol)

Steve,

I wept when I first read your comment. My daughter is twelve. I can't imagine leaving her. That you had to endure the loss of your father at such an age makes my heart ache.

The aim of my post (aside from coming up with anything to get off the previous topic) was to relate the first time I began to understand that ours is a personal God. Because He knows that subtlety often eludes me, the Lord chose this foolish little thing to spark that understanding.

I know that you believe God loves you, and from what I know about you, I'm certain you you don't believe it just because "the Bible tells me so." So I assume that, at some point, you've had experience(s) that caused your faith in God to develop. And while the "failure" of prayer was a crushing disappointment, in the end, you have still chosen to place your faith in Christ, despite that experience. The Lord used whatever it was He used to spark your faith, because He knows you best. That's the deeper truth, I think.

You said that "...God just doesn't answer prayer." And in your response to Jeff, concerning your father's death, you said, "God was not in control of his death." These are two distinct issues, but could you (either here or on SCP) address these further? Both comments fly in the face of what I've always "known", and I want to understand what you mean.

Steve, I don't need to say again how I feel about you and SCP. The best conversations happen when we put ourselves "out there." I appreciate your openness.

Cheers to Bill.

JOE B said...

Dorsey,
Sorry it took me so long to get back to you but I wanted to thank you for stopping by and mentioning me on your post.
Thanks again and God bless, Joe