As I walked through the front doors of Hobby Lobby, I saw two young girls taking pictures of each other in the floral section and soon realized they were posting to Instagram their #hobbylobbychallenge. It’s the latest social media craze. Someone takes your pouty glamour shot framed to look like you’re in a beautiful outdoor garden paradise. Only to show at greater distance, that you’re just standing in the artificial flower aisle at Hobby Lobby. The girls squealed and filtered, and I smiled at their carefree phase of life.
Later, this struck me as personal, somehow, as I finished my shopping. Harmless, I suppose, but strangely it haunted me as I made my way home. My car radio piped in Natalie Grant’s new song, “More Than Anything.” In this song, she sings about the difference between wanting the saving and wanting the Savior, wanting the gift versus wanting the Giver, and wanting the healing more than the Healer. I had heard it before, but this time, it felt like an indictment against me.
Coincidentally (?) I had planned to prepare for our book study that afternoon. Our Heart Sisters Group is discussing the book With by Skye Jethani. In the book, Jethani echoes this warning that the goal is not to use God, the goal IS God. Similarly, he advises, God is not a way to get to heaven, but rather, heaven is a way to get to God. Let. That. Sink. In. BAM.
I’m no expert on hearing from God. I pray and listen and try to make decisions based on what I understand of God’s nature, but usually I don’t hear Him telling me much, honestly. This day was different. I kept hearing the same message over and over. It was actually more a question directed back at me: Do you want Me or do you want the blessings?
I have often been guilty of wanting only the good things that God provides: the safety, the comfort, the eternal life. Now those I can envision and get excited about! Count me in! That is an investment that pays off! But did I ever really want God? Did I truly desire this God of the universe that I cannot possibly comprehend? I recounted what I had prayed for over my life’s years, what I had talked to God about, and almost all of it centered around my well-being and convenience, including my healing from heart failure. The heavy realization set in that, sadly, God was not my desire. That is a painful and heartbreaking revelation to make. But I believe that God knew it and wanted to make sure I didn’t live the rest of my life with that mindset.
To be clear, when you’re in the throes of a tragedy or crisis, God fully expects us to call out to Him for help. Many of the psalms (40, 69, 80, to name a few) come out of times of great distress and trouble. They are unashamed pleas for relief, for salvation, for rescue. Those cries for help are right in acknowledging God’s ultimate power. At that point, we have fallen to the lowest level of need and we are focused on survival. God made us that way, and He understood the pyramid long before Maslow did. Like grasping for a life raft or a breath of air, nothing else matters until that need is met. We have all been in that desperate room. But we can’t live our lives there.
I have not been living as if I want God more than anything. To the casual onlooker, it may have seemed that way. But like the Hobby Lobby challenge, when you can stand back and see the entire scene, it’s not actually as it might appear. Filters and background fades aside, the real focus of the subject was me and my desires. I wanted the gifts more than the Giver.
For many long months now, I wake up each morning with the haze of a fresh day, only to realize once again, Oh yeah, I remember now. I have heart failure. I would immediately pray, “Take this cup from me, Lord.” But this journey has changed me. I have recently revised that prayer. Now I pray, “Let me know you, God. I want to know you. More than anything.”