When our kids were little we used to read them a book called “The Berenstein Bears Get the Gimmes”. Brother and Sister Bear had it bad – whenever their grandparents came to visit the first thing the cubs would ask was “What’d ya bring me?” Their selfishness was abysmal! They needed to be taught that not the world, not their grandparents, not anything else, revolved completely around them.
When I was a kid “gimme gimme never gets” was a common expression. It was meant as a reminder to a childish mind that asking rudely for something and being self-focused were not looked kindly upon.
Do you know people who’ve got the gimmes? They are the ones who always want something from you … and you can almost hear them coming. Gimme some time, gimme some money, gimme some attention. And more often than not they want it right now!
I must admit that I get the gimmes sometimes too – sometimes with the people in my life, and certainly often with God.
In my better moments I know that it’s advisable to use things and love people, not the other way round . But even with the best of intentions, it’s easy to get mixed up.
I also know that God is not a vending machine – I submit my order and He provides. Yet I often come to him spitting out my list of requests in rapid fire. Of course I’d like to think that I’d never present my prayer items this way, but if I’m honest they can often be boiled down to “gimme this”, “do that”, “change him”.
At the beginning of 2013 I determined that I wanted it to be year of learning to cultivate a more grateful heart. Thankfulness and appreciation are great antidotes for the gimmes. A wise person once offered this advice for a successful, productive and happy life: “Don’t look at what you don’t have and what you can’t do. Look instead at what you do have and what you can do.” Be grateful, and be positive.
That’s what I’m trying to do.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am richly blessed. God fills my life daily with many good and wonderful gifts. Like any good parent, Father God delights to look after his children. He longs to bless us beyond measure and grant us the desires of our hearts. But first and foremost, he wants to have a relationship with us.
The very young and the very old seem to grasp these truths better than the rest of us. I see the sparkle in my grand-daughter’s eyes when we connect on skype for our weekly visit. The time spent reading books, showing us how she can dance or sing a song is worth far more to both of us than any material thing. I see the quiet pleasure in the face of my 90 something parents as we share a meal at their kitchen table or look at family photos together. The time spent chatting and just being together is the most precious gift we can give each other.
As a mom, nothing gives me more joy than when my kids ask to spend time with me. No words are sweeter to my ears than the words “I love you”. It’s the same with God. He loves it when his kids come to him in expectation and trust, wanting only to be with him. When I tell him I love him, and make it a priority to spend time with him, he smiles. When I thank him for who he is, not just for what he can give me or do for me, it delights his heart. I bless my Daddy when I look first to his face and not his hand. I honor him when I focus more on him as the giver, rather than on the gifts he gives.
Having said all this, it’s still true that God likes us to make humble requests of him. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:7).
So at the top of my prayer list is one prayer that changes how I pray all the rest:
“Lord, gimme a grateful heart.”