Monday, October 15, 2012
A Question of Choice: I Want or I Will
“Want”--- an expectation of getting something, a need, a desire, or a whim. Something, some place, some feeling (perhaps love?), even God. These are things I want.
“Will” --- an expectation of doing something. Giving something, going some place, expressing a feeling (love?). “I will” describes the action, but even more, it describes the desire of our heart. “I will” is not something done by chance, by an unreasoned response to a stimulus; it is not an unplanned thing. “I will” is my decision being put into action.
It is wrong for us to only “want”. We were not made to only want.
We were initially created as innocent babes, and others gave things to us. We had needs we could feel --- for hunger, for warmth, for love --- but we could not yet think of them, we could only innately want them. As we gradually become aware our unique self and we can “want” things, we also become aware that we can “will” to do things --- we can do things to satisfy our wants, or the wants of others.
God said: “I will satisfy all your wants,” like a father giving to his children. But He expects us to grow up, to be like Him, and to “will” to give to others, like He does.
We need to grow up. We need to grow beyond just our “wants.”
Jesus carried His cross, but Scripture tell us it was not His alone. He carried our cross also. And He carries it still today. We are not alone in our sorrows. But even more, He expects us to carry our cross too, not just wanting others to do it for us. He would look at us as being selfish, as not grown up, as not being how He created us to be, if we pushed our cross onto Him or others, expecting them to carry it. “I want” you to do this for me. Rather, as He showed us, He expects us to grow up and carry our cross, “I will” to do this, but even more. Like Him, we should “will” to help carry the cross of our neighbor, and our children. This is as He did, as He showed us, as He loved us.
I wrote the other day about my neighbor and his many problems. Do you remember the question I asked him? I asked him to pray for me.
Why? Well, of course I am in need of prayers; we all are, but my intention was to get him to stop totally dwelling on all his many problems --- his “wants”. By praying for me I hoped he would realize he was not alone in having problems, and even more, he was uniting us in our problems, and bringing God into the equation. Not aware of it in these terms, he would be uniting us with Christ in carrying His cross, and our crosses. Now some may say this was merely a diversion I attempted to create, like taking someone’s mind off his painful hand by hitting his foot with a hammer. Certainly there is a psychological benefit to my request of him: he would gain the feeling of not being alone in his sorrows. But more than that, it was opening the door to Someone who said He could “answer all our wants and needs.” By doing for me, my neighbor was really doing for himself also.
Oh, and do you remember my neighbor’s response to my request for his prayers? He said: “I will”.
The difference between “I want” and “I will” is the focus: on getting or giving. That focus affects so many parts of our life. Are our efforts, our prayers, focused on getting? From our government, from our neighbors, from our family, from our God: Are we focused on telling them what “we want” or need, so we can get it? Is that a key point in our relationship, how needy we are? We once had a president in this country (John F. Kennedy) who wisely said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” He recognized the importance of giving. No one quotes him anymore.
I said earlier that it is wrong for us to only want, because in only wanting we are not growing up. Perhaps you have been following these meditations long enough to recall the teenager who lived with me for over a year. After a physical fight with his father he had to leave his home and family, and I took him in. We talked much during that year about his relationship with his father. He came to understand that on some things he and his father would never agree: their differing experiences (and maturity) created a worldview where they could see the same facts and yet conclude differing “obvious” results. He came to understand that, for now, he and his father would have to “agree to disagree” on some things. But the one thing I failed to impress on the young man was this difference between “I want” and “I will.” Teenagers are just beginning to understand the importance of “I will” and how it makes them adult human beings, each different from any other, making overt choices. My young friend’s initial reaction to his power of “I will” was to state, in effect, “I will to get what I want.” He agreed that he and his father both thought they were right in their arguments, and yet he demanded forcefully and angrily: “But I will never forgive him until he asks me first.”
He felt that his “I want” was more needy than his father’s “I want”. The thoughts “I will” to give, or “I will” to love, never entered his heart. As far as I know, his heart has not changed. Approaching age 30, he is still waiting for something which won’t happen. Because of his deep desire to “get”, he thinks that if he receives what “he wants” all his problems will be solved. They won’t. I too willed to get many things in my life, things I wanted, and with my talents and drive I actually got many of them, perhaps even all I wanted. And then I had many years of confusion, not understanding why, when I received all I wanted, I still was not happy. I was not happy until I learned, until I grew up, until I took into my heart, the desire “to give”.
I now pray the Prayer of St. Francis each morning; a plaque with its words hangs on the wall outside my bedroom. It begins with the words: “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace,” and it goes on to state what “I will” do. And the prayer ends with these words as to WHY I will do these things: “For it is in giving that we receive, and in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.”
“In giving … we receive.” When “I will” to do for God and neighbor, then all “I want” will be given to me. Love begets love. It’s so a subtle lesson as we grow into adulthood that we sometimes seem not to notice it. Our parents love us, and so we learn to love others. And if we can’t REALLY love others, wanting what is best for them and sacrificing for what is best for them, then we never really grow up. Like babes, we will still be saying: “I want,” putting ourselves first, and waiting for happiness to be given us.
You need to give to get. You need to love to be loved. You need to accept pains to be healed. These are just lessons in growing up, in being productive members of our family, and of our government, and of our church, and of our life in God. A true grown up faith and grown up person is one who says: “I want” to do “Your will, God” not mine. That is our choice in life: “I want” or “I will” --- to receive or to do, to take or to give.
God created us in His image, and He expects us to grow up to be like Him: To “will” to enter His kingdom, to “will” to be with Him, and to “will” to love like Him. He stated it as two simple commandments for His followers: that we will to love God and neighbor. That is growing up to be the way He created us to be. He expects us to “will” this.
I resolve to will this, and I shall not worry about my wants. That is, at its heart, what it means not to be anxious.