A few years ago I remember watching a movie called "Evan Almighty". It was mainly ridiculous and slightly humorous, a comedy about a modern politician who is commanded by God to build an ark.
I was surprised to find myself actually moved by one quote. For me that made the silliness that caused me to roll my eyes at the stupidity of it all worthwhile. (Though I do have an excellent sense of humor, when it comes to comedies, I'm difficult to please.) :)
"Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does He give them the opportunity to be patient? If someone prayed for courage, does God give them courage, or does He give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does He give them opportunities to love each other?"
Personally, I often pray for patience, courage, faith, wisdom, strength, discernment, etc...., and then wait expectantly for the Lord to do His part. I never before considered that perhaps these gifts come through the opportunities we're given in life and the way we react to them.
I hadn't considered that perhaps the large, frightful spider crawling on the wall, (larger and more disgusting than any you've ever seen, I assure you), is an opportunity for me to show courage, and when I begin crying and hyperventilating, and throwing objects both small and large at it and then fall in a dead faint on the ground only to awaken to the same nightmarish reality minutes later, I have had a God-given opportunity to be brave and not made use of it.
No, I excuse myself of the above. Even the most courageous person would do the same.
A better example is perhaps the many prayers I have prayed throughout my life for patience, strength, discernment, and wisdom. Patience is especially difficult. In April when we were at the second segment of our adoption preparation course, I remember laughing at one man who told Per and I that he thought if they really wanted to prepare us for adoption, they would have us come and simply sit and wait for the two day course to give us a small dose of the endless opportunities to wait that we would be forced to endure throughout the entire adoption process.
I have often prayed for strength but I have rarely viewed the challenges in my life as a chance to practice being strong. I have often asked for wisdom and faith and then not followed through by reading my Bible and praying more so as to come to understand God and His will better. I have also asked many times that I remain close to my friends and family at home in Canada but have allowed months to go by without picking up the phone to contact them at times. I have often asked God to give me the opportunity to help others, to give of myself, and yet, my first reaction (many months ago) to the idea of adoption was anger. Pure, strong, surging anger. Yes Lord, I want to do Your will but not like this.
Maybe God was saying to me those many months ago, this is your chance. Your opportunity to do all you have asked to do, Colleen. Your chance to grow stronger, though it will take time, even a lifetime. Your chance to learn patience, to learn to trust in me. Your chance to grow quiet, more humble and prayerful before me. Your opportunity to show courage and faith. Your opportunity to learn that though you are a treasured, cherished, beloved child of mine, that not everything revolves around you.