I Can’t Always Get What I Want

Family Portrait. 2004.

Family Portrait. 2004.

But yes, I need what I get.

As a graduate student, I spent a year on a Polynesian island doing research. Twenty years later, after discussing my adventures and misadventures with dozens and dozens of people, one thing is clear:

However your imagination conjures my island experience, it wasn’t quite like that.

One of the features of small-island life is a tendency to tedium. The diet is not particularly varied, for example. We feasted on fresh fish and white rice. Sometimes we ate chicken legs or tinned corned beef. Canned peas (and canned butter!) were ubiquitous. The baguettes were crusty and warm every morning. Mango season was a joy. Bananas hung by the regime on many patios. We usually had eggs. Sometimes we had breadfruit, or uru. I still miss the taste of roasted uru. 

The plentiful yet monotonous diet created a yearning for novelty among locals and researcher alike: I became a local celebrity after preparing garlic bread for my island family. It was a new taste–for them.

Maybe you can imagine, that in this environment, the announcement that the bakery was offering, by special order, pain coco–coconut bread–was cause for broad jubilation. I wasn’t sure exactly what coconut bread was, but I knew it was new to me, so I joined in the village-wide anticipatory elation. I shared the tale of Operation Coconut Bread here last year.  Go ahead and read. I’ll wait.

rabbit conga

Last year, I reported that the outrageous hospitality I’d experienced on the island had spoiled me; I would respond with annoyance when a gift offered wasn’t exactly to my taste. And when I wrote this story, I felt like I’d grown in spirit, enhancing my practice of gratitude and grace even when a perfectly good sandwich is besmirched by a schmear of canned mystery meat.

OK. Now let’s all join hands and sing KumbayaBecause today, last year’s lesson seems about as mature as the average eight-grade, Kumbaya-humming, youth group member (And I mean no offense to my younger brothers and sister in Christ).

Here’s what I’m beginning to understand, just barely.

Every good thing that comes my way is a gift. God bestows gifts. 

Everything that God permits to happen in life, from precious new grandbabies to the most painful losses, He will work for my good.  (He promised, you know.)

Fretting over the pâté-of-Spam spread on my sandwich doesn’t just betray a shortage of gratitude and grace.

No. It is symptomatic of a lack of trust.

Dear, Dear Lord, please. Help me trust.

4 How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust,
And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.
5 Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done,
And Your thoughts toward us;
There is none to compare with You.
If I would declare and speak of them,
They would be too numerous to count.

Psalm 40:4-5 (NASB)

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