The Deep Dish (part 2)
Greetings from Chicago –or some suburb just outside of Chicago. According to the hotel writing pad by my bed, I’m in Arlington Heights. We drove a solid hour and change from the airport to get to this city –through about 3 different metropolises and on and off of two highways. But here we are. And here I am.
My driver today was Ashley. She’s a junior in college, going to school in New York, but she’s originally from here. We got to talking almost as soon as I got into her car and conversed the whole ride, so it wasn’t like I minded the long drive. Surprisingly to me, we delved into some topics that I usually don’t get the privilege of talking with complete strangers about.
How do any of us know what God wants from us? How do we know our wills align to God’s will? What happens if we’re afraid that we’re acting out of selfishness? What about if we’re afraid that God is going to take away the things we’d like to do as some form of punishment for not taking him into account? This, in essence, is what Ashley and I discussed –albeit, far less abstractly than that. She opened up to me about wanting to take certain steps in her life but hesitating because she feared it was coming from a self-serving place. She shared her fear that God would shut down her dreams for one reason or another.
We’ve all been there in some capacity. I’ve been there anyways. I’m still there often. Did I have a brilliant insight for her? No, I don’t think so. But I told her what I felt to be true: I think every good thing and every good desire comes from God to begin with, and I think that if he put those good desires in our hearts, he can and will make them a reality. And this has been so true in my life.
I haven’t really shared this with anyone outside of a few friends and family, but what I’m doing now –all this travelling and playing music and whatnot– this is actually a literal dream come true for me.
You see, when I was a kid, everyone would comment about my voice and how good it was. Growing up, all I’d hear is “Martina, sing this.” Family functions, church things, other random events. Music is a big part of who I am, and my voice, I think, is the cornerstone of it all. I can’t even tell you the number of times people have suggested I go on this or that talent search show or sing in some competition or produce some kind of album.
But I never felt called to any of that. I never wanted to be on a stage. I never wanted people to know my name. I don’t see myself signing autographs or being in any spotlight. I’m nobody. I don’t want to be noticed. I want the quiet solitude of a nondescript life.
Nevertheless, you can’t hear things like that so often without daydreaming a little. I’m only human after all. But like I said, I never saw myself as the center of attention. My fantasies mostly consisted of me traveling around to small, intimate venues where I’d sit at a piano off to the side, singing and playing as a supporting role in whatever else was going on. Oddly specific for a childish daydream now that I think about it.
Yet here I am. I’m doing exactly what I had merely entertained in my heart so many years ago. It was never a prayer. I never said “God, please give me this.” But he’d prepared me for it anyways. Every mistake and misstep along the way, every heartbreak, and every triumph worked together to bring me here –to a hotel room in the suburbs of Chicago where I can tell you about how good God is. He’s been so good to me.
I think about it and my heart just swells up. I’m nobody. Who am I that the God of the universe should notice me? Who am I that my dreams mean anything? I did nothing to deserve this, and yet. . .
I’ve decided my God is the God of “and yet”. I’m so selfish and yet he loves me. I make mistakes and yet he forgives me. I deserve nothing and yet he gives me even the most secret longings of my imperfect heart.
I can’t even sometimes.
So, did I have some brilliant insight for Ashely? Again, I probably didn’t. But what I do have is this lifetime of seeing God prepare me in little ways for big things I didn’t even know were coming. If he did (and is doing) it for me, why wouldn’t he do it for someone else?
A very dear priest friend who passed away last year, Fr. Ethel, used to teach us this prayer: “God you know what I want, and I ask you to give it to me. But if you can’t give me what I want, then please give me a beautiful alternative.”
I love that prayer so much, and I’ve said it many times. I shared it with Ashley, hoping it would give her some consolation as she continues to discern God’s will in her life. The truth is, as much as God has given me, there are still some things he’s said a resounding no to. I won’t say that it doesn’t hurt to not have what I’ve asked for, but my alternatives are beautiful. Inasmuch as they may not be what I wanted, they’re still special and they’re still unique and they’re still mine. And you know what? It’s through not getting what I want that I’ve learned to trust God to show me what I should want.
So how do we know what God wants from us? I don’t know, really. But I think that’s the wrong question anyways. Perhaps we should ask this instead: what does God want for us?
I think that’s enough introspection for one night, folks. Until next time, and as always —