One of my hobbies is trying to manipulate God.
I don't think it's a particularly healthy hobby, and it's certainly not a productive one, but what can I say? I'm really self centered, and like a car with a "pull" to one side or the other, I often find myself drifting over the line into this silly behavior when I'm not fully engaged in living an emotionally and relationally healthier life which Jesus calls me to.
As an example, I recently offered God a "horse trade" deal. You know, God if you'll do X for me, I'll do Y for you.
My goal in these deals is to make what I'm offering so helpful, so useful to God, that God would have to be crazy to say no. And since we know God isn't crazy, it basically a full proof plan.
To steal from the Godfather, I make God an offer he can't refuse.
But this never seems to work. It's a good thing, because if God listened to me, that would tell me God doesn't have any kind of plan. And if that's the case, we're all in deep trouble.
Here's a recent example of a Godfather offer I made to God: God, if you'll give me a mentor in being an author, I'll pay it forward if/when I "make it" as an author.
And unlike the old joke about the person who prayed nightly to win the lottery, only to have God appear in a dream and ask them to meet God halfway by buying a lottery ticket, I put some work into this deal.
I sent twitter messages and emails to several prominent authors who I respect and would absolutely be willing to listen to as a mentor. You won't be too surprised to hear that nothing panned out. I'm sure prominent authors get requests like this all the time. The reasonable part of me understands that what I'm asking for is a bit silly - that somebody who has never heard of me will decide based on a tweet to pour their time and energy into somebody who is quite possible insane. If they ever even see my message.
The unreasonable part of me says, "God, you told me to start writing, and I've been faithful about it. You owe me now." (This is phase two of Project Manipulate God).
This part never works either, so I move onto phase three: ultimatum.
"Fine." I tell God. "Then here's my final offer: make me a famous author without a mentor, and I'll totally mentor others the way these famous people obviously aren't doing." (The unspoken ultimatum being that if God doesn't do this, he's going to miss out on "all" I have to offer.)
Now, this part is just dumb. I have no clue if these authors mentor others. I would bet money each one does, and that they do it in a small relational setting, which is not only a good idea, but totally biblical (see " 12 Apostles, The").
But such reasonable and healthy concepts have no place in my efforts to manipulate God.
Instead, would you like to know what God impressed to me?
That I was full of hot air.
That if God gave me what I was asking for - essentially greater influence and more book sales, I would absolutely find a way to avoid fulfilling my side of the "agreement".
Do you know how I know this? Because if I don't make time for something I claim is important in my life today, I'll never make time for it when I'm busier.
I've heard it said, "Show me your bank statement and your calendar, and I'll tell you what's important to you."
I was whining to God about a lack of mentorship, and I was putting no effort into investing myself into others. I wasn't actually working to change the status quo.
I'm not a big, famous author, but I have written for national platforms and published some books. I had some insights I could pass along to others, while at the same time, receive insights from others.
But instead of trying to be generous with the little I have, I was hoping to find a way to get someone with plenty be generous with me. This, clearly, runs away from some clear biblical concepts that we are called to be faithful with what we have.
Once I realized this, I took the following steps: I immediately stopped trying to find some mentor out of the blue, and I contacted everyone at my church who I knew to be a writer and I invited them to start participating in a monthly meeting.
It's been a powerful benefit in my life, and I have created deeper relationships with several people I was already friends with instead of trying to get someone famous to pay attention to me.
The good thing about me, is that even though I often try to manipulate God, I usually engage with the healthier directives that the Holy Spirit provides to me.
The great thing about God is that he loves me and blesses me even when I show up with a wrong attitude and selfish motives.
It reinforces to me that building a relationship with God is less about me "getting it right", and more about me "just showing up". In Psalm 23, God paints himself as a shepherd who cares for those in his care. He's not looking for an excuse to get rid of me, he takes great joy in providing the best for me.
So my encouragement to all who read this isn't to stop trying to manipulate God. Heck, I can't stop myself from doing it. My encouragement is take anything you think or feel to God because God can work with anything we bring him, and bring redemption and a rich and satisfying life out of it.
I'd also encourage everyone reading this to make sure you have places where you are investing into others. Not necessarily because you have so much to give, but simply because in healthy community, people are willing to share what they do have.
Maybe for you, it's an artistic expression such as writing, music, painting, etc. It could be physical - inviting others to bike ride or run or go to the gym with you. Perhaps you're part of a small group at your church and you can seek to contribute leadership where before you only participated.
It could be anything. Honestly, it's less about the topic or skill and more about building community and creating relationships. Because instead of being a target for my manipulations and selfish desires, these are the good, healthy things God wants to create in us, around us and through us.