Then Dorothy said to the wizard, “I don’t think there’s anything in that little black bag for me,” her voice trailing off. She stands next to the Wizard watching, one by one, as he gives to each of her friends that which they most need: brains to the scarecrow, courage to the lion, and a heart to the tin man. The empty bag hangs sluggishly in the Wizard’s hand as Dorothy looks on. All those good things are for someone else.
The Wizard of Oz is one of my favorite movies of all time. I remember as a kid, probably 5 or 6 years old, going to my grandmother’s house to watch it on color TV. We only had black and white, and seeing Dorothy walk out of her gray-toned, displaced house into the color world of Oz transported me and my brothers and sisters into another world. It was magical!
Through the years, I’ve jokingly quoted Dorothy’s line at the end of that movie receiving a chuckle from those who know the scene.
In many ways, I applied this scene to my relationship with God. He could do anything, “Mighty and all-powerful,” but not for me. I wasn’t good enough and never would be. It took me a long, long time with lots of prayer and healing to realize that my heavenly Father desires my happiness, that my ultimate home is with Him, and that His little black bag is full of good things that He wants to give to me personally. On my part, I needed to do two things: 1) realize and believe that He wants what is best for me, and 2) that He will give me what I most need in the best way to receive it, which is not always what I most want and the way I want it.
Today’s gospel passage is a familiar one which stands in stark contrast to Dorothy’s point of view:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Suppose one of you has a friend
to whom he goes at midnight and says,
“Friend, lend me three loaves of bread,
for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey
and I have nothing to offer him,”
and he says in reply from within,
“Do not bother me; the door has already been locked
and my children and I are already in bed.
I cannot get up to give you anything.”
I tell you, if he does not get up to give him the loaves
because of their friendship,
he will get up to give him whatever he needs
because of his persistence.
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks, receives;
and the one who seeks, finds;
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What father among you would hand his son a snake
when he asks for a fish?
Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?
If you then, who are wicked,
know how to give good gifts to your children,
how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit
to those who ask him?” (Lk 11:5-13)
Jesus says this to his apostles just after teaching them how to pray. Jesus teaches them the Lord’s Prayer beginning with, “Father…” (Lk 11:1-4) Calling God, “Father” was a whole new way of praying, intimate and relational. A beautiful image for those who have a good relationship with their fathers, an off-putting one for those who don’t.
I started taking voice lessons when I was 10. One of the first songs I sang, was Let There Be Peace on Earth. I learned the original lyrics, “Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.” If you look in today’s hymnals, you’ll find it rewritten, “Let us walk with each other in perfect harmony.” Now, I gotta’ tell ya’, this burns me. I always sing the original words.
You might say, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a word and some people (especially women) have trouble dealing men because of past hurts.” The big deal is that by removing God’s maleness and fatherhood we deny ourselves the opportunity to heal.
Consider an infected wound. The wound needs debriding and an antibiotic to be healed. Sometimes it’s topical. Other times, it needs an IV. We can ignore the wound, but that doesn’t make it better. Usually it gets worse. Pretending it’s something other than an infection doesn’t make it go away. Changing the words accomplishes the same. The infection is still there.
Jesus paints a beautiful portrait of the Father’s love. Who of us, if our child asked for a drink of water, would give him a cup of sand? None of us would do that. We, even in our fallen nature, know how to love and do the right things for our children. Yet, our love is a mere shadow of the love of God. His is endless and complete.
When we ask, seek, and knock, the first thing we must do is set aside the limitations we impose on God. With an act of the will, we must decide, “God, my Father, loves me personally more than I know, and I will let him love me and make me whole. I do not need to be perfect. I just need to give Him permission.” Then we can freely follow the model Jesus gives us. He says, “Go into your room and pray to your Father in heaven. Beseech Him again and again and again. Keep asking. Keep seeking. Keep knocking. Don’t give up. Because it is in the asking and the seeking and the knocking that He will draw you closer to Him and make you whole.” This prayer uttered in faith, believing in spite of your feelings, will transform you.
St. Catherine of Siena in her book, The Dialogue, tells us the three things we need to grow in holiness: memory to remember God’s promises and His goodness, the intellect to discern the Truth, and the will to decide to follow the Truth. The Truth is that God is love. We must will to believe it. He can do the rest.
So today, raise your head and look up to your heavenly Father, climb in His lap, then ask, seek, and knock. If you let Him in, you will know and feel His love in an entirely new way.
My Jesus, I trust in You! Anne