Comic book ads were almost my downfall.
One year I made what I thought at the time was a horrible Christmas wishlist error: I asked for an ant farm. Why did I do this?
Comics, cheap paper versions of the Graphic Novels Now Known as Comix, once contained ads for marvelous toys: buckets of green army men, guns that used potato for ammo, and the friendly family of sea monkeys. I have never wanted anything as much as those ads made me want everything.
The need for greed was great when one read comic ads and one was little and had no idea that everything advertised was awful junk. We did not have the money to disabuse me of my greedy dreams, so the pleasure, the intrigue, such as it was, never died.
One really interesting thing was an ant farm. If my dim memories are correct, the advert had the ants in overalls running an actual farm. I knew that was just a gag, but still the description made it all sound fascinating. So when my parents asked, I mentioned that an “ant farm would be great.”
I don’t recall what happened, but somehow when the presents had all been purchased, I realized how much I did not want an ant farm. If there had been time, I would have pointed this out, but the presents were purchased. What kind of kid asks for something and then says, after his folks buy what he wanted, that he did not want what he wished to have?
Not this kid.
That was (probably) a mistake. My parents simply would have returned the bad gift, but this did not occur to me. I realized: an ant farm was in my future. Fortunately, gifts were not the main reason I loved Christmas (thank God!). The shift in focus (almost surely) did me some good as I loved what I loved.
This was good.
And then Christmas Day came and I opened the ant farm shaped package to discover it was a telescope! This was joy. That night as I looked at the moon through my telescope, I realized my parents had gotten me what I wanted, not what I asked to have. They knew me better than I knew me.
So I think it is with God. We did not know we needed God to come in the flesh. In fact, to any thinker, the thought of God humbling Himself in this way is shocking. Who would have dared to ask for such a thing? What good would it do us if He came? Who knew?
We did not. We often do not know what we want, deeply wish.
Until the gift comes and is just so.
The world is full of comic book ads promising us farmer ants, playful sea monkeys, and superhero watches for less than six bucks. The world is full of junk made desirable by the ads.
God knows our heart’s desire and so He listens to our requests and gives us what we wish when giving us what we wish would be giving us what we wish. He does not give us an ant farm, however, when we really long for a telescope. He reads the subtext, knows our hearts better than we do. He knows what we mean even if we say something else.
We can do this for children, though not so much for adults. It is too dangerous. We might think we know when we do not, so we have to clarify, ask for better words, and then go with what we have. God knows and is perfectly good, so God has perfect clarity.
He will never give a kid like I am an ant farm for Christmas. That’s for the kid who really wanted it! So it will be in Paradise, where the joy of seeing God will be just what we need. The same sun hardens clay and softens wax, so in Paradise the pleasure will be unique to us. God is unchanging, but God’s energies will be directed usward just as we are.
We will see Joy as we can see joy. Each one of us will receive as we can.
Thank God for Christmas.