When I was in elementary school, my mother made my brother and me homemade costumes for trick-or-treating every October. One year, we were Raggedy Ann and Andy, wearing calico jumpers and wigs made from red yarn that she had pulled, strand by strand, through a pair of stockings we stretched over our heads. Another year, He was a pirate, and I was a baby doll (the sweet and innocent kind, circa 1984, not the kind you find in the costume racks at Walmart these days). Sometimes my mother sewed the costumes from patterns, like my poodle skirt and those Raggedy Ann and Andy get-ups. But even when they were created from a mishmash of items we had around the house, I thought we had the best costumes around.
Later, as an adult, I offered to make a homemade Halloween costume for a boy who was a family friend. At the time, he was ten. I promised him that homemade costumes could be just as good or better than purchased costumes. I promised him I was an experienced seamstress and creative enough to make him anything he wanted. I promised him a trip to Hancock Fabrics to look through the pattern books. He was excited.
I pictured creating a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle by painting tortoise shell on a backpack. I pictured creating a police officer by wrapping a piece of cardboard in tin foil for a badge. I pictured creating a cowboy by sewing some fake leather chaps to wear over his jeans.
Below, you can see some costumes I have made for my nieces and nephews. These are the kinds of costumes I like to make. A little bit of sewing is required, but not more than a couple hours worth.
Needless to say, my young friend and I were both picturing the promise, but we were picturing it differently.
At Hancock’s, he blew past the child’s section of the pattern book and settled on the full-sized mascot section. He wanted to be a panther. The pattern called for a 2.5 foot wide head made of glued foam within a casing of fur. Stunned, I told him I had never made anything like that before and wasn’t sure I could.
He sighed. “Oh, ok. Never mind. I just thought you said you could do anything. I thought you said I could ask for anything. I’ll be a astronaut, I guess.”
You can predict what happened next. I made that costume. I had planned to put together something for him in an afternoon. Three weeks later, I handed him the panther mascot costume he had dreamed of. I’ve rarely seen a happier kid. But my arthritic fingers hurt for days. The moral of the story? Be careful what you promise.
Today I thought of that story when I started to pray.
I have been bringing God a couple of requests for years now, and I just don’t see them taking shape. Today I found myself muttering to Him, “Never mind. I just thought you said You could do anything. I thought you said I could ask for anything. I’ll just try to forget these hopes, I guess.”
Immediately, I felt Him remind me of the”costume promise” I made to my young friend, and how I fulfilled my promise, even though it wore me out to do so. The Holy Spirit spoke into my heart, “You have limitations, so you need to be careful what you promise, Nika. But I don’t have to be careful what I promise. It is never a matter of limitation. Only timing. If I say I am going to do it, I am going to do it.”
That is what He is speaking over you today.
Here is Matthew 7:7-11 in the NLT:
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”
Here is Matthew 7:7-11 in The Message:
“Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?”
Matthew 7:7-11 is a promise, but you and God may be picturing it differently. I’m guessing the main difference would be timing. But it is not a matter of limitations. And it is definitely not a matter of interest. God is interested! He wants to delight you! If I would knock myself out to make a panther costume from scratch, and if you would knock yourself out to do whatever you do, know that God is willing to do even more.
We have to be careful what we promise.