by Shelley Leonor—
“You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives” (James 4:2-3, NIV).
After giving birth to my firstborn, I struggled. I loved my baby girl. I loved my life. But I struggled. I no longer had the freedom to hang out with friends until late into the night or run off on trips at a moment’s notice. I was frustrated and sad despite how amazing my life was. I used one of those little coupons my husband’s employer provided—Anonymous Counseling—because of course I didn’t want anyone to know I wasn’t perfect. As a pastor’s wife I didn’t want anyone to think less of me. I was always afraid of running into someone I knew—or that the counselor might even know my husband. I had only six coupons, each worth 50 minutes of time. I went about once a week, always hating the thought of being “discovered.” Always wondering whether the counseling was even helping. But I went.
And 18 years later, I found myself thinking about going again, even though I wasn’t too sure it would help. And then there’s the co-pay of $15 (I am SO cheap!), which I just can’t justify spending on myself. So, I waited and I prayed.
And recently, my prayer was answered in an unexpected way. I happened to pick up a booklet last month that taught me something I had somehow missed in life. I’m now reading it for the sixth time. I’d like to share it with you in the form of the metaphor of a counseling office/coffee shop (just a parable that got stuck in my mind). Imagine with me:
I wake up feeling refreshed one morning and find a “magic” tunnel has opened up in my house. Instead of freaking out, I find myself drawn to it. It seems peaceful and lovely. I decide to check it out. At the end of the tunnel is a private waiting room with no other customers. No risk of being discovered and no fear. No need for a voucher—this place is free and I’m the only customer. The proprietors somehow know me and understand me. There’s no time limit. I can sit there and talk as long as I like. The counselor knows me more than I know myself. He (she?) even knows my favorite beverage and ushers me into a trendy coffee shop-type room and we sit in my favorite type of seating, which changes from hammock to fluffy beanbag to massage chair and back again—heaven! The counselor orders my favorite drink (chai). It turns out this particular chai has been proven by every independent researcher to be super healthy. And no calories. Zero guilt! The mug is beautiful—and good for free refills for the rest of my life (as many times as I’d like each day). As I leave the office the receptionist tells me to please come again in the morning. They are open 24/7. I return to my room feeling refreshed and ready to face anything.
The next morning I wake up late and only have a few minutes to enjoy my favorite beverage in such a perfect environment. I’m sad, thinking I would love to stay much longer. My counselor offers to wake me up in the morning so I’ll have enough time to relax at the coffee shop. I agree to this on the condition that I awake feeling rested (vs. shocked awake by a horrible alarm). The next morning I wake up feeling like I’m coming to after an hour-long massage. I really want my chai and quickly walk through the tunnel, knowing my counselor will be thrilled to see me again.
I learn this coffee shop was built during the 9 months I was in my mother’s womb. Its grand opening just happened to be the day I was born. The day I was baptized, the mug was created especially for me. I drank from it that one time, said thanks, and left—feeling grateful as a new teenager for the cool opportunity. But somehow I missed the most important thing about my new mug—that it was refillable. I thought it was just a one-time offer. After all these years, I’ve discovered something that has been available to me (free of charge) all along. What a waste! How could I have missed that message?
And not only is it free and unlimited, but I can always access my coffee shop no matter where I am! Apparently, mine is not the only shop on the planet. There are custom-built shops all over the world—one for each human. Most sit empty just waiting for their customer to arrive and take advantage of all they have to offer. Knowing this makes me realize I don’t want to hide anymore. When someone asks me to pray for them I agree, but I also tell them about their own coffee shop with their own favorite beverage. Some believe me and check it out. Others think I’m crazy. I’m sad, but I keep praying that they will check it out sometime (sooner rather than later). I know the struggles they’re facing—and I know the “power” that comes from having my mug filled each and every morning. That mug is something I need more than food. How could I have thought that drinking this beverage just once when I turned 13 was enough? How did I not realize it was refillable?
So, if it isn’t obvious enough, I’ll make it more explicit: This coffee shop with the amazing chai? It’s the Holy Spirit. He’s available 24/7 for each of us any time we need Him. I hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity He offers every day.
Please note this is in no way saying there isn’t a time or a place for God’s “earthly counselors.” And if you’d like the nuts and bolts of how to approach engaging with the Holy Spirit, here they are:
1. Praying daily asking God to prepare your heart to receive the Spirit.
2. Praying using promises from the Bible to make believing easy (e.g., Luke 11:13).
Shelley Leonor lives in Riverside, California. She’s a member of La Sierra University church and is a graduate from the occupational therapy department at Loma Linda University. She has two amazing children and is a recent chai addict!