I want never gets. It’s probably been said to you, and you may well have passed it on! But is it true?
Well I guess it is up to the person who is being told the desires of the ‘want-er’. If the house rule is that wording a request for something as “I want….” means you don’t get it then yes in one sense – I want would never get. But I’m not sure it works that way. Surely if the ‘want-er’ wants an apple – presumably, once the expressed desire for an apple had been turned into a polite request for an apple then in many cases the apple would then be given. So I want did get. There was a desire, and the desire was met. Even more so imagine a child who had hurt itself expressing the desire for a cuddle – “I want a cuddle” – who would not want to fulfill that desire and make sure that “I want” got?
In some ways we are getting into the realms of linguistics and possibly pedantry. So while it is more accurate to say “Please may I have…?” rather than “Can I have…?” the sense behind both phrases is generally an expression of a desire for something. “I would like..” is considered more polite than “I want..” (something you learn pretty early on in French lessons!) but do they mean the same thing?
Perhaps the problem with “I want” is that it is seen to be expressing a demand for what we desire? Whereas “I would like..” is giving the other party the chance to give you your desire? Does “I want..” basically mean “Give me..”?
Perhaps the expression of the desire is not the problem – in fact surely we should (generally!) encourage the sharing of needs and wishes and dreams and desires – but the expectation of the fulfillment of that desire, the feeling of the right to have it met.
This attitude is a far cry from David in his famous Psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd, nothing shall I want.. Psalm 23v1.
Here want = need. As in “I want for nothing”, nothing is wanting.
To want something is to suggest a need for it and in that sense it is a demand. A demand springing either from dissatisfaction or desperation.
An asthmatic gasping for breath wants their inhaler. They are desperate for it, they need it in order to survive.
A child who has had their quota of screen time wants more screen time. They are dissatisfied, they ‘need’ more time in order to feel satisfied.
The problem is that our use of language muddles it all up. Parents are just as bad – we say “I want never gets”, and then we ask: “Do you want apple juice or orange juice?” Perhaps an accurate (although cheeky) answer might be: “I want for neither Mummy, as water would be quite adequate to hydrate me, but I would like, I would enjoy and prefer apple juice thank you.”
So let’s get away from the pedantry and oddities of the English language and examine the heart of the matter. What is the place of desires and dreams in the life of a child of God? Can we say “the Lord is my shepherd” and yet want so much more? Is there a difference between grumbling complaints, and gut wrenchingly painful laments? When are we being demanding customers and when are we pouring out our hearts to our loving Lord? How should we say “I want..” to God and will we ever get it?
To be continued ….