A Lesson from Omar
Omar was nine years old the first time we ever met. He was a normal kid by most standards. He loved baseball, liked school, and was just a generally happy kid.
Omar was the son of a friend of mine that I worked with. Omar and I hit it off almost immediately. Omar, like his parents, was born in Venezuela and spoke very little English. Somehow, between my high school Spanish and Omar’s broken English, we were able to communicate enough to become pretty good friends. We talked about school, family, and baseball, among other things.
Omar was my buddy. I was twelve years older than him, but we never lacked for things to talk about. Occasionally, Omar would come to the store with his mom and wait for his dad to get off work. I usually made a point to try to spend some time with Omar when he came in. Sometimes, he would bring homework and I would try to help him with it, or other times we would just talk baseball.
I was in Bible college at the time (which is definitely something everyone should at least look into) and worked as a shift manager for the night shift employees. Omar’s dad worked day shifts so there were some weeks that I wouldn’t get to see Omar as much as other weeks.
But every Friday or Saturday night that I worked, I could count on getting to see Omar. Omar’s dad had worked out a deal with the managers so that on the days he worked a day shift, he would also come in after we closed to clean the floors. He came every night, but on Fridays and Saturdays, he brought Omar with him to help.
I would generally give Omar’s dad a hard time about him bringing his son to work.
“Man, I can’t believe you’re making Omar work when he could be at home watching baseball; you’re a mean dad,” I would say jokingly. “No, no, I pay him to come help me,” his dad would respond.
I usually made a point to talk to Omar as soon as he and his dad came in, but one night they came in right at closing time on what had been an incredibly rough night. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this night would rock my world.
I can’t remember why the night had been so rough, just that it had been rough. Trying to get finished closing the store, I was stocking the napkin dispensers. Thinking about how rough the night had been and all that I still had to do to close up the store, I didn’t see Omar walk up behind me.
“Noah,” he said, “What can I do to help?”
I jumped. “Omar, I didn’t see you there, buddy. What are you up to?”
“I want to help you; what can I do to help?” he asked again.
Just as I was about to open my mouth to tell him that he didn’t have to—that it wasn’t his job or responsibility—he made another comment that stopped me dead in my tracks.
“I know I don’t have to, but I WANT to.”
His comment caught me completely off guard. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It was like someone had recorded him saying it and put it on repeat in my brain. I gave him a small task to do and thanked him, but I could not get his voice out of my head.
“I know I don’t have to, but I WANT to.”
The rest of the night was a blur. I vaguely remember closing the store and driving back to the campus. Bypassing the normal social activities of the student center, I went straight to my room, laid down on my bed and began to cry as God began to speak to me.
I felt Him ask me, “Have you ever made that comment in our relationship? What are you doing because you WANT to, not because you have to?”
I can’t tell you how long I stayed there, all alone in my room as I reevaluated my relationship with God. What did I do for God out of responsibility, and not out of desire? What did I do for Him because I had to, and not because I wanted to?
Even at the age you are right now, there is no shortage of responsibilities and things that you HAVE to do.
Clean your room. Do your homework. Wash the dishes. Go to work. Go to church. And the list goes on and on.
But when it comes to your relationship with God, what do you do because you want to, not because you have to?
You may have to go to church, but do you worship God while you’re there because you want to?
You may have to pray, but do you pray extra even when nobody is making you?
You may have to read your Bible, but do you study His Word just to learn more about Him?
You may have to live your faith, but do you share your faith because you want to?
What do you do for God because you want to, not because you have to?
I’m married to the girl of my dreams named Bethany. She is a beautiful, amazing, incredible wife—the best ever, in fact. She, like most girls, loves flowers. (Write that down, guys!) She loves when I surprise her with flowers. She loves when I get flowers for her when she isn’t expecting them. The fact is, though, that at any moment Bethany could call me and ask me to bring her some flowers. But the flowers wouldn’t mean as much to her if she had to ask for them and I didn’t do it purely out of a desire to.
Are they still flowers? Yes.
Are they still pretty? Yes.
Will she still appreciate me picking them up for her? Yes.
The difference is that, when I do it out of want and desire, and not out of obligation or duty, it means so much more to her.
When I do it because I want to, not because I have to, it carries a different meaning. It’s because I love her, not because she asked me to.
It’s desire, not duty.
I think God looks at our worship, our prayer, and how we live our lives the same way. He appreciates our worship when we do it out of obligation, but it means so much more to him when we decide to do it simply because He is awesome. He appreciates our prayer during prayer meetings and altar calls, but it means more to Him when it is spontaneous and done purely out of desire to express ourselves to Him.
What are you doing for God out of desire, not only out of obligation?
Did you ever have a friend who your parents made you hang out with?
I had a friend like that growing up. I won’t tell you his name because you may know him. My mother told me in no uncertain terms that he and I were going to be friends. I did my best to be his friend, but I knew that our relationship would never last, simply because I was spending time with him more out of obligation (and fear of my mother’s belt) rather than because I wanted to.
Have you ever had that happen?
Have you ever had someone spend time with you just because they had to?
How did that make you feel?
It’s not a pleasant feeling. I bet it made you mad, hurt your feelings; and I bet you did not want to be around them at all.
But have you ever had a friend that wasn’t forced to hang out with you, but still did?
Have you ever had a friend that wanted to hang out with you just because? A friend that you could tell genuinely enjoyed spending time with you?
In my life, those are the people that I am still close friends with.
Spending time together because you want to is the basis of nearly all of the meaningful relationships in your life.
And the key to enhancing your relationship with God is looking at spending time together not as something you have to do, but as something that you want to do.
So what is it that you are doing for God out of a desire to, not out of obligation?
What is that thing that you can do for God, your Pastor or your Youth Pastor simply out of a desire to, and not because it is an obligation?
Volunteer to clean the youth room, cut the pastor’s grass, talk to your friends about God; but whatever you do, find a way in your relationship with God that you can echo the words of my nine-year-old buddy Omar.
“I know I don’t have to, but I want to.”