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You Can't Always Get What You Want

When I was young I was a hit with the girls! So much so that, at age two, I was invited by a little girl to her birthday party. She was about four or five years old at the time, and she made it known to her parents that her idea of a dream party would be to have me come along as her guest of honour, which – because I was cheaper than a magician or a trip to the cinema – I duly did. She was not alone at the party, of course. There was a whole gaggle of her little girls friends in attendance too, and I was the star attraction. For a time they attended to my every whim and found it amusing to follow me around wherever I went, allowing me to do whatever I wanted to do. But then they discovered a snag. I wouldn't settle to anything. If one of them picked up a skipping rope, I wanted to skip. If another one picked up a balloon, I wanted to play with it. If someone had a doll, I must have that doll right now. And after a while – of course – they got tired of me, and I had to be rescued by my mother until it was time to have the birthday tea.
What those little girls had discovered was that tiny children always want what someone else has got, and they never want anything for very long. Fortunately for me, of course, I grew out of that phase. Because I've never again been as gorgeous as I was when I was two, I started to get much less attention from girls – but at least I didn't put my friends off so quickly, because I learned that you can't always get what you want.
That's the title of a Rolling Stones song:
You can't always get what you want,
but if you try, sometimes you just might find,
you just might find
you get what you need!
What do you want? England to win the football world cup again? Or maybe a British tennis player to win Wimbledon, just once in your lifetime? Or a winning lottery ticket? Or a perfect romance? Or a satisfying job? Or an easier life? Or a new kitchen? Or a fast car? Or maybe you just want to be healthy, or happy, or to be together with those you love? Maybe you want to put the clock back to a golden time in the past, or to turn the clock forward to a rosier future?
Well, as the Rolling Stones sang, 'You can't always get what you want!' Even when we want good and noble things like world peace, or everyone to agree to put an end to global warming, we can't always get what we want.
Some people's response – when they find out that they aren't going to get what they want – is to give up. They become cynical. Or they become so laid back that they almost fall over. Or they take a couldn't care less attitude to everything.
But if you don't give up, if you try, sometimes you might just find – not that you will get what you want, but that you just might get what you need!
Jesus' friends, the apostles, were having a good time. They had been following Jesus for a year or two, and learning how they could help to continue his work. They were making a difference. They were doing things to make the world a better place, and they were teaching people how to get much more out of life. There was a buzz going on around them. Good things were happening. But there was so much going on, and so many people were coming to them to seek help, that they didn't even have enough time for lunch and dinner breaks. The pressure was constant, and it was getting to them.
So Jesus suggested an away-day. 'Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while,' he said, and off they went together in a boat to a deserted part of the lake shore. But you can't always get what you want, can you? 'Many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them,' so that they were just as busy and pressured as they had been before they set off. Jesus realised that he couldn't turn his back on such a crowd of needy people. Instead he had compassion on them. He began to teach them many things, and his original vision for a quiet day went out of the window.
The same thing happened when they moved to a different part of the lakeside. Again, people rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard that Jesus and his friends had gone to stay. In fact, 'wherever [Jesus] went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.'
What was going on here? Jesus and his friends weren't getting the rest which they craved, that's for certain. But were the sick people who were brought to him, and their relatives, friends and carers, getting what they wanted?
Sometimes I guess they were. But I suspect that, even when Jesus was in town, and even when you could touch the fringe of his cloak, you didn't always get what you wanted. Because you don't always get what you want, do you? But if you try, sometimes you just might find you get what you need!
These were people who hadn't given up just because they couldn't get what they wanted out of life. They were still prepared to keep on trying – trying to make things better, trying to overcome disease or disadvantage, trying to learn new truths or build a better life, trying to get to Jesus. They had faith that things don't necessarily have to stay the same, and what they had realised was this: if you try, sometimes – not always, but sometimes – you just might find you get what you need!
God doesn't deal with what we want. God is only interested in what we need. Sometimes, what we want and what we need are the same. Sometimes they're very different. And, sometimes, even when we do need something very badly, God still can't meet our needs in the way we might want them to be met. It's only when we've got ourselves to the right place at the right time, so that God's will can be done in us, it's only then that we will get what we need.
You can't always get what you want,
you can't always get what you want,
but if you try, sometimes you just might find,
you just might find,
you get what you need!
[1]Mark 6:30—34 & 53—56

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