Taking Radical Responsibility of Our Willing Over Wanting

About a year ago, as I was studying for a message, I came across a woman from Australia named Bronnie Ware who worked in hospice care. She sat with people that were terminally ill and cared for them in their final weeks, days, and hours. During that time, as her patients were nearing the end of their lives, she began to ask a simple question to each of them?

Do you have any regrets?

I was so curious about the top five things that people said when asked this question at the end of their lives. Here they are.

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. (….There’s reason to take a personal day tomorrow.)
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

What is so fascinating to me in her findings is that every one of these regrets lies in the tension that exists between Wanting and Willing.

  1. We want to have the courage to live a life that is true to ourselves…but are we really willing?
  2. We want to not work so hard…but are we willing to make changes?
  3. We want to have the courage to express our feelings…but are we willing to do it in our relationships?
  4. We want to stay in touch with friends and value the relationships in our lives…but are we willing to do so?
  5. We want to let ourselves be happier…but are we willing to actually make strides for that?

I’ve come to realize that Wanting and Willing have been in a never-ending war with each other. They have been in a knock-down drag-out fight for you and for me. As we embark on a new year, I am once again challenged to take a look at which is winning in my life: WANTING or WILLING? Specifically, when it comes to relationships.

In the New Testament, in Mark 2:1-12, Jesus so beautifully shows us the difference between wanting and willing.

Mark’s Gospel lays out the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. Jesus had spoken once in the temple and had healed some people, and people were going crazy. Not a bad start! Jesus was blowing up. His first healing video was going viral.

What I want to call attention to are the people in the story and the different Wanting or Willing moments they have.

  • The most obvious is Jesus. We see Jesus preaching and someone else decided to turn this into a moment of Wanting or Willing FOR JESUS. Did Jesus want to heal the man or was he willing to heal a man?
  • The next is the paralyzed man. The only thing we know about him is that he can’t walk. We don’t know if he had ever even seen Jesus before. We don’t how long he had been paralyzed or how he was paralyzed. BUT, we see his wanting or willing moment. He didn’t just WANT to be healed, he was WILLING to be carried by his friends and lowered down through the roof to see Jesus.
  • The last characters are the four friends of the paralyzed man. I just love the creativity and the audacity of these guys. They didn’t just WANT their friend to be healed, they were WILLING. Nothing was going to stop them from getting their friend in front of Jesus.  

It didn’t matter to them that there was a huge crowd. It didn’t matter to them that Jesus was in the middle of teaching the Word. It didn’t matter to them what the outcome was going to be. It didn’t matter to them that there was no way IN to see Jesus. They pushed through WANTING their friend to be healed to an all-out WILLINGNESS. I think they had never seen anything like it because of the willingness present in this moment.

This is such a powerful picture of what WILLINGNESS does. Without the willingness present in the paralyzed man, the four friends and Jesus, the crowd would not have seen the MESSIAH heal a man, the paralyzed man would not be walking, the Pharisee’s would not have had their thoughts read by Jesus, the four men would not have experienced what I would imagine was one of the most transforming moments of their lives.

As for us and our relationships, we’ve got to be WILLING to put the work in to the wants and desires of our hearts.

We want conflicts to be resolved in our relationships. That takes WORK.

We want great communication in our relationships. That takes WORK.  

We want honesty and vulnerability in our relationships. That takes WORK.

We want to be able to be ourselves in our relationships. That means we need to know ourselves. That takes WORK.

We want acceptance, intimacy and transparency. That takes WORK.  

We want to FIND these qualities in our relationships, and I am here to tell you that the only way that you and I will find these things is if we FORM them.

Great relationships are built through the work of WILLINGNESS.

I’ve seen this in my own life. In my own relationships. Friendships. People I work with. My family. My Kids.My marriage. Every healthy relationship in my life is healthy because of a willingness to work on it.

So, I’d like to issue to you the same challenge I’m giving myself. Are you willing to put the work in this year to not turn your Wanting into Willing? Let’s take radical responsibility for our relationship with God and others.

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