“Lord, What Wilt Thou Have Me to Do?”
Sometimes we are just dead wrong and in need of repentance. We may have sinned against God or against our fellow man. Perhaps we have done something for which we owe an apology, or some sort of recompense to a sweet spouse or goodly neighbor. We have all made mistakes which require a correction, but the question is, “Are we willing to just do what is necessary to make things right?”
I will admit that I have done a lot of bonehead things in my life for which I owed apologies, and sometimes required compensation or punishment. When it comes to breaking the law, I have received a good share of speeding tickets. I remember when I was younger, and would be pulled over in my car for one thing or another, claiming ignorance was my go to action as the police officer peered into my window. It is not that I wanted to lie or felt comfortable doing it, but it was more of a knee-jerk reaction. Nobody wants to stick a fork in his own eye. Either way it was wrong and I should have owned up to my mistakes.
“I had that ‘deer in the headlights’ kind of feeling.”
On a summer day 27 years ago I was driving a group of youth home from a trip to the temple in Oakland. I was just east of Los Banos, heading toward Highway 99 with my cruise control set for 65 mph. The speed limit was actually 55 mph. Suddenly, in my rearview mirror, I could see the red light of the California Highway Patrol. I courteously pulled over and retrieved my drivers license and proof of registration while waiting for an officer to come to the window. As he approached I had that “deer in the headlights” kind of feeling. How was I going to get out of this ticket?
All at once I realized I was being observed by a van full of young people, each wondering how I would handle this situation. I felt great responsibility for the example which I would set. In my troubled heart I turned to the Lord and asked Him what I should do. When the very professional officer approached, he asked, “Do you know how fast you were going?” My response I believe surprised him as much as it did me, “Yes, I was going 65 mph, and I respect any actions you need to take.” He then proceeded to write me a ticket, which I respectfully signed, sincerely inviting the officer to have a very nice day.
I saw the biggest surprise in the faces of some of the young people in the van. I believe that some of them had been accustomed to seeing parents not always speaking with honesty when it came to receiving a citation. I learned a lot that day, and have striven since to be honest, even when it hurts, and accept my comeuppance. True repentance comes only when we admit our wrong and accept our comeuppance.
I have also experienced many such moments requiring repentance in my interpersonal relationships. One such event occurred with my sweet wife Monica in the early years of our marriage. I spoke one summer day insensitively and made her extremely angry with me.
I had never seen her so angry before, and I knew that I needed to give her some space before mustering up the best apology I could ever make, and sincerely accepting responsibility for my words. As some hours passed with me outside the comfort of our home and family, I dedicated much time to prayer and humble supplication, that I might earn the forgiveness of my sweetheart.
By the time I returned home later in the afternoon, I felt the weight of my mistake, and was ready to do anything necessary to rescue her love for me. I knocked on our door with a giant bouquet of flowers in one hand, and an even bigger heart full of See’s Candy in the other. When Monica answered the door, she could see in my eyes what I was feeling in my heart, “I am so sorry. What would you have me do?” With her kind smile we embraced in joyful reunion. All was forgiven. She knew in my humble glance the depth of my love and willingness to improve, and forgiveness came easy. I have since filled that heart many times over with her favorite chocolates, but always for good occasions.
“Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” We read in Acts 9:6 that humble appeal to God from the wicked man Saul, who by asking that question and responding with repentance and obedience became the Apostle Paul, one of the great ones.
How many of us in our moments and hours of being called out for our incorrect actions have responded, “What wilt thou have me to do?” Or have we responded denyingly or defiantly, “I didn’t do anything wrong,” or “Where do you get off judging me.” The true measure of a man is how he owns up to his actions and humbly submits to correction when wrong. It is not enough to simply own up to one’s actions if you will not repent and adjust your course to do right. Pride in doing evil, or denying that which is evil, is denying God, denying wrong, and is damnable.
So we look at Saul and we wonder how could a man who did so much evil against the saints, and even consented to the actions that led to the stoning death of the good man Stephen, become an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ? It is by asking the question when corrected, “What wilt thou have me to do?” Then, earnestly listening for an answer, humbly repenting, and doing that thing, yes, those many things called upon to do, even for the rest of our days.
That is what Saul did, and that is how he became Paul, the Apostle of the Lord.
We do not need to commit grievous acts in order to get the attention of the Lord. Nor do we need blinding light and a personal visit from Jesus Christ to hear His loving call to repentance when we have strayed.
We can humbly follow always with occasional course corrections, as Stephen, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 6:5), who I will bet always kept the speed limit and was likely a sensitive husband. Or, if we have lived as Saul, there is still hope. We can hear the voice of the Savior and we can turn around, grab onto the iron rod of the word of God and never part from it again. We can be a “chosen vessel” unto the Lord (Acts 9:15).
To be as Stephen, or to become like Paul, we just need to sincerely and regularly ask, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” So long as we will hear, He will guide us home to where we may see the Son of Man, even on the right hand of God, and there hear the declaration made of us, “They have fought the good fight, let them enter into my rest.” In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.