“You can’t always get what you want,” or so the old Beatles tune goes.
I was 14 years old when, after 2 years of Saturday morning catechism, I was confirmed in the Christian faith in the spring of 1979. On that day, I was given a small, white, leather-bound King James Bible. On the cover, my name was inked in gold. Inside, the words of Christ were written in red.
And on the inside flap, in my godmother’s crisp handwriting, was written:
Rueben & Lorraine Olsen
May 20, 1979
In small letters at the bottom of the page she had penned: 2 Timothy 2:15
Carefully, I opened my new Bible to the second chapter of 2 Timothy where she had circled verse 15:
I secretly hoped that my godmother had tucked a few bills into the book of Timothy, money that I might put toward a new 10-speed bicycle. But it turned out that the smallish white Bible with the zippered closure was the entirety of my gift.
Two years’ worth of Saturdays and not a dime to show for it. It’s true, I thought, you can’t always get what you want.
Oh, it was a just fine gift, and probably something I should have expected from my godparents, but I wasn’t going to be able to ride it to California when I graduated high school four years down the road. That was my plan, to hop on my as-yet unpurchased ten speed and ride west until I hit the Pacific Ocean, then south to San Diego, all before the ink on my diploma was dry. It sounds ridiculous now, considering I only liked riding bicycle on cool days and down gentle declines, didn’t have a dime to my name, and had no idea what I was going to do once I reached my destination. But, to my 14-year-old brain, it was a logical plan that would prove my independence and, more importantly, earn the respect of my older sister, who had recently bought herself a baby blue speed bike with rainbow stripes on the down frame. A bike she hoarded to herself and rarely knowingly borrowed to me, I might add.
Too young to get a real job and too smitten with fresh bakery rolls and 45 records to put away money for a ten speed, I was no closer to the Pacific than when I had gotten out of bed that morning. With a sigh, I opened to Genesis and started to read. I made it as far as the “begats” and, disappointed that my godparents didn’t seem to understand that Bibles were for old people and adventures were for the young, I zipped its cover shut and set my should-have-been-a-bicycle on the shelf.
Surely for the best, my goal of biking to California was never realized, and my dream of buying a speed bike evolved into buying a car and then a house. With every move I made in my life, I packed up that white, leather bound Bible and took it with me. In fits and starts over the years, I would unzip it, paddle my way through the flood account, hit the wall of “begats” in Genesis 10 once again, then set it aside.
Confirmed in the faith but affirmed in the flesh, it would be a full 35 years after my godmother dedicated it to me before I boldly (and ignorantly) assured the Lord that if He finally pulled me through the “begats,” I would read that little white Bible, cover to cover, over the following six months.
6 months and 3.5 years later, He fulfilled for me the promise I had made to Him. I was, and still am, astounded by the Bible’s beauty and poetry, by its dread and comfort. It is active. Guiding. Terror filled. Breathtaking. Powerful. Encouraging. Peaceful. It is living.
As I read, I found myself coming up for air. “No way!” I’d say, and then I’d turn back to a verse or chapter or a book or a Testament I’d already read. I’d think: Right there–it was right there! It seemed like I should call some people and, you know, tell them! And once I reached the back cover, it only seemed logical to work my way back the other direction, and try to meet up with my old friends, the “begats.”
I often think about that baby blue speed bike, and I am grateful for godparents who knew 2 Timothy 2:15 would carry me far beyond the California coast.
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