If you had the power to change one thing

I’ve always enjoyed the story of Aladdin and the Arabian Nights. As a child, I imagined having the magic lamp with the genie inside and thought about what I might wish for. 

I recently found out the background of that story is much different than I thought and definitely not the story told to children. 

One article said, “Credit for telling the tale of Aladdin has often gone to Antoine Galland, a scholar and diplomat who served as a secretary to the French ambassador to Constantinople in the 17th century.” Galland, however, wrote in his diary that he’d heard the story of Aladdin from a young Syrian storyteller named Hanna Diyab. In fact, Diyab is credited for having told Galland several stories, including Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. 

It’s hard to know where Diyab got those stories, and the original ideas have been edited and changed over the years to suit the modern sensibilities, as well as a few Hollywood scripts. But, it is understandable why someone would have imagined a genie who could grant wishes to a young man who had very little in this world and wanted more.

It is a timeless story because it is a timeless wish.

What would you wish for?

Imagine having three wishes and the promise those wishes would come true. What would you want? 

I don’t have a quick answer to that question. Chances are, you might feel the same. If I knew I had three wishes, I would want to do a lot of thinking before I made them.

  • More money? Maybe. But, there are a lot of lottery winners who say the money they won actually made their lives, and their relationships with others, difficult.
  • Better health? Maybe. But, some of the people I have grieved for most were the people who spent their last years attending the funerals of all of their friends. It’s hard to be the person who outlives their friends and family.
  • Stronger faith? Probably. But, faith is most often strengthened through the tough times of life. We would want to be careful to make that wish thoughtfully, knowing that it might be acquired at a high cost.

Honestly, if we think about almost any wish, there are consequences we wouldn’t wish for. And that is really what the story of Aladdin intends to teach.

If you could change one thing . . .

Instead of wishing for three things you want to have, what if you only had one wish—for something you could change? 

Is there something in your past you would wish away if you could? 

My sister sent me a picture of her brother and sister-in-law’s home in Carbon, Texas. Their home was over one hundred years old and they had planned to live in it forever. 

Last Friday, someone pounded on Debbie Copeland’s front door and told her she had to leave, NOW! 

Debbie had time to grab her wedding ring and a couple of her husband’s medical supplies. She jumped in her car and raced away. The next time she saw her home, all that remained was the chimney and a few metal posts from the front porch. They lost everything in the wildfire. Channel 8, here in Dallas, interviewed her. This is her story

At the time of this writing, it isn’t known how the fire started. The flames, fed by the Texas winds, have burned many homes and devastated more than 50,000 acres. I wonder if it might have been a cigarette butt carelessly thrown from someone’s car window. I wonder if it was someone burning trash when they should have picked a different, less windy day. I wonder if a spark from someone’s grill, fireplace, or electric tool could have started the fire. If there is a person who is responsible for the damage, chances are good he or she is wishing they could change that one choice right now. 

  • One careless choice can cause a fire, an accident, or damage a reputation.
  • One evil choice can start a war, cost thousands their lives, and create decades of change.
  • One action, done in anger or vengeance, can change the future.

If everyone had a wish that would grant them one change, how long would it take for us to use it up, or maybe wish we had saved it for later? 

What should we wish for right now?

If you had one wish and it was only available for the next five minutes, what would it be? 

Even as I type those words, Putin’s face comes to mind. I would wish for Putin to be brought to his knees before the God who created him. Even as I type those words, I realize that moment is guaranteed already. I just wish it was now, before another innocent Ukrainian is caused to suffer or die. 

But, someone else would need to save their wish for the next Putin that comes along. 

One wish might change a lot, but no wish would change enough. 

What would Jesus wish for?

I think the prayer of Jesus reveals his priority, his wish, for each of us. Jesus was praying in the Garden, waiting to be arrested, when he asked God to bless his followers, saying, “May all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:21–23). 

Those of us who know God’s word know what to wish for. Jesus told us while praying in the Garden. The lasting solution to the wrongs of this world and the mistakes of imperfect people is the perfection of heaven. The best way to live this life now is to “become perfectly one” with our Lord so we can live eternally with our Creator. 

The author of Aladdin wanted to have a genie and three wishes for this world. We know God is the only true source for all we wish for. He can forgive our past, guide our present, and provide for our future. 

And God is a perfect Father. I don’t know what to wish for on earth, but I know I already have everything I will ever want or need, waiting for me in heaven. 

Keep praying for the changes you want here on earth. Jesus taught us to do that. But, let’s join the psalmist in saying, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you” (Psalm 39:7). 

Who needs a genie when we can trust our perfect Father?