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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Honest to God and to ourselves

My spiritual life was fundamentally changed by a woman in a small group Bible study that I led many years ago.

To put it bluntly, Holly seemed to really know Jesus. It wasn't that she had all the answers or a particularly chirpy personality. She simply lived with a powerful authenticity before the Lord. She had a childlike freedom with him that was startling.

One moment typified how her life in Christ really glowed. I think we had been discussing prayer: how to pray, what to say, that sort of thing.

Holly said, guilelessly and joyfully, "I just tell God what I'm feeling because he knows already anyway. I usually journal all my prayers and I'm really honest in what I write. Because, let's face it, I can't fake it. He knows if I'm really mad at him, or if I'm disappointed about something. He knows, so I just go ahead and tell him. That’s how I pray."

I don't remember if everyone else felt rather stunned by her comment, but I certainly was.

WHAT?!! Just tell God? Everything?

(Won’t he be mad at me if I’m honest?! Am I allowed to be angry with him?!)

For much of my life in Christ, I subconsciously thought God wanted me to put on a good face, and not show doubt or anger. It was easy to get that message, especially as a Christian woman. Basically, I had come to believe it showed the strength of my faith to avoid reality.

But then I started testing Holly’s method. As I read the Psalms, I noticed similar honesty and emotional freedom:

O God, why do you cast us off forever? Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture? (Ps. 74:1)

With my voice I cry out to the Lord; with my voice I plead for mercy to the Lord.

I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him. (Ps. 142:1-2)

Or, most powerfully, the Psalm quoted by our Lord on the cross—as honest as it gets:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,

And by night, but I find no rest. (Ps. 22:1-2)

As a lay minister of the Lord, Holly gave me permission to enjoy the freedom that I already had in Christ. It changed my life.

We can tell him—anything—because he knows already. He can take it. He’s God. He longs to commune with us in the nitty-gritty details of our day, as mundane, chaotic, or rocked with conflict as it may be. He’s God of the good days, too. Let your praise roll off your tongue, with honesty and joy. He’s God of it all.

Savor the freedom—even the emotional freedom—that you have with our Lord; because it is “for freedom that Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1).

Dig Deeper: Try writing a journal entry to the Lord. Tell him what's going on in your life, as if you were writing a letter to a friend. Avoid "finding answers" or "learning lessons." Just tell him what's up.

You are warmly welcomed to visit my personal blog: My Quotidian Mysteries

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Blogger Denise said...

Bless you for this Laura.

January 15, 2008 at 10:24 PM  
Blogger The Preacher's Wife said...

'I had come to believe it showed the strength of my faith to avoid reality.'

Oh, amen Laura.

I think my thing is to think, if I'm experiencing trial as a result of stupid decisions on my part, to simply believe I deserve for God to be mad at me. It's not that I necessarily get mad at Him, but instead resign myself to the fact He is just sick of hearing from me for a while until I get my act together.

Does that make any sense whatsoever? ha!

Excellent post...I loved your Digging Deeper idea...I heart my journal :)

January 15, 2008 at 11:12 PM  
Blogger Tiffany said...

Thank you! I have gone through a lot of different feelings towards God in the past year. Anger has definitely been one of them. It sets me on end to hear someone say that we can't be angry at God. What?! Well, he did not "do this to you." He did not take your daughter away from you. You have to have faith.

It is my faith that makes me angry! It is not that I think he did this to me to punish me or something. It is that I know he could have prevented it and chose not to.

The God I serve is big enough to handle all of my emotions. He wants me to turn myself completely over to him, not just the pretty parts. That includes my honesty! Thanks for sharing. I think more people need to hear that this kind of crying out to God is found in the Bible.

January 15, 2008 at 11:43 PM  
Blogger Belinda@upsidedownbee said...

To be authentic before God...and others... can be a scarey thing to do. Thanks for the food for thought. B.

January 16, 2008 at 4:14 AM  
Blogger Linda said...

Ah, the Dig Deeper challenge. I need those. I read something challenging and think, "Wow, that was good," and before I know it, I'm off to the next thought. But this slows me down and remidns to actually APPLY what I just read! Thanks, Laura!

January 16, 2008 at 6:26 AM  
Blogger Praise and Coffee said...

It's so good to know that no matter what is going on inside us, He can take it. (He already knows anyways!)

Thanks Laura, I love your heart.

January 16, 2008 at 7:15 AM  
Blogger Mocha with Linda said...

That is so excellent. It flies in the face of every legalistic spiritual mask we try to put on.

He knows what we're feeling no matter how we try to stuff it down among our piety. He can handle it.

Thanks for this encouraging word.

January 16, 2008 at 7:43 AM  
Blogger annie said...

I love that God puts people in our paths right when we need them, sounds like Holly shared a truth you needed! God is so good and His mercy endures, forever!
Great post, thank you!

January 16, 2008 at 9:05 AM  
Blogger Darnelle said...

Sometimes, for me, it just comes down to this idea: No earthly relationship will flourish if it is based on pretending, putting on a fake happy face, and not really communicating real feelings. I believe it's no different if we really want a relationship with God - we must be real. The cool thing is, He already knows what's going on in our dark little hearts anyway, and He loves us completely. He is the ONLY one who will always love us completely - regardless of what's in our heart. That gives me courage to be real with Him. I agree with you, THAT's real freedom!

January 16, 2008 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I love the "dig deeper" challenge!

January 16, 2008 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Chris @ Come to the Table said...

Amen, Laura

"He's God of it all"

This is all I need to remember.

It is so freeing when you no longer have to pretend or try to hold it together. It is like holding your breath for a really long time and when you finally get to release it is such a relief.

January 16, 2008 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger Chris @ Come to the Table said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

January 16, 2008 at 12:06 PM  
Blogger windycindy said...

I always try to make sense of what is going on in my life or around me. I know God has a purpose for everything whether I realize it or not! After, I lost my older brother and mother four months apart in 2000, I really did some soul searching. Cindi

January 16, 2008 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger Heather@Mommymonk said...

Laura, you've hit the nail on the head. Prayer is all about being real - He knows the depths of our hearts even better than we do. Why do we try to hide it? He's big enough to handle our anger and actually, He'd prefer we tell Him instead of spewing it elsewhere.

What a privilege to have His ear whenever we need it!

January 16, 2008 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

I learned a wonderful lesson from my 4-year-old twins tonight. We read our Bible story and they each wanted to say a prayer (I SO love that). Each child thanked God for an endless list of things. Nothing about what they want from Him, just thank yous for all of the wonderful things in their lives. How real is that?! I needed to hear it because I have been stuck in the "please" mode lately, not focusing on the good in my life.

Prayer is hard for me as I have a hard time focusing. Thank you for the ideas on how to stay connected to God.

January 16, 2008 at 3:55 PM  
Blogger Shonda said...

Ah yes, I've been journaling my prayers for many years. I find a release.

Blessings in Christ--

January 16, 2008 at 7:20 PM  
Blogger Joyce said...

I which I had met Holly 32 years ago maybe I would not have spent 11 years going from deep anger to wondering if it was OK to be angry at God. And finally being given the word that it is OK to be angry and God already knew about it way back then. What a freedom that brings. Thank you.

Love and Hugs,

January 16, 2008 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I have been writing in my prayer journal for several years now and you are absolutely right, it feels so good just to give it to God. I just write my feelings down, close the book and leave it there. HE knows what to do with it even before I write it, HE just waits on us to give it to HIM. Thanks for such a wonderful post. God Bless!

January 17, 2008 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Missy @ It's Almost Naptime said...

I loved that Laura. It is so good to remember the ways we used to think in error - and to praise God for the sisters who set us straight!

January 17, 2008 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger ChristiS said...

YES! I so agree! I'm trying to do this, and it truly is freeing!

January 17, 2008 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger Vicki said...

A truth-filled post, indeed. Thank you for this. We women need to stop faking our feelings with God, and pour our hearts out to Him. One woman, years ago, told me I had no right to feel anger and so I thought maybe she was correct in her assessment. I stuffed it all until I realized that I wasn't being honest with God OR myself to pretend I wasn't hurt or angry. Confession is good for the soul. There's a reason for that:-)

January 18, 2008 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger -TNChick- said...

I never wanted to leave out details in prayer but there have been times/things that I didn't say all I wanted - even knowing he already knew. Great post... I will write our Lord a letter... and I will tell Him what's up. I think I have a lot to say, anyway... writing will be easier for me - it helps me get out everything I wanted to get out.

January 22, 2008 at 11:35 PM  

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