I was given the opportunity to try a new spiritual exercise but after a few days passed, I found myself resisting the experience. I would remember I was supposed to do it, but didn’t really want to. A few more days passed, and I would begin, then quit. Since exercises are for growth, I decided to poke around in the resistance a bit to see what I could learn. I went back to my notes. My instructions were to identify an emotion and mentally hold it in my hands like I was showing God, then use that as a prompt to pray.
However, that wasn’t what I was doing. Somehow I had twisted the instructions around in my mind. As I examined my actions, I found myself able to name an emotion, sometimes positive, sometimes negative. So far so good. But when it was time to hold it out for God to see, I found myself holding it up for God’s approval or disapproval and that’s when I didn’t want to go any further. Once I anticipated God’s disapproval, I would begin to crawdad.
So when I went back and checked my notes, I quickly understood the resistance. My instructions weren’t to hold up my emotion for God’s approval or disapproval; my instructions were to hold up my emotion for God to see, then pray. There was a pretty big disconnect in the instructions and what I was actually doing.
Once I cleared up my twisted interpretation, I tried again. That first time, the emotion I named was the heaviness of leadership. I mentally held out the heaviness in my hands and prayed, “This is what I’m feeling.” That was it; I didn’t pray anything else. I probably would have continued to pray, but, faster than a Church of Christer could turn to Acts 2:38, I felt God’s presence and I heard the words, “I’ll take that.” It was like someone snatched my empty paper plate at a church potluck and threw it in the garbage. The voice was pleasant, light, and efficient. It felt like God had anticipated the interaction. I didn’t feel like he was tapping his foot, just that he was calm and happy to take the burden from me. I have to admit, I was pretty shocked.
I didn’t ask for God to take the heaviness, or to give me answers. I didn’t seek approval or shy away from disapproval. I only shared what I was feeling, and the response I received was a beautiful lesson for me.
How much comfort have I missed because I assumed God would disapprove of my feelings? It’s pretty depressing how I cheated myself from accepting God’s invitation to be honest. The writers of the Psalms certainly didn’t hold back. Whatever they were feeling, they took it to God in a big way: praise, love, depression, desperation, anger, fear and plenty more.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
No snappy conclusion is coming to me on this one. I’m just thankful to know even a small part of our God who continues to invite us into this honest and comforting relationship. If you are interested in learning some new spiritual exercises, you may want to check out Rhesa Higgins‘s team at eleven28ministries.org. In addition, if you are interested in exploring a more honest prayer life using the Psalms, check out the “Praying through the Psalms Thirty Day Challenge” with Byron Fike, senior minister at Clear Lake Church of Christ in Houston.