Confessions: I am Mute

It is sobering to realize that after twenty-three years in the church, I do not know how to pray.  I do not know how to talk to God.  I only know how to talk about God.   This is normally fine, because my life is normally fine.  I have a wonderful husband, a cute apartment, and enough money to not worry much.

I am safe.
I am fed.
I am warm.
I am happy.

These are all good things.  But there are other things…things that gurgle about below.  The good things have made me bad.  Or, I was bad already, and I didn’t notice until I had good to compare it to.

I am materialistic.
I am shallow.
I do not like getting out of my middle class comfort zone.
I am lazy.
I am unforgiving.
I am entitled and elitist.

I think that all I have is mine and that I am the ruler of my kingdom.  Who has time for God in all this self-obsession?  Who has time for neighbor?

Love God, Love People.   I am not very committed to doing either.  Because I love myself, all dialogue is with myself.  This is a confession: I do not know how to pray.  Because I do not communicate with Love (God, who is all love) I have no love to give others.  Because I do not communicate with God I cannot love him.  How can I love that which I don’t know?  I pretend.  We pretend.  It is easy to speak of God, difficult to speak to God.  For what can we say, except “I repent?”  I would have to start every conversation by admitting that I am wrong, broken, hateful, selfish.

It’s easier not to speak.
It’s easier not to love.
It’s easier to be mute.

The Bible is full of stories, of prophets, of sinners, of great people.  None were silent.  The sinners proclaimed their sinfulness; they boasted in their success as if they had created it.  The faithful sang of their faithfulness; the doubtful whispered their doubts.  Silence is the enemy of relationship.  Relationships are messy.  They’re hard work.  People in relationship have to stop being selfish, stop trying to “win,” and stop ignoring issues.  People in relationships have to open their mouths.

Do you know how to pray?  Do you only speak with yourself?  Talk to God.  To God.  Start with “I’m sorry.”  Start with “I don’t know how.”  Start with “I don’t like this,” and “This is hard.”  You’ll get distracted; you’ll get discouraged.  But suddenly one day you’ll realize that you were talking to God without thinking about it.  Then listen.  For a minute, for an hour before you start speaking.  And then one day you’ll realize that God is talking back.

The deaf will hear.  The mute will speak (1).  We will love God, and it will be easy to love neighbor.

——–
Notes
1: Matthew 7:31-37

Confessions, Part 1: I am Broken.

Stopping is just so difficult.

I am a very busy person.  To be sure, there are thousands, perhaps even millions of people busier than I.  But I am still a very busy person.  I am constantly caught up in twenty different things, going twenty different places, talking to twenty different people, and somehow keeping everybody involved at least marginally happy.  Sure, there are days when I have “nothing” to do, but busy is a state of mind for me, not just a way of life.  Even when I’m sitting still, my mind can be racing millions of miles an hour.  There’s always something to analyze, ponder, and worry about.

I don’t like stopping.  Stopping is dangerous.  Stopping forces me to face what I’ve been ignoring for so long while drowning myself in business.

I’m a mess.

I’ve been broken for so long that I don’t remember what it’s like to be whole.  I’ve been tired for so long that I can’t remember what it’s like to be rested.  I’ve been empty for so long that I can’t remember what it’s like to be full.  There’s no running away from it, no hiding from it, no avoiding it.  I’m just simply a mess.  I’ve got all these secret pains and aches and feelings stuffed into places where no one will see them.

Every once in a while the miserable soup bubbling somewhere in the cauldron of my heart gets a little too hot.  Every once in a while there’s a blip on the radar, an incident that seems trivial, or a desperate word or two that escapes unawares.  There are days when I don’t want to be nice.  There are days when I’m sick of myself.  There are days when I have nothing to say, and days when my brain is so full it gives me a headache.  There are days when I don’t want to pray, think, or smile.
There are days when I don’t want to believe.

Not in God.

Not in anything.

On those days, it’s hard to be busy.  Obligations feel like chores and the tiniest trifle feels like a problem of monstrous proportions.  On those days, I just want to take my keys and drive somewhere far away, where nobody knows me and nothing is familiar.  The only issue is that I’d have to take myself with me.  It’s hard to run away from the problem when the problem is inside of you.

Salvation has become such an eternal concept in today’s church.  Everything is based on heaven, hell, and our respective places in them.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe salvation has an eternal aspect and determines our entrance into heaven or hell, but there’s one tiny problem.  On those days, I don’t care about eternity.  I don’t need a God for after I die.

I need a God for now.

I need a hope for now.

I need a healing for now.

Sure, much greater things will come in the future.

But now, right now, I need help.

It’s funny how a lot of Christian self-help books tell us to pray and trust and such and that things “will get better.”  It implies the future.  It’s just that a lot of times we don’t need things to get better at some point in the future; we need them better now.  We need peace now, love now, and above all else, faith now.

Luke 8:43-48 recounts the story of a woman who had been plagued for twelve years with disease.  After she touches the tassel of Jesus’ garment, gets found out, and casts herself at His feet, Jesus tells her, “Go in peace.”  The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom. Our Western understanding of peace is usually the absence of conflict.  Ancient rabbis would not have limited shalom to this.  The shalom of God is the presence of the goodness of God.  It is wholeness, completeness, and oneness.  It is not simply the absence of conflict; it is the presence of an overwhelming love so powerful that it transforms the person enveloped by it.  It is not just a momentary peace.  It is an infinite peace, because it is an attribute of God, and God is infinite.  Philippians 4:7 speaks of a “peace that transcends all understanding.”  This is shalom.

When Jesus told the woman to “Go in peace,” He was really telling her to go in the whole and complete goodness of God that was transforming every aspect of her being.  There’s another word in that short phrase that catches my attention – “in.”  Jesus tells her to “Go in peace.”  He does not tell her to wait for peace, pray for peace, hope for peace, or work for peace.  He tells her to go in the realization of a peace that’s already there.  She goes, enveloped in God’s person.

That’s what I need.  I need God to be a person.  I need God to have ears when I want to scream, a shoulder when I want to cry, a hand to hang onto when I trip, and lips to kiss my boo-boos.

I so appreciate a statement made by Rob Bell – “It is possible to be a good Christian and go to church services and sing the right songs and jump through the right hoops and never let Jesus heal your soul.”

This is a confession.  I am a mess.  I am tired, empty, and broken.  I have not always forgiven, and I have not always repented.  Sometimes, I can barely hang on, and sometimes I climb over people.  I do not have all the answers, but I pretend I know it all.  I cannot exist alone, but I still keep people at a distance.  Very often I do not love.

Yet all of that is okay.  God is a person; He’s a God of now.  And now, right now, the personal God of now has His arms around me, His heartbeat next to my ear, and His lips kissing my boo-boos.

I’ve learned that a lot of people give up.  Anyone can quit.  Quitting is easy.

But I don’t want to quit.  In fact, I can’t wait for the next moment, because God is already there.  This may seem too raw, too honest.  I’m okay with that.  Being broken is beautiful.

Stopping is difficult.  I beg you, though, to stop.  To assess, to confess, and to allow the overwhelming shalom of God to wrap you up.  It’s an exiting place to be.

I’m excited, at least.

 

Because Jesus is healing my soul.