Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pressing On = Pressing In

"Then Jesus went with his disciples to a a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.'" -Matthew 26:36-38

I feel like there could not be a more incredible example of how necessary it is to press into the Lord to get through tough times. Even Christ had to do it. Knowing the end was near, He pressed into His father. Knowing His soul was "overwhelmed with sorrow", He asked His friends to keep watch so He can go to God in prayer. Even though He confessed to them He was hurting, He took His hurt to God.

Pressing on through the hurt means pressing in to the Lord.

I realize this is almost exactly what I said when I talked about Hannah. But I keep getting smacked in the face with it because I realize that I can never do it enough. I can never press into the Lord enough.

I've always really struggled with "pouring my heart out to God" the way that Hannah did. I'll pray for you, your Grandma, my future, your future, etc. I'll pray for healing. Generically. But I don't pray for God to reveal to me the things in me that need to be changed so that I can heal.

"Hey God, if you could fix it, that would be great. But I'm not really going to put any effort in."

But to pray is to change.

It's like counseling. I remember talking to someone once about their counseling experience. They said that after going once or twice they weren't going back because they left the counselor's office more upset than "if they had never gone in the first place." Um, well, yeah. Counseling hurts. It's like surgery. We are going to pull up all your junk and crap that you have been avoiding, take a look at what is destructive and cut it out with a scalpel. But you'll be healthier once we get it out of you. We have to get rid of the cancer.

Prayer is the same way. Just with God. And surgery scares me.

At 3 o'clock in the morning the other night, (and um, I was up at 3 o'clock because I am newly obsessed with "The West Wing"; thanks a lot Blum) I went from discussing something rationally with my roommate to being a gross, crying mess in her lap. And I realized that my hurts were overflowing out of me because I was not pressing into the Lord enough. I had not been leaving prayer changed because I was asking God to fix it but then I did not do my part.

He's saying, "I'll show you the cancer and you go get it cut out."

And I'm saying, "Um, I'd rather you divinely remove it with a miracle so that it doesn't hurt, actually. Oh... and could you also make sure it doesn't leave a scar? That would be great. Thanks."

Cricket.... cricket.....

Do I trust God enough to believe that the surgery that is being performed in my life is for my best? If I am not really pressing into the Lord and asking what I can do then do I really believe that His Character outweighs my own wisdom? If I did then wouldn't I be pouring everything in my heart out before Him to show me what to get rid of?


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Transparency a.k.a What's Your Mess?

"In her novel Wise Blood, Flannery O' Connor says of her character Hazel Motes that 'there was a deep, black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.'  This is a profound insight.  You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws.  If you do that, then you have "rights".  God owes you answered prayers, and a good life, and a ticket to heaven when you die.  You don't need a Savior who pardons you by free grace, for you are your own Savior." -The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

I have been thinking a lot about transparency lately.  I have been completely inspired by the people in my life right now who are struggling with things and are just laying it out on the table.  They are admitting their imperfections, for they know they are not their own savior, and they are living lives in the light with accountability and hope.  It really is so beautiful.  They truly have an understanding of the gospel:

We are more sinful they we ever dared believe and yet more loved than we ever dared hope.

If there is not an understanding of the latter, then there is no way to admit the former.  If I do not believe that I already have more love than I will ever need then there is no way I will admit my struggles and failings for I fear the rejection of those around me.   

Paige Benton Brown discussed this briefly at the conference when she said, "When's the last time you heard someone say, 'Can you pray for me? When I look at my heart I realize I'm racist? ' or 'Hey I'm really struggling with lust here.'"  

I had a friend say to me recently that he wanted to start going back to church but that first, he needed to get his life back in order.  How sad that the church gives off such an unwelcoming, self righteous air.  That is not what Jesus said we should be.  

"On hearing this Jesus said to them, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" -Mark 2:17

I am thankful that I have a community of people who inspire me to acknowledge how loved I am by God and be confident enough in that to admit to the world what a total mess I am.  

I hope you do too.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Desperate Hearts

"In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."
As she kept on praying to the LORD, Eli observed her....Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, "How long will you keep on getting drunk? Get rid of your wine."
"Not so, my lord," Hannah replied, "I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief."
Eli answered, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him."
She said, "May your servant find favor in your eyes." Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. "-1st Samuel 1:10-18

This was one of the passages that Paige Benton Brown (PBB) discussed at the conference I attended. Hannah was a desperate heart. She desperately wanted a son. And what did she do with that? She went desperately to the Lord. So desperately that the priest, Eli, thought she was drunk. It was so rare to see someone that passionate in prayer, that broken before the Lord that the priest thought this woman was drunk. She doesn't show up all big and strong and composed asking for her hearts desire. She is a mess.

And I just love the transition that takes place between these three moments:
1) Hannah begins "in bitterness of soul" weeping and praying to the Lord
2) Hannah "pours out her soul" to the Lord
3) Hannah goes her way and "her face is no longer downcast"

How do I go from "bitterness of soul" to "no longer downcast"? By pouring out my soul to the Lord. And, as PBB points out she leaves a different person "not because the prayer was answered but because the prayer was offered". She still did not have a son when she left nor the assurance that she would ever have one. But she knew that God was Sovereign, Consistent and Loved her. She had handed over her request to the one who knows better than she does what is truly best for her.

Kathy Keller said our sorrows, our sufferings, our conflicts are all weighing God's character against our own wisdom. That is the only conflict that ever has to be decided when we are suffering.

Hannah knew that whether she had a child or not, God's character was greater than her knowledge of the situation.

I'm working on trying to rest in that knowledge as well.
And I hope, whatever you are going through, that you can too.