Even though I wrote this almost four years ago, I believe even more today that God is calling the Church to authenticity. Seekers are looking for the authentic and, therefore, reliable—the accurate and, therefore, realistic view of what it means to be in fellowship with Jesus Christ.
Where is honesty, openness and confession in the Church today? Is it largely missing in action because we are afraid to trust God, and, therefore, each other? I am trusting you today, not to keep my confession a secret but to shout it from the housetops and do by example, because there is no freedom like the freedom that comes when we put our trust in a Holy God.
Wednesday night I told those who had gathered to pray that I would be calling my older daughter when I got home to invite her and her husband to go to church with me Sunday (Mother’s Day) and come for lunch afterwards, and shortly thereafter we prayed.
Later that evening, I called, only to hear her say, “We’re just not in to going to church.” And when I asked her if they would at least come for lunch, she hemmed and hawed and finally said, “We like to sleep in on Sunday.” When I responded “Well, you know me, I won’t lay a guilt trip on you” she said she knew that (but I was thinking that it sure would be nice to do just that once in awhile).
I thank God for the teaching I received a long time ago, that God does, in fact, answer every prayer with one of three responses, Yes, No, or Not Yet! I read an account once about this person who died; and in the few minutes before he was revived, he saw shafts of light piercing the clouds into Heaven. When he asked what it was, he was told it was the prayers of the people on earth. I like to think of my prayers piercing Heaven… that they don’t go unnoticed… that they are active.
As I thought about my prayer Wednesday night that my daughter and her husband would come Mother’s Day, the Lord in His infinite mercy brought back to me that I had, indeed, received exactly what I had expected, as evidenced by my comment to my son after my call to her: “She said ‘No’—I expected as much!”
Wow, I am one quick learner, aren’t I? And I’m the one who is always saying things like “Our faith should be such that if God doesn’t come through, we would be shocked.” So, yesterday a.m., after a great quiet time and some creative writing as a result, I purposed in my mind that I would live “from the holy, recreating Center of eternal peace and joy… where we are wholly yielded to Him,” as Thomas Kelly puts it in A Testament of Devotion.
I would be purposefully mindful of God throughout my day as I worked and as I went to three back-to-back meetings in the evening. Well, I did okay here in this room by myself, working… but beyond this room, I pretty much fell on my spiritual face. I failed miserably!
During the Habitat meeting I thought of God once, when Pastor Mark prayed. During the next meeting, I wasn’t aware of Him at all—the banter was light and fun; and in the last meeting to choose two applicants to receive scholarships, I was irritated by the essay of a girl whose life ambition was to be a missionary—and I said nothing when the spokesman of the group voiced “concern that she doesn’t have loftier goals.”
Talk about blowing it! I don’t know where God was but He sure wasn’t at my Center… more like on the fringes or maybe in the van waiting for me to come back to Him and my senses. Did I really think that any goal could be loftier than becoming a missionary? I had just prayed that day for missionaries who were putting their lives on the line in Zimbabwe and had sent emails out to others, asking them to pray for their safety in the face of immediate danger!
Did this supposedly wizened saint judge that young woman because of her youth, even as I was judged for “being so spiritually minded I was no earthly good” at that age? Where – was – my – voice?
And then as I was coming home after the meetings, I passed my other daughter and her husband on their way out of town, headed for Tennessee. When I called her to say I was praying for a safe trip and hoped they had a good time, she once again wanted me to assure her I wasn’t mad because they weren’t going to be here for Mother’s Day. I assured her that I was okay with it because I knew she hadn’t realized it was Mother’s Day weekend when they responded to the invitation from family. But, despite my conciliatory words and her genuine concern, the irritation began to creep in.
And then she called a couple hours later to talk to me again and I was irritated, but, of course, I didn’t let it show. She said she wanted her brother to call her when he got home from work (probably so she could tell him he’d better go to church with me Sunday, I thought to myself), and then when he called her, she asked to talk to me again, apologizing again and asking me again if I really was okay.
As I’m assuring her, I come to the realization that I am positively irritated to the hilt on the inside, and I even let it show by saying “It’s just another day and I will be fine” in that monotone voice I know I shouldn’t use.
As I look back on my failed attempt yesterday to live from a Center wholly yielded to Him, I realize that my Center wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Why? Because I had so easily harbored anger (disguised as hurt). Plus, I didn’t even recognize it as such and thus was nowhere close to confessing it. How could I do that? How could I not recognize the anger? Because I felt justified, that’s how!
Last night I journaled the following: I’m tired, and I obviously need to go to bed and pray myself to sleep. I sure hope tomorrow is better, and I can tell you one thing, I’m not going to consciously try to live from my Center. What was I thinking? I’m just going to walk with Him, as I always have. That was real wisdom talking, wasn’t it?
This morning, armed with My Utmost for His Highest, my Bible and my coffee, I read and, of course, pondered what I had read… but as I quieted myself to begin praying, I realized my mind was running around in circles—thinking about picking up the pies at Tami’s, taking Darin to work, going to Fort Wayne to get my medicine after that, getting my secret pal something for Mother’s Day, and wondering what kind of flowers I could find to take for church Sunday.
In the silence of that discovery, I began confessing my unbelief, my lack of faith and my rejection of His thoughts in favor of the lies of the enemy that I had allowed to infiltrate my thinking, and gradually, I found myself back in the Holy Center of eternal peace and joy, as my prayers for others continued.
So what did I learn in the last 36 hours? I learned firsthand that sinking into self is a sure way to lose focus on Him and quench the Voice of His Holy Spirit, thereby opening the mind to receiving and dwelling on the lies of the enemy. God knew I needed to be reminded that ‘there but for His grace goes me’ in order to walk in compassion with those who, in their weakness, struggle with that very temptation. (Now, that is a loving God!)
But just as great as was His painful revelation of my weakness, my vulnerability and my sin, was His all-encompassing Love that wrapped its gentle arms around me and said, “You are mine. I forgive you. I love you with an everlasting love. I will never fail you or forsake you. Rest in My Arms, just as you so often found safety and restoration in the arms of your earthly father.”
So today, I encourage you to walk in honesty, openness and confession, not only with the Most High God you follow but with the ordinary people you walk beside. He will use your authenticity to draw others to His side where they will find:
- Forgiveness from the only One who can erase their sins
- Fellowship with the only One who can satisfy their every longing
- Faith in the only One who will never fail or forsake them
- Love from the One who loves them like no other.