To Love Honestly

Confession:  Until recently, I hadn’t really wanted to intercede for you or anyone for about 18ish months. I just didn’t want to pray (talk with God) at all.

This might not seem like that big of a deal, unless you take into consideration the following: “Intercession is our response to God’s love for the world; expression of God’s heart for people” (from Pastor Jeff Eggers).

Let me further break this down. I used to love interceding for you. For nations, governments, systems, creation. I’d find joy in praying for everything from my dog’s health to the Muslim nation to hip hop to the trees & snails in my neighborhood (but not the spiders or flies. I hate them.) I was always looking for excuses to pray for something or someone, because I desired to love really well. I loved loving in this way, I loved understanding God’s heart. I loved you.

But something happened about a year and a half ago. I got tired of you.

Burn out? Maybe. Probably. My personality propels me toward becoming super involved in the hurts of others on a deeply emotional and spiritual level. And if I’m not careful to set proper boundaries and keep a healthy perspective, your temporary issues & difficulties become an almost unbearable interminable burden.

But, it wasn’t just a simple case of burn out or bad boundary-keeping. There were deeper issues (aren’t there always?). Burn out can & may happen due to simple foolishness, but my response to God and others when I reached this point revealed a lot about the things in me that needed intervention.

My response was:  I got mad at God. Like, really mad. And this mad-ness seeped into every aspect of my life. My list of complaints was super long, super selfish, super ME-focused, and reeking of self-pity, self-entitlement:

God! My living situation sucks, my finances suck, my creativity is nil, my friends suck, ministry sucks, I’m in the same sucky stagnant place, I’m fat and gross, I’m alone and tired, my dogs stink, literally, and nobody understands, I prayed obeyed surrendered but you didn’t give me what I wanted, you haven’t followed through on your promises, God you totally suck.

But of course I only thought these things, quietly, to myself. I couldn’t seriously admit to GOD ALMIGHTY these things; Heaven forbid I should be brutally really honest with Him, oh goodness no. He would surely punish me for such heathen remarks.

So I fast forwarded through my anger, and wanting to be the definition of a good Christian leader, I would say, “Yes, Lord, things are hard, but I praise You, I give You thanks regardless of what I feel.” This is a good thing to say…if you mean it. My problem was that I only meant these words about 3%-5%.

This dishonesty bred passive aggression & mild rebellion toward God. I was angry and hurt, but, out of insecurity/pride, didn’t allow myself to give that anger & hurt to the One who could actually do something about it. My heart started hardening, and I began to hold you and God at arm’s length. Sincerity and sweetness drained out of my prayers, meditations and times with God. I ran away from spending too much time with you, was okay with our conversations staying only in the shallower end of the ocean (yes, the shallow end is still the beautiful ocean. But I stayed only in the shallow end, resisting any depth.)

Multiple times I would purposely ignore God’s invitation to read the Bible. Multiple times I would purposely ignore His invitation to reach out to you. Multiple times I would ignore His invitation to spend quality time with Him or with you. I stopped caring as deeply and much. I thought that if I ignored God–not really ignored Him, but, you know, just enough–then maybe I could hurt Him as much as I was hurting and drowning in myself. I wanted to hurt God; I was passive aggressive and pretty stupid.

And then…the moment came. You know what I’m talking about. The moment when you just can’t hold it in anymore, when you’re just so overwhelmed with the emotions you’ve been trying to shut down and away that you don’t care anymore what is right and wrong, don’t care what the consequences will be because all that matters is getting free. You have to let it out or you’ll implode or atrophy, neither of which seems like awesome options.

It wasn’t cute. I was pretty much cursing up a storm and telling God, “It’s YOUR fault! YOU led me here, I TRUSTED you and it SUCKS! It’s OVER between us!” like a crazy psycho girlfriend.

I expected to receive that shriveling Job moment when God speaks out of the eye of the storm with lightning and thunders, “Why do you confuse the issue? Why do you talk without knowing what you’re talking about? Pull yourself together, Janet! Up on your feet! Stand tall! I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers. Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much!” (Job 38, MSG). Yes, I deserved a hard rebuke in the butt to smack me outta my mess.

But… it didn’t go down like that at all.

Instead, Jesus said to me:
Sweetheart, I understand exactly what you’re feeling. And I have compassion for you. Everything you’re feeling–wanting to give in to your own selfish desires and appetites, wanting to kill yourself, wanting take the easy way out, give in to darkness and give up on this uphill journey of faith in Father God…I know what you’re feeling. I faced it all. Every ugly terrible disgusting sinister thought or emotion you could ever be tempted to give in to, the very temptation to completely turn your back on God, even knowing all that you do…I confronted those very same things, and it doesn’t scare me or disgust me when I see you struggling with them. Remember, I overcame. And you will too, because I already paid the price and I am in you. You’re right, we did lead you here. We did lead you into this desert. But remember, I was led too by Holy Spirit into the desert for the express purpose of being tempted. And remember–I persevered, I won. And when I came out of that desert, I came out with the POWER of Holy Spirit. We led you here so you would be blessed, so you could carry our love and power, because you asked us for this, for us to do this in your heart. And we never doubted you. We never doubted that you would come out of this desert, victorious.

The mercy, kindness, understanding, compassion, Father’s love, grace, faithfulness, and goodness of God washed over me; in my ugliest moments, snot-boogers and red-faced, He folded me into His embrace with understanding. God understands.

Through Jesus Christ fully God and fully Human and our perfect High Priest, the King of the Universe, the Creator God who exists absolutely sovereignly and separate from His creation, can understand 100% a mere mortal like me. And, on top of that, He has compassion on my pettiness and secret psychoses.

This changes everything.

God’s mercy broke me, completely. I was humbled, thankful, in awe, overwhelmed, smashed, ruined. His kindness melted away my anger and passive-aggression, and the hardened places in my heart began to weep with sincere praise, thanksgiving, and adoration.

Through my weakest moment, I was brought to the place of being honest with God. Of being unafraid to show Him my true colors. Yes, a little ironic–does not the omniscient Creator God already know my true colors? Yea, He does. But, He’d never violate me by opening a closed door that clearly had a KEEP OUT OR DIE sign on it. Instead, He waited patiently for me to open the door. My honest breakdown was just the invitation and permission He needed so that we could know each other more deeply.

Sometimes I think we’re dishonest because there’s fear–fear that if we don’t put up a front that fulfills what we think So And So wants, we’ll be misunderstood, rejected, yelled at, judged, condemned, outcast, belittled, abandoned, ignored, and, the very worst of things–utterly alone.

But God isn’t this controlling dictator holding a stick and a list of Do’s and Dont’s. He’s not Santa Claus making a list of who’s naughty and nice. He’s not a tyrant who’ll put you into terrible dungeons and force you to submit through a series of cruel and unusual punishments.

God is Love. Because He is Love, He gifts us with free will. How can you truly love without a choice? His gift of free will to us is an irrevocable act of His will. We get to choose to love Him. To invite Him in. To follow Him. To be honest with Him. To be matured. To face Him, to receive His honesty. To be real with God.

Getting passive aggressive with Him–with anyone, really–is ultimately an act of fear, which breeds control and manipulation. But, His assurance that no matter what He loves me and is with me, disintegrated my fear and freed me. I can breathe again, I can feel again, I care again–I WANT to care again. I want this freedom and love to deeply permeate all my relationships.

I’m pretty confident. Really. I’m not gonna be all falsely humble, but, honestly–I’m confident I can love you honestly, because God loves me so so well.

I want to listen to you. To hear about you. Your dreams, your cares, your desires, your concerns, your stories. I want to be that person on the sidelines, genuinely cheering you on with sparkly hopeful pom-poms and tailor-made-for-you cheers, no matter what and whether or not you see me. And, if sometimes you need me to, I’m willing to be that person who jumps into the fray–pom-poms and all–and carry you, defend you, tackle the other side, catch your winning pass.

I’m also willing to be that person who is invisible, who’ll love and pray for you without any strings attached…which for me is a harder thing to be. But this is what I’m choosing, to love God and love you honestly, whether or not you’re paying attention to me. It’s…an everyday choice that I make when I wake up in the morning and when I go to sleep at night. I think in this way, I’ll get better and better at loving really well.

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