Note: before I begin this post, I need to add a disclaimer. I’m going to discuss prayer: intimate, life-changing prayer. But by its very nature, prayer is a confidential encounter between you and God and perhaps other people praying with you. It doesn’t lend itself to concrete, I’m a blogger-and-I-blab-way-too-much-about-anything type writing. So forgive the generalities and hypotheticals! And if you are part of my family or circle of friends, don’t worry…I promise not to start airing dirty laundry hanging on the line!
God and I have been hanging out a lot this summer.
He’s been teaching me a lot about prayer. Now I’ve grown up in the church and I’ve been in my share of wrestling matches with God. I’ve known about prayer. But lately he’s been leading me on a journey to, well, kind of hush. Zip my mouth, quiet my thoughts, and actually listen to what HE might have to say to me. I know that’s a bit touchy feely, but if you’ve been enjoying the popular devotional “Jesus Calling,” by Sarah Young, you have at least some idea of what I’m saying.
The most remarkable aspect of listening prayer, to me, is how quickly God can reveal hidden hurts and pains that need to be healed. And then heal them! Isaiah told us that by Christ’s wounds we are healed…I don’t know why this should surprise me, but it did. As I let God direct my mind and my memories, he has shown me some of the little events of my life — twisted by the enemy of my soul and used to sidetrack my emotional and spiritual wholeness.
OK. I’m going to need to give you a concrete example. Rats. Talk about vulnerability!
On a warm day last month a friend of mine and I sat by the lake and talked to God. On this day, I asked God to show me what he wanted me to know. In just a few moments I realized that I was dealing with some fairly significant insecurities. So we asked God to show us a time when I first felt this particular insecurity. Unbidden and unthought of, a memory popped into my mind.
Christmas Eve, when I was four or so. I was jabbering on the phone with a man who claimed to be Santa, giving him a modified version of my Christmas Wish list and wondering how in the world whoever I was talking to thought they could get shopping done as late as Christmas Eve. But this guy was promising presents, so I obliged with a list. Hanging up the phone, I returned to the family party going on. As I walked in the room, all the attention suddenly focused on me, and I remember someone saying, “So Marla, who was on the phone dear?” When I skeptically said that I’d been speaking to Santa, there were chuckles all around the room and knowing looks shooting between the adults.
I stopped dead in my tracks. These people knew something I didn’t! I was the butt of some fraud. I took stock and realized there was an uncle missing in the gathering and deduced that I’d been tricked into giving my uncle my Christmas list. So I confidently announced that my uncle had been playing the role of Santa, of course. The room erupted into laughter, and for a few moments I was the star of the show.
That’s it: a simple memory and one that I’d actually enjoyed quite a bit (and still do!).
But here’s what God showed me.
In that moment, and others like it, a fear and dislike of being the youngest, inexperienced and potentially foolish one was born in me. While I loved the attention in a way, I did not like being tricked or the feeling that every9one else was “in the know” and I was out in the cold. Now that little bit of four-year-old determination accomplished lots of positive results in me. I became a person thirsty for knowledge. I also learned to connect with the people around me, because I was determined to know when things were happening around me. But it also created some negative wounds in me.
The birth of that insecurity was used by the enemy to sabotage me over the years. I began to believe lies about myself and others. I began to believe that if I wasn’t told something, or invited to something, there was an intent to hurt me. I began to feel rejected, small, insignificant. As an adult, that inner child would rear its head and tell me I was incapable, too small to accomplish real things, not qualified.
Do you see the lie there? It’s one the enemy uses on almost all of us! I wrote about it in my last post. It plays round and round in our heads like this: “Who do you think you are?”
With this one memory, God was able to expose a lie I’d believed most of my life. And with the lie, came the flooding truth.
I am capable. I am called, and therefore qualified. I was not rejected or fooled, I was loved by the adults who wanted to experience the magic of Christmas again. I was the apple of their eyes, and secretly they were proud of my deduction skills. I am created for a purpose, whole and dearly loved.
As my friend and I watched the sunlight jump on the lake, we talked together and to God about how he died just to bring that kind of healing to all of us. His wounds did it all: not just emotional nicks like I have described, but large, gaping wounds inflicted by evil and sin. He heals us of all iniquities. We are all dearly loved.
We need to sit at his feet and accept it, clothe ourselves anew with his view of us.Put on a new identity. Put on Christ.
Sweet friend and I pictured together what it meant to be whole, to walk in freedom and allow the petty jabs and digs of the enemy glance off our soul and let Jesus deal with them.
It transformed me. It freed me.
I was amazed at how a tiny wound in childhood had been exploited by the enemy throughout my adult life. If I were sitting face to face with you I would begin listing ways that that fear and insignificance caused me to not finish really good projects, or say no to assignments I thought were too big for a person “like me.” I could point out to you really bad decisions I made in an attempt to increase my significance and salve the wound. I could tell you about places I should not have been, with people who were not good for me. All to try to cover up that tiny nick in my personhood.
Was it all due to that one incident on Christmas Eve? Of course not. But God was able to plant that picture in my mind and use it to bring the healing I needed, prayed for.
I guess my purpose in sharing all this is to encourage you to sit and listen to what God might have to say to you. In fact, I believe it is the most pressing and defining need in our generation, this need to sit and hear what God thinks about us. Beware of the lie. Beware of the words “Who do you think you are?”
Sit. Listen. You’ll be able to answer that question with who you KNOW you are.
I just finished reading Mark Batterson’s latest book, The Circle Maker. If you have followed Coffee Shop Journal at all, you know that Batterson is one of my favorite authors in the current Christian landscape. So I have been slowly savoring The Circle Maker, letting its message sink deep rather than skimming the surface of my mind.
The premise of The Circle Maker is simple: God honors the prayers we pray. Hardly ground-breaking! But Batterson frames The Circle Maker in an ancient Jewish tale that takes prayer to a new place. There was, once upon a time, a Jewish prophet named Honi. Honi lived at a time when drought was torturing Israel, and it was time for Honi to pray on his country’s behalf. So Honi literally drew a circle in the dry sand, stepped inside it, and pledged not to leave until God answered his prayer.
Honi prayed again.
It rained cats and dogs and threatened to flood the nation.
Honi prayed again until a gentle rain fell.
Using Honi’s story mixed with stories from Batterson’s National Community Church and his own life, Batterson encourages us to circle – metaphorically and often literally – the dreams we have for our own lives, the dreams God planted. Pray, think long term, let your prayers build your legacy: Batterson encourages us over and over to do the hard work of bringing ourselves and our lives into harmony with God’s plan for us.
I spent some time recently thinking about the “circles” in my life.
While Mark Batterson was walking circles around the city of Washington DC (and I say we need more people walking circles and praying in Washington DC!), I feel as if sometimes I’ve just been walking IN circles. May I be honest? Sometimes I’m not so sure that my prayers are much different than the “positive affirmations” that pop psych gurus like to peddle off on us. I pray them, regularly, but I sometimes forget that someone is LISTENING to them.
God honors our prayers.
But do our prayers honor God?
I pray — most of the time — wimpy little me-sized prayers instead of the kind that have me shaking in my boots. At church this weekend we called those kind of prayers audacious prayers. Batterson reminds us that God loves those kind of prayers, because everyone knows that only he could accomplish them. Only God could possibly have one such a thing.
I don’t want to live my life missing out on God-sized answers to prayer.
I need to be drawing audacious circles and then standing in them.
If you want to get more information about The Circle Maker and watch some cool trailers, go to TheCircleMaker.
Living in community has its downsides. Often we idealize what it is like to live in radical openness with each other, total commitment. We — appropriately — dream about having people who love you and will stand with you in your time of need. We imagine dinners, coffee, a little more coffee, and maybe one more shot. How lovely to have those we love near us to share our lives.
But there’s also the other side: you take on each other’s sorrows. When your neighbor hurts, you feel the pain in your gut. When your community is stretched thin, you stretch a little bit more. When crisis pops up its head — and it always will — it no longer matters if it is your crisis or not.
I was touched by community this week.
While preparing to celebrate the wedding of two dear friends in the student ministries department at our home with a rousing party, David and I learned that our neighbor’s son was having some health issues that required his parent’s lives to halt while they deal with the crisis. In a matter of minutes after hearing of the issues facing this sweet boy the student ministries department decided to focus on praying for him, putting off our celebration because our friends are hurting. I was impressed with their empathy, their love.
Ecclesiastes says it best: there is a time for everything, dancing, but also weeping. Tonight is the time for praying over our friend. Our dancing will come later. We started out celebrating one kind of love tonight. We ended up celebrating another kind of love altogether.
What would happen if you and Jesus got together for coffee this morning?