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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Hearing an echo in there?

Do you ever feel like your prayers are kind a little like "complaints" to God?  It is like you see this shingle hanging over heaven's gate and it reads "Complaint Department".  Even I am guilty of sometimes just spilling my guts to God about stuff which comes out sounding a whole lot like I am complaining (usually because I am!) and a lot less like I actually want to spend time with him!  I think we all might just go through periods of time when our prayers are little more "needy" than others - when we just have to let it all out, so to speak.  Maybe the most amazing thing to me is the way God responds to my "complaint" sessions.  I might think he'd get a little tired of this kind of jabbering on about what is wrong in my life, but in actuality, he listens, often using my very own words to give me the change in perspective I actually need.  Did you catch that?  He uses MY OWN words to change MY perspective - allowing me to spill my guts and then turns those spilled out emotions and complaints as a means to speak truth into my life.  How on earth does he do that?  

I cry out loudly to God, loudly I plead with God for mercy.  I spill out all my complaints before him, and spell out my troubles in detail:  “As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away, you know how I’m feeling, know the danger I’m in, the traps hidden in my path.  Look right, look left—there’s not a soul who cares what happens!  I’m up against it, with no exit—bereft, left alone.
I cry out, God, call out:  ‘You’re my last chance, my only hope for life!’
Oh listen, please listen; I’ve never been this low.  Rescue me from those who are hunting me down; I’m no match for them.  Get me out of this dungeon so I can thank you in public.  Your people will form a circle around me and you’ll bring me showers of blessing!”  (Psalm 142 MSG)


I don't think God keeps his distance just because our moments in prayer are a little self-centered - focusing on our perceived needs and injustices more than on communing with him.  I believe he knows how badly we need the cathartic of getting all that pent up junk out into the open so he can actually get at our hearts when it is all cleared out!  When we get stuff out in the open - the stuff which really is bugging us and causing us to look at it rather than at God then he is free to finally intervene because he can finally get at our hearts. There are a whole lot of times our emotions keep us more busy focusing on the mess we are in than on the potential of God helping us get out of the mess!  

As I said earlier, God often uses our own words to teach us what it is we need to see in the moment of our greatest distress.  If we just came to God all the time with the attitude of covering over how we were really feeling, how well do you think that exchange would go?  He already knows how we are feeling, so what use is it to cover up those true feelings?  Instead, if we honestly just get them out, allow them to be exposed to his touch, we might just find the release we have been looking for all along.  As David pens these words, he is hold up in a cave hiding out in order to escape the armies of Saul - armies out to take his life because the king feels threatened by David.  Hmmm....now let me get this right - - - the king feels threatened by David because David is the next in line for the throne, but the "next in line" guy is hiding out in a cold, dark place in order to avoid what threatens HIM.  Now, does anyone else see anything wrong with this picture?

So many times we are right there on the cusp of some great thing in our lives, and instead of facing up to the muddle we are in, we hide away that muddle because we don't know how to deal with it.  God is great with muddles - but he has one condition - get it out in the open.  As long as we hide our muddle away in the cold, dark places, we are going to see the circumstances we are in as anything but "anointed"!  For David to actually overcome his fears and to walk out in the open, he has to get out of the cave.  For him to get out of the cave, he has to open up to God right where he is at - in the cave!  In the cold, dark place he is in!  So, in essence, when we struggle with those "cave" moments ourselves, what we need most is not to pull deeper into the cave, but to let it all out!  

In our muddle, we often feel the most misunderstood and the most alone. In speaking what we feel, we might just come to the conclusion of how much we have been telling ourselves the wrong story about our circumstances.  David was God's anointed.  He understood the idea of God's anointing - that no one touches God's anointed unless God allows it.  Yet, in this moment, he is in a cold, dark cave - alone, at his lowest point, seeing no way of escape.  What he was looking for was a means to "slip by" that which haunted him and caused him this great peril - for that is what an escape really is.  What he needed was a "deliverance" from his fear of what might threaten him, but which could do him no harm as long as his heart was close to the heart of God.  The way he discovers this is through getting it all out before God - not because he "needs" to grumble against his circumstances, but because he knows God will help change his perspective of the circumstances.

This is our greatest need - to have our perspective changed in the midst of the circumstances - not so much that the circumstances change.  Saul would still be king when David finally emerges from the cave, but his days would be limited because God had a plan in motion.  David would not magically be no longer pursued and threatened by Saul's armies, but he would see those threats through the eyes of a God who would give him the counter-intelligence to deal with those threats!  In the cave - the walls echo his despair, but he speaks them out anyway.  In the pits of our greatest need, the walls seem to echo our despair, but actually, they are just causing those words to return to us so we can hear them clearer.  In the "re-hearing" of those words we speak, we often come full-circle to the place we see how much we have drifted from our total and complete trust in God's plan for our lives.  He uses those words to speak the loudest truth into our muddle.

We may complain, but God can turn the complaints of our heart into the messages of grace we so desperately need in order to overcome the misery of our mess.  Just sayin!