Reflections on things that matter.
Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
For so many years of my teenage and young adult life, I felt like when I prayed, I had to say what God wanted to hear. I had to ask for the things I thought he wanted me to ask for, and to completely ignore the thoughts and feelings that I was taught to regard as “unholy”. Eventually, though, my real thoughts and feelings would manifest, and I felt guilty because those thoughts and feelings were not “Christian”. My shame over the things I desperately needed guidance about–my moods, my fears, my sexuality–were off limits to God. Or so I thoughts.
A few years ago I heard a sermon by a pastor at Jesus Lifehouse Church in Tokyo about being honest with God. For the first time, I was able to equate my lack of openness with God about those “taboo” topics with “lying.” When I don’t acknowledge the raging and out of control parts of my soul to the Lord, I am lying to him. When I pray “Lord, I just want your will,” when i really want mine, I’m lying. I’m not praying in faith. I’m LYING. When I ask God to take away certain feelings, like attraction or lust, when what I really want is to indulge them, I’m LYING to God. And guess what? He knows it! The only one fooled is me.
I fooled myself for years, partly because i thought it was the “Christian thing to do” to “speak in faith,” and partly because I was ashamed of many of those feelings and I was afraid God would be angry with me for having them. I was afraid that God wouldn’t understand my jealousy when my friends were pairing of and getting married and I was still single. I was afraid God would understand my physical desires for sex (especially since I didn’t understand them myself). I was afraid God would frown upon my lack of faith if I didn’t pretend the things that were bothering me didn’t bother me. But ultimately, I wasn’t sparing God, I was harming myself.
God’s word says he desires truth in the inward parts, and here’s the reason: He can’t help us overcome our problems if we aren’t honest about them. He can’t help me release my jealousy unless I acknowledge that I’m jealous. Telling myself not to be jealous, or that I’m not jealous because “jealousy is a sin,” doesn’t make it any less a part of my make-up, and God can’t cleanse me when I don’t come to him. Telling myself not to lust doesn’t keep me from lusting. Telling myself that I shouldn’t be fearful because “Christians aren’t fearful” doesn’t fix my fear. Only Christ himself can, and until I let the parts of my soul that remain unsanctified to encounter Christ directly in the midst of my imperfections, they will never go away.
The grace of God is there to take care of my imperfections. His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), but if I pretend that I have no weaknesses, especially if I do so under the pretense of piety, I can’t participate in God’s strength. That means that I have to stop lying to myself, stop lying to God, and let him in on my imperfections. The church will be much stronger when Christians admit their weaknesses. Only then can “the weak say ‘I am strong.'”