I recently shared a small part of my testimony at a women’s brunch at my church. Mostly the part about how music plays such a huge role in my life and how for almost 7 years I didn’t once even touch a piano. I had lost the expression and joy of making music, like a conversation, with God.
And if I had time to go on, I would also say that I lost my ability to pray. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t talk to God except for random outbursts. I couldn’t thank Him because I was too angry.
It’s like most relationships. Something happens between you and you react in whatever way comes natural to you. The silent treatment. The cold shoulder. You shut off all ties. Or you lash out, you blame, nitpick, cajole, maybe over little and completely unrelated things. Maybe you start nitpicking over every little thing that always annoyed you but you had previously kept your mouth shut and just thought it to yourself. But now, it’s no holds barred. Game on.
The thing with God though is there’s no such thing as just keeping your mouth shut and He knows what you’ve been thinking all along. We forget this. And we think we hide stuff from Him. What did Adam and Eve do the moment they sinned? It’s instinctive to hide. It’s what we do.
I was reading a blog today called “How to Smartly Engage with the Young Doubters in our Midst” which was a good enough reflection on how to handle when someone we know is struggling with their faith. Most of the points are well taken – listen (meaning shut up with the Sunday School and just let them talk) and give them resources for their questions (which also means YOU have to know resources to suggest which many Christians don’t because their own faith is shallow.)
I did think, though, the author missed one major point – prayer. she didn’t mention it once which I thought was interesting. And I specifically don’t “just” mean prayer FOR them to find answers and their peace, although that should go without saying, but it’s so important I’ll say it any way. But I mean praying WITH them out loud together – teaching each other HOW to pray with ALL our thoughts and concerns and fears and anger, bringing it before His throne out loud on purpose EXPECTING Him to answer us. It’s a huge component missing from the lives of those of us who walked away… we stop praying because we are hiding or we simply don’t think anyone is listening any more.
I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t have much of a prayer life as a teenager. I knew what to say out loud in front of groups. I had all the right buzz words and phrases and I was never the one who hated being called on to pray in a group. I knew in my head it was a privilege to come to God in prayer – cuz that song says so and stuff – but the reality of actually physically SPEAKING with the Creator and Ruler of all time and all things just didn’t really phase me that much.
Fast forward to a few years ago now, after I had completely fallen away and had come back a la Pig Boy (aka the prodigal/lost son – you can read the story HERE if you haven’t), and I learned to pray through the Psalms. And woo doggie those are some doozies. David knew how to pray, man! He let it all hang out. Every question, every fear, every lost hope – bam! Here it is, God. The idea of being that open and raw with God sometimes is so foreign to some of us who grew up Christian. And it shouldn’t be. Maybe you grew up like me thinking you weren’t supposed to struggle and you were just expected to be this perfect child. And I basically was – you can ask my parents – until my senior year of college when it all went downhill fast.
The real question that bugs me these days – would prayer – really intense on the edge of a cliff kinds of prayer – have changed my life? I would bet yes. I didn’t go to God because I was angry with Him. I didn’t ask God for anything because I didn’t want to believe any more. At some point I made up my mind that He was a sadomasochist, like a kid with an ant farm, and a really sadistic kid at that. And so I walked away as best as I could.
Truth is of course that I knew deep down He was pulling me back. I can look back over the years now and see all the traces of Him showing up and coming after me. I can see how He protected me from any number of terrible things that, for all intents and purposes, I basically had set myself up for. So much could have gone wrong – and while some things did go very wrong in my life, I am so incredibly grateful to be where I am and in one piece. More or less.
Personally, I think people who are struggling and doubting don’t have any more resources than before – as some might try to say. There are more books, more “edgy” churches out there, more people who understand when to shut up and listen. But for all these HUMAN efforts, there is still the SAME GOD. The Same One who rescued David from the pit. The Same One who left the 99 to find the 1. The Same One who carried Cain, the first murderer and (don’t crucify me for any doctrinal errors) the first born who chose purposely to sin against God and man, and yet still received mercy (the mark of Cain. Google it if you wanna).
We have that same God who chases after us and yet how many burdens do we bear because we did not carry everything to Him in prayer? Ah, good ole hymns… hey did you know that the tune to that was originally for the song “When this bloody war is over?” HA!! Perfect!
(Editor’s Note: Please excuse the somewhat questionable lyrics of the following song. posting of this song does not in any way connote support of or against war, nor support of or against the British. And nevermind the use of the word bloody.)