Saturday, March 22, 2014

my dirty, ugly prayers

Sometimes when I pray, I call God names. Ugly names. I mean, I really tear into Him with curse words and insults. I am usually suffering, angry, and at my wits end when I pray this way. I tell Him I am giving up, that He's a bleeping son of a bleep. That I hate Him. That if He wants me to be different, to have faith, to trust Him, to not suffer, to not always resort to suicidal thoughts, then HE is going to have to bleeping do something about it, because I am no Job! I am not able to say "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised." Oh, hell no! I am all, "Hey Lord, you've taken away so much from me, you bleeeeep!"

Your jaw may have dropped open by now, but listen: I am honest with my Father and my Lord and Savior, and make no apologies for it. These "dirty, ugly" thoughts are in my heart anyway, so none of it surprises Him. He always hears me out, cursing and all, and I love Him for it. Many times, and I mean many many times, after my "dirty, ugly" prayers, God surprises me. Sometimes it's within an hour, or a day or week. Suddenly I'll have strength where I had none, or my symptoms decrease, or I am able to wake before sunset! It's crazy. He's crazy! After cursing Him out, God responds to me with love! Maybe that's because He is love, maybe it's because He truly sees how naked and weak and desperate I am. Many times I have even given Him ultimatums, which I have always been taught is a big no-no. "No drawing lines in the sand with God." Well, I don't draw lines, I dig huge, bleeping trenches and say, "IT'S ALL YOU, GOD! IT IS YOUR TURN TO DO SOMETHING, YOU BIG BLEEPING JERK!"

For years I was taught from the pulpit or from legalistic Christians that God is scary. Don't piss Him off. Be on your best behavior. Hide your true feelings from Him. Be polite and humble and self-degrading when you pray, or else He's gonna getcha!

The Father God I have come to know sees me, His small and weak and angry daughter, cursing at Him while digging what I think is a trench, which He sees like the moat a child digs around a sand castle. He smiles kindly at me, steps over the moat, and says, "Let me show you my love, little one."

This reminds me of something quite impressive in a book I am reading (and highly recommend) called Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality and Morality by Richard Beck. In the book, Beck focuses on the psychology of disgust, and how this has and continues to effect the church. It's so deep and fascinating I could write about it all night, but in keeping with my "dirty, ugly" prayer, I want to offer an illustration the author uses that blew my mind:

"If I am to touch... some feces to your cheeseburger the cheeseburger gets ruined, permanently... Importantly, the cheeseburger doesn't make the feces suddenly scrumptious. When the pure and the polluted come into contact the pollutant is the more powerful force. The negative dominates the positive. Negativity dominance has important missional implications for the church. For example, notice how negativity dominance is at work in Matthew 9. The Pharisees never once consider the fact that the contact between Jesus and the sinners might have a purifying, redemptive, and cleansing effect upon the sinners. Why not? The logic of contamination simply doesn't work that way. The logic of contamination has the power of the negative dominating over the positive. Jesus doesn't purify the sinners. The sinners make Jesus unclean. ...What is striking about the gospel accounts is how Jesus reverses negativity dominance. Jesus is, to coin a term, positivity dominance. Contact with Jesus purifies." (Bold emphasis mine)

I understand that Beck is not talking about prayer here, but when I read this I understood why I never feel guilty after I pray my dirty, ugly, curse-word laden, degrading-God's-very-character prayers, and the reason is because I am like the sinners, coming into contact with Holiness Himself! My words do not offend or hurt God, in fact, He is able to understand exactly where they are coming from and why I am saying them, and He responds to me, saying, "Yes, I completely understand why you are saying these things. You are in My presence, and it is here that I change, purify, redeem and cleanse you." In really weird layman's terms: The cheeseburger touching the feces actually turns the feces into something scrumptious.

Now I know some of you may be citing James 3:8 -10, "But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way."

It is important to note that this verse is about cursing fellow humans, and that kind of cursing can be defined as degrading another person or wishing evil upon them. I have found, that more often than not, degrading someone is done without using what our culture has deemed "curse words." There is no such thing as a "curse word" --but that's a blog for another time.

The verses from James is a reflection of what Jesus says in Matthew 5:22 "...whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ will be in danger of the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of Gehenna." When translated, "Raca" means "Good for nothing." Note these degrading words do not contain "curse words." Jesus knows that when we insult or degrade one another in any form, it does emotional damage. Jesus, on the other hand, cannot be emotionally damaged. Let me emphasis again, God already knows what is in our hearts! We are not fooling Him by using polite language.

Now, I'm not advocating for everyone to start using curse words in their prayers, and I understand that our culture and the church has claimed certain words to be "unclean" and some people would feel it is inappropriate, if not a sin, to include "curse words" in their prayers. What I am hoping for, if you get anything out of this blog, is that you can be utterly honest with God.

I readily admit that I am screwed-up and have issues, just like everyone else, but I have seen --and continue to see-- that when all of our stinking bleep is strewn out before the throne of God, He is not shocked, surprised or offended, and our crazily compassionate God will always respond to us with love, and even call us, each, "My beloved child." That is who our God is.

I will leave you with Psalm 88, a beautiful, ticked-off, doubting, desperate and blaming God for all my troubles song:

I Cry Out Day and Night Before You

A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah. To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil[a] of Heman the Ezrahite.

O Lord, God of my salvation;
    I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
    incline your ear to my cry!
For my soul is full of troubles,
    and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
    I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
    like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
    for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
    in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
    and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
You have caused my companions to shun me;
    you have made me a horror[b] to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
    my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
    I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
    Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
    or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
    or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But I, O Lord, cry to you;
    in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
    Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
    I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.[c]
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
    your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
    they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
    my companions have become darkness.[d]