Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Fourth Pause in Lent - Honest to God

Welcome to this week's Pause in Lent - you'll find all the participants in the list on my sidebar. This week my post is very much inspired by thinking about what I read in 'Pause' posts and comments last Sunday and Monday. You have had me thinking all week, friends! I have a horror of the kind of 'Christianese' or 'Churchianity' that has participants pretending that everything in the garden is lovely, 24-7, because they know Jesus. Hang on..? This is the Jesus who is about to get crucified, as far as the church calendar goes, isn't it? Why should everything be permanent grins and all-my-problems-fixed when our own Lord had one of the hardest lives we can imagine?
It isn't really a surprise, because I know and like so many of the bloggers participating, that this year's Pause is NOT an 'isn't life cute and cuddly with the Lord'-event. That's not a criticism, it's a compliment. Like the writers of the Psalms in the Bible, we are brave enough to tell God when we feel terrible. We are brave enough to tell fellow bloggers too. We don't feel we have to keep up the pretense of a perfect life in front of God, our friends or, perhaps especially, ourselves.Looking at posts and comments from last week, one of us feels 'a fraud' for even participating, one of us is flat-out furious with God following a tragic bereavement and one of us (OK, me) is fighting against gritting her teeth and snapping at her children due to numerous family stresses.
So we have anger, anxiety and a sense of hypocrisy, and we're telling it like it is.

I'm so proud of us!
I'm not at all suggesting that we are, or should be, happy to leave it at that and stay there in our wretched states. But if we're not prepared to say it, to challenge God with it, to challenge ourselves with it, then we'll never face it at all.
My very good, randomly-chosen, Lent book is by Gerard W. Hughes. He talks a lot about how we think that the ordinary every-day stuff, and the nasty unkind stuff, should be kept from our prayers.
Quite the opposite is true, he points out! He says: "The facts of our life are not 'distractions'. The word distraction is from a Latin root meaning 'to draw apart' or 'drag away'. The facts of our lives are not distractions: they are the place, the only place, where we can meet God, for that is where he is with us. "
I have no idea if I can encourage my fellow bloggers with these words, but I truly feel that when we are honest to God about the hardest things and strongest feelings, we are getting to a place where we can know him better. The sweet and cuddly stuff, whilst part of reality, is only a part, and knowing God in the tough times and telling him the truth about how we feel allows us to let him in, deeper, to our thoughts, feelings and concerns.Reflecting on all of this, as I mowed our 'lawn', gave me the chance to re-assess the writer of one of my least favourite Psalms. The Psalmists really told it like it was. Here's Psalm 137 - oh yes, it starts out all famous, but how many of us can tolerate the end:

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.

Remember, LORD, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. “Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!” Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks. j

Well that ending makes me sick. But it's not necessarily an emotion endorsed by God, it's just one honestly expressed by a writer who had seen evil things (probably those very things) done to his own people. And then he had the courage to say it to God. I pray that we will have the courage to tell God what we are really feeling and thinking, in the confidence that he can handle it and that it will help us to move on to a better relationship with him.


Pom Pom said...

Hmmmmm. It's difficult to interpret personal stories from words alone, isn't it? We heard a young woman's story Friday evening. She spent three months in a bathroom hiding from murderers during the Rwandan genocide. Her faith became very real as she prayed the rosary, cried out to God, demanded intimacy with Him in her darkest hours. When it was safe to come out, she found her family was gone, killed. Her message: forgiveness. Her story is real, her sights are set on heaven, her choice: a love-filled pursuit of the Savior.
He knows our truths, our hearts, our clumsy ways. Our journey inward seeks Him.

Carolyn Phillips said...

I think reality with God is the only way to hold on to a true faith. If we are not real with God about how we feel, about what happens, then who can we be real with? If we try and fool God about our faith, then what basis does that faith have. I remember Jesus in the garden, he wept, he sweated blood, he prayed for hours long into the night, struggling with what he knew was to come. It wasn't going to be nice. He didn't want it and he said so. He was honest. Yes he accepted it, but he also faced it and brought all his thoughts and emotions to God.

Yesterday I heard an Amy Grant song which I had never heard before called Better than an Hallelujah Sometimes. The words that repeated were:
An honest cry from a broken heart
Better than a hallelujah sometimes.

Catherine said...

Good on you Floss! I'm actually rather allergic to Christianese myself.. come out in spiritual "hives" as quick as a flash. I'm not sure that we're obliged either to hurry up & get it together when it's all too much either. I read the other day that Jesus wasn't crucified for being "nice" but rather for being "real". I utterly hit the wall about Tuesday night this week. A whole range of things ambushed me & I was very indignant at around 5.00am... sobbing & being very straight with God. (Actually that's kind of me most days, direct I mean) I really appreciated that He wasn't fazed by my raw dialogue. I've mentioned this to Him quite a few times since & am pretty glad to have resolved at least a number of the too hardies : ) Better relationship in my book is just more & more honest & real..reminds me of a wonderful book I have just got out from the library again "The Velveteen Woman" ..thinking I may still have time to do something with it in The Pause. Much love Catherine.

Lydia @ Twelve said...

Thankyou is all I can say, as I cant really out into words what your post means to me.


Fat Dormouse said...

Thanks, Floss...These are the kind of things I need to hear at the moment.
Blessings on you and your family

Elizabethd said...

Well written, Floss. I think you have given encouragement to so many of us who perhaps feel guilty for dwelling on the hard things.

Angela said...

With you all the way on this one, Floss. And I am so encouraged that right in the centre of my Bible I find the Psalms, which are, as you say, full of honesty before God - anger, despair, and grief, as well as joy, love and praise.
blessings x

Heidi said...

Lent is a very hard time because we know that Jesus became fully human to save a wretch like me and all that he went through he was beaten,mocked, spit at , had to carry a cross and then die on it but remember the best is yet to come.....and when I start thinking so heavy on all the bad I look to the cross because I know through Jesus and only through Jesus dying on that horrible cross I can spend eternity with him in the mansions of Heaven he and our father have prepared for us....this makes my heart sing!

I struggle with am I being the best example for my children that I could be...or the best friend do I tell enough people about Jesus when the oppurtunity arrises....I'm so sorry Floss, I wrote a book! keep praying for me that the lodge sells so my poor elderly parents can retire! this has been weighing so heavy on them...take care and a big hug to you...It's so nice to have a christian friend out in blogland!

Carolyn Phillips said...

Now I know where the inspiration for my post came from....from you here! Will go and say so.

Sherri B. said...

If I couldn't talk to The Lord about each and everything, I don't think I would make it very long. There was a time I just prayed 'proper' prayers, the ones I thought He wanted to hear. It wasn't until I came to Him all bruised and needing to be tended to that I understood just how much He loves me in what ever state I am in.

Happy Mothers Day to you Floss.

Kaye - SandwichINK for the Sandwich Generation said...

Hi Floss, Thank you for another very thought-provoking post. Loved the quote by Gerard. W. Hughes. And what great photos! I loved your "shoe vases." :) You are in my prayers again today!!!

Squirrelhaus said...

I love this post, really gets you thinking! I have been talking to the Lord like he is my very best friend...I'm finding myself more relaxed and for me thats a very good thing!
God Bless You!
Chris :o)

Lynn said...

I read this yesterday - tried to comment but deleted :)
Thank you for writing this - it really helped me yesterday. Life has been very hard and so I am very honest with our Father - it is no good being any other as he knows my heart :)I seem to have spent a lot of time asking for His help :)
I loved this post. Thanks again.