Prayer is a fascinating thing to me. It’s one of those things that, while I depend on it every single day, I still really don’t understand it at all and perhaps will be growing in my understanding the rest of my life.
This weekend I had the chance to relax and enjoy life with some of the amazing women of our church at our annual women’s retreat; we also got to dig in and learn more about prayer together.
While not the first time to hear this, the reminder was helpful as we talked a long time about the freedom to “come messy” to God in prayer. I say “freedom” because without thinking I can so easily slip into the mindset that I have to figure out the perfect prayer or have myself “together” before approaching the throne of grace.
Yet, I think God looks at us in those moments and kind of rolls his eyes a bit as if to say, “Do you really think I don’t see how messy your life really is? Can you just come sit with me a while and we can sort through this mess together?!?”
It reminded me a bit of this excerpt from one of my favorite books of all time where the author contrasts being in “a room of good intentions” (the path of pleasing God) with “the room of grace” (the path of trusting God). Here is one description given of The Room of Grace:
Eventually, I notice a banner in this room, too: STANDING WITH GOD, MY SIN IN FRONT OF US, WORKING ON IT TOGETHER….
Before, God was always “over there,” on the other side of my sin, obscured by the mound of trash between us. But now I realize He’s here, with me. I can picture it as clearly as if it’s happening.
He puts His hands on my shoulders, staring into my eyes. No disappointment. No condemnation. Only delight. Only love. He pulls me into a bear hug, so tight it knocks the breath out of me for a moment. At first, I feel unworthy. I want to push away and cry out, “I don’t deserve this. Please stop. I’m not who you think I am!” But He does know. And soon I give in to His embrace. I hear Him say, “I know. I know. I’ve known from before time began. I’ve seen it all. I’m right here. I’ve got you.”
And now I’m holding on with all my might. He stays right there in the moment, until He’s certain His love has been completely communicated and received. Only then does He release His grip, so He can turn to put an arm around my shoulder.
He then directs my sight to that mound of filth now out in front of us. After several moments, with a straight face He says, “That is a lot of sin. A whole lot of sin. Don’t you ever sleep?” He starts laughing. I start laughing. Gazing at that mound of pain, I consider that I never thought I’d experience this kind of moment. All of the pain, regret and damage of my life is laid out in front of me. All that has caused shame and condemnation. All that has caused me to pretend and impress and yearn for control. All that has broken my heart and His.
But now I’m viewing it with Jesus’ arm around me! He’s been holding me with utter delight, all with my sin right here in our midst, never allowing it between us. He wants to know me in the midst of this, not when I get it cleaned up. I know now if this mound is to ever shrink, it’ll be by trusting this moment for the rest of my life. He looks back at me. “We’ll deal with this when you’re ready. I’ve got your back.”
Jesus, thank you that we can “come messy”. May we always seek to trust you before ever trying to please you. Help us rest in your grace. Amen.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16