Let’s face it, we all look somewhere for answers. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit our tendency to hand-pick who and where we ask. For example, if I have questions/struggles about my diet, [whether consciously or not] chances are I’m going to seek out someone who will tell me what I want to hear, someone who basically aligns with my way of thinking. If, for instance, I were a Vegetarian, I’d naturally seek out a vegetarian approach; I wouldn’t seek out a steak-lover’s advice.
In the same way, we do this spiritually. We ask (or don’t ask) certain people our deep questions because we do (or don’t) want to hear what we know they’ll say. And, most tragically, we do this with God, too. We bring only certain questions to Him. And we don’t ask Him other questions because we’re sure of what He might say. And in doing so, we miss out on so much.
Ok, so I’ll disclose something — I just did this [again] 10 minutes ago. I didn’t ask God a certain question because I didn’t really want to know the answer. (That in itself is a telling thing, worth some exploration.) It began as I was reading Morgan Synder’s blog post (“I love beer more than Jesus“) and in it he writes of his deepening awareness of his addictions (i.e., those things he turns to more often and more passionately than Jesus). “Addiction” may seem a strong word, but Morgan refers to Gerald May’s book, “Addiction and Grace“, in which he suggests “we are all addicts in every sense of the word.”
Truth be told, we all long for things other than Jesus (people, control, relief, comfort, reputation, validation, pleasure, power, intimacy, etc). And we cling to the belief that it is only by obtaining these things that we will be happy or satisfied. The bottom line is, I didn’t ask God the question(s) because I couldn’t bring myself to release MY grip on my belief of what would make me happy.
Here are the questions (from Morgan’s blog): “What do I love more than Jesus?”, or more specifically, “Where have I taken my desires for God and attached them to people, places, and things, demanding that they come through for me in a way they never can?”
And then, I avoided Morgan’s prayer “Holy Spirit… Reveal to me the particular addictions that you would like me to face… expose the people, places, and things I have given my heart over to in my desperate reaching for life.”
To write this out and see it stare me in the face is hard — it amplifies the sense of emptiness. Its exposing. It is humbling. It reveals the gap between my longings and any sense of true satisfaction… between MY answers and the TRUE answer.
I am missing out on so much.
I know I shouldn’t stay in this place… can’t stay in it… must NOT stay in it… but the pull to stay is so strong.
Can you relate? Where in your life do you feel the pull to stay where you are? Where do you see yourself avoiding asking questions of the right people?… asking of Jesus? Where are you glossing over their words or hesitating to pray the simple prayer to “reveal…”?
So, how do we break free?
We must let the dissatisfaction lead us back to Jesus.
Frederick Buechner wrote, “There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize Him or not recognize Him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly.”
I set this blog post aside for a couple of days. I wanted to capture the above while it was fresh, while I was experiencing the pains brought on by my hunger. And, I had a plan written out to help me get back on track. I was ready to carry it out, too. Until I again gave in to the pull to seek satisfaction elsewhere. (Dang Chicken Wings!) Oh how I’d love to tell you how I triumphed, but not this time. Sometimes I’m a slow learner. But, please don’t misunderstand, I’m not hopeless and dejected. I’m grateful for the pain. The pain means I’m alive! It means I’m still in the game! And it has a very redeeming purpose! (2 Cor 7:10)
It may feel like a suckey place to be, in a state of exposure and dissatisfaction, but it’s not. As Buechner says, even in our most commonplace experiences, God is present in it — and we have a choice to whom we will ask our questions… and to whom we will pray our prayers. I know it doesn’t always feel like we have an actual “choice” in the midst of the struggle. But, the first step is relatively simple — we simply choose to choose. A counterfeit life is not a real life! And, I want the real thing. So, I choose.
So, here’s the list I mentioned — a few things that I’m going to do to help push me off the fence. I hesitate to write this lest it turn into just another checklist we have to fill-out. But to help myself, I need a starting point. This is just that — a simple means of helping me begin the turn toward home.
- I will invite someone else into it (to tell a friend or two who know my heart)
- I will find a moment of quiet, without distractions
- I will stare one of my addictions in the face and do a simple fast from it (a time of abstaining)
(when we resist what oppresses us, we recover our strength and find God in the midst of it! – Mat 17:21, Jam 4:7, Jam 1:12, Eph 6:11-20)
- I will be patient with myself, not beat myself up, and allow God to work with me (Phil 1:6, Jer 29:11-13)
It is promised over and over again in the bible — there is a REAL life (Jn 10:10) and it is available and obtainable. I wish there were a silver bullet or pill or verse I could memorize that would fix everything immediately. But I’m finding that as life is encountered daily, in moments upon moments, it is also true with the learning — daily — moment by moment. We learn to walk with God, our friend.
- And… I will pray the simple prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead me and reveal…
Jesus, I’m pausing. Pausing from all the busyness and clutter and addiction and striving and my desperate search for relief because I want to know you. I want to be friends with you. And, I want your advice, your wisdom, and most of all your transforming power. So, here goes — reveal. Reveal to me the places where I love other things more than you. Reveal the addictions I have that crowd you out, that cause me to seek out ‘relief’ instead of ‘transformation’. Reveal where I’m pushing other things to the front in my life. And oh how I need your ability to overcome. Empower me. Give me courage, and encourage. I’m so glad to have you as a friend in all this.
Learning to ask the inevitable questions… and finding true-life awaits,