A lot of my time in Japan has been spent fighting to pray. The past few months have been especially that way. They've been the kind of months where, whether alone or in groups, I sit down to talk to God and find myself wondering what I could possibly have to say to a God who knows everything, can do anything, etc.
It's odd sometimes how hard it is to be honest with myself. It seems like it would be more natural to be dishonest with other people and straight in my own thoughts, but somehow it has never worked that way for me. I will be innocently going along, really believing that everything is all right until a friend says, "You've been acting like something is bothering you." Which is usually news to me. Until about twenty minutes later when the friend has managed to drag some woe out of me that I didn't know existed.
God has done that for me a couple times now too.
I sometimes get stuck in the rut of "this is how I should approach God" and even begin to feel proud at how well I've fortified myself in trusting Him, entering His courts in praise and thanksgiving, did much more intercessing than "troubling" Him with my own problems...one could almost forget that I *have* problems.
Until God slows me down, steals my ability to pray, and we're left staring at each other, me as confused as when my friends have sat me down to say, "Something is obviously bothering you." It took me until this week to realize that I wasn't really on speaking terms with God. Oh, I knew I hadn't been talking to Him. But I'd kind of been blaming Him for that. It wasn't that I hadn't set the time aside, after all, I just hadn't really had any words for Him when I had. So the only possible explanation in my mind was that He was trying to teach me something. Which I suppose He usually is, but I usually don't figure it out until the lesson is over. If I think I've figured it out before that, there's a good chance I have no idea.
The first time He did it to me was at prayer retreat last August. Part of the retreat was to take a day apart with God. I'd been wandering around and finally "arrived" at a small clearing out in the trees. There was no one around for a *long* ways. And I felt God say, "You can shout here." To which I'm thinking, "Umm...great. But...er...I don't really feel like shouting about anything." Ten minutes later...it was a rant to end all rants.
It was the same way this week. That feeling of, "We are not going anywhere until you [Pamela] sit down and give Me your heart, even if it's hurt and angry right now." And I'm thinking, "Dude...there's no need to get angry at You. I trust You. I know it will be okay. Why do You want me to shout at You?" A theme of Japan has been God saying over and over again, "I want *everything* from you. Not just what you think is the good you have to offer. You are not allowed to choose what is good enough for Me. I want *everything*."
I think it has been about three days of ranting at God now. But something finally fell into place late this morning, and the ranting gave way to real, true, honest-to-goodness worship. The kind where each word of the song strikes my heart with how amazing this whole journey with God is and where each stroke of the guitar feels like a dance of joy. And today, as students were coming in and registering and I was sitting working on a class syllabus I found my thoughts drifting to various people to pray for. It has been *eons* (read: probably not more than several weeks) since that was true.
My ranting isn't done quite yet, but I found myself amazed right now...what kind of God really wants His people to rant at Him? Seriously?! Really...we have a God who doesn't wait for us to pretty ourselves up until we can come before Him, flawless and beautiful. He wants us to sprint up to Him, our clothes torn and dirty, our words foolish and our lips stammering. Somehow, I think we're more beautiful in His eyes that way.