Monday, July 26, 2010

Every Time I Hold My Face Wrong

Even after walking with the Lord for decades I catch myself at times falling into a pattern of thinking in which I assume that my reasoning is exactly like His. For instance, I may pray for a loved one's needs and then immediately worry that God won't grant my petition if that person fails somehow to measure up--and probably what I mean by "measure up" is to fall short of perfection.

Just yesterday I caught myself in the act of such reasoning, and decided to ponder the thinking process which led me to that conclusion. I quickly realized what I've been hearing most of my life, but often forget, that none of us are perfect. On the heels of this thought came a reminder that we are saved by grace. Nothing we do, think or say earns us favor with God, for all our righteousness is as filthy rags. Sometimes I have trouble believing this, though there it is written down in my Bible in black and white. No matter how holy I feel, no matter what degree of self-control I manage to exercise over some besetting sin, it's all just stinky rags smelling to high Heaven.

What then of those I pray for? On what basis does God answer prayer on their behalf or, for that matter, on what basis does He answer prayer for myself? As I thought of the person for whom I'd been praying a little renegade thought troubled me: what if I'm praying for him but he doesn't do everything just so? Will my prayer request be denied, thrown out, on the basis of this individual's unworthiness?

I know that my muddled thinking in this area spans back into my childhood years of growing up not only with an abusive dictator, but within the strict walls of a legalistic denomination. On the one hand there was my stepfather banishing me to my room on many occasions, simply for asking for permission to walk to the store to spend my allowance, or to go play with my across the street best friend. There was no rhyme or reason to his punishments; what would gain me censure one day may very well be allowed two days later.Earlier in life when I lived with my real father I witnessed his half-joking insecurities about holding his face wrong. He was certain that this, that or the other would not work out for him if he held his face wrong, or left the house not looking his best. Throughout my childhood I lived in a sort of spiritual/mental and emotional wilderness stuck between my dad's superstitions and my step dad's arbitrary mandates and cruelties. It's no wonder my concept of God is warped!

As I struggled to sort out my thoughts regarding prayer, I was struck by an unexpected truth: I think that God's a legalist. Not in the sense of trying to earn salvation, obviously. Maybe it would be more to the point to say that I see Him as a nitpicker, always finding fault. But somehow the legalist label holds for me many more connotations.

How often have I struggled with my own superstitious fears (in my ignorance referring to them as  "faith"), thinking that God is some petty, arrogant god who must be appeased by adhering to a myriad of ridiculous rules, worrying that if I so much as have the wrong expression on my face he'll turn away in disgust? How many times, I can't help but wonder, do Christians become addicted to their superstitions, imagining that these are evidences of a strong faith when, in reality, Scriptures make it clear that if we are trying to add anything to Christ we become accursed?

Immediately I recall the scripture:                        
American King James Version
For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.

The Father himself loves me-- not because I hold my face just right or mumble the correct words, or sweat out my prayers. He loves me because I believe in His son.  A simple little truth which banishes my misconceptions regarding His legalistic attitude towards me. As His daughter, bought with the blood of the Lamb, I have the privilege of entering with holy boldness His throne room of mercy and making my petitions known. This is all of grace, for it is not based on the filthy rags of my own righteousness but on the righteousness of my Saviour. I can have confidence when praying for myself, or others, that the Father delights in hearing me. A loving Father will always be available to listen to the heart expressions of His child, whether  His answer is yes or no. And when the answer is no, this means simply that I am asking for something not in my (or someone else's) best interests. I am not sent to my room for having the audacity to ask; I am not treated with contempt for daring to enter His presence.

These are truths I must internalize and ruminate on as I go through my days, deliberately rejecting the lies about my Heavenly Father's character even as I reject my earthly father's silly superstitions, and my step dad's arrogant need to wield power and punish for imagined offenses.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Comments, anyone? I'd love to hear your point of view.