“I want someone to worship me,” said Allen. “I want her to be so in love with me, the way I was with Tricia, that she almost worships me…Right below God,” he quickly padded his language. “She should worship God and then me right below Him.”
Deep down, I realized the truth in Allen’s words. He does not want to be second seat to an invisible entity who has not yet managed to satiate his soul’s hunger to be appreciated, yet he doesn’t want to cross the boundary of Christian-safe language. Better butter up the Big Guy and not say what you mean.
That’s the catch.
Say what you mean and step on some divine toes, or lie for the sake of Christian politeness.
“I want to be on stage and hear thousands of people cheering my name,” another friend told me some years ago. “…but as they’re giving me glory, I’ll be giving God glory.”
I looked at him with that emoji face that has eyes but no mouth.
There were no words to describe my confusion. Of course I understood my friend’s sentiments. Who doesn’t want the screaming applause and acclaim from thousands of cheering fans? But more than that, his thinly veiled attempt to mask his his true desires was nonsensical and contrived. Why even add that bit at the end? Why not just say what you really desire?
I’ve spent much of my life punching my way out of so-called Christian bubbles (which, by the way, are sewn together by little more than pious American mannerisms, cultural guilt, and some marketing geniuses who carved out their own little niche in everything from music to movies to clothes), and have spent little time entering into people’s lives. From the shallows of small talk and into the mire of who they are and the pain in which they daily wade.
I’ve spent too little time investing myself into others, opening up my ribs so my guts spill out.
And this is why the Psalms are so great: The word in the Bible which we read as “heart” in Hebrew means “guts.” It’s the deepest parts of who you are. It’s the thing that rises when you fall off a bridge, or in love. You may tell God what’s on your mind. You may even share with Him some emotions you are weathering. But you haven’t poured out your guts.
Even Jesus seemed unafraid of being judged for His words before God.
Jesus wasn’t scared of pouring His guts out to God.
In likely the most intense moment of His life, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane, wailing before His Father, sweating blood and begging for God to spare His life.
Take this cup from me,
Jesus literally told God that He doesn’t want to do what God told Him to do.
There’s a professor at my college who always says, “Saints! You shouldn’t swear. But if you’re going to swear, swear when you pray. I cuss all the time before the Lord!”
If any of you are like me, there is a cognitive block somewhere in your soul that tells you, “these words are okay, but these over here…are not.” There’s something that tells me that too much honesty is sinful.
I am trying to undo this.
I feel that this barrier of politically polite language has actually built a wall between the Lord and I rather than enhanced our relationship. It’s like I’ve been trying to paint a sunset without any red paint. You’ll get the general idea, but the force of the fiery clouds will lose their vigor.
Language is important because it is the means through which we perceive, interpret, and communicate reality. Communicate life. So in a sense, limiting your language before God limits the extent to which you can live before Him.
Earlier today I was trying to explain what Systematic Theology is to a friend, and as the words exited my mouth, they felt so small and limp. I was explaining that it’s about creating a system in which the aspects of our faith—salvation, Christology, end times, heaven, et cetera—all work together to form a unified, functioning machine. It’s about creating a simple, well-oiled system that makes sense to us and is easily digestible.
What I’m realizing now is that God is not a system.
He does not come gift wrapped in a cute little box with blue and red ribbons.
The moment you’ve got Him pegged as a pillar of fire, He reappears somewhere else as a whisper. You start thinking He is a lamb and suddenly He rips out some organs as a hungry lion.
“Safe?” C.S. Lewis once wrote about the Lord. “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But He’s good.”
I fear that my conception of God has become far too small.
Let us pour out our guts before Him.
Let us demolish the walls in which we have placed Him.