It would be years before I came across that reading again and the reminder of a prayer I lost the hope to pray. A prayer that God answered in a way I could never have imagined. My dear ones had not only made peace, but now laughed together and cared for one another.
A faith which fails to value the struggle and the wrestling seems insufficient and even irrelevant to our everyday lives where we battle cancer, financial insecurities, loss of loved ones, mental health struggles, and a host of other challenges. God’s people, in fact, were named as those who wrestle.
Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but frankly, I don’t want to. My enemy is my enemy for a reason. Either the individual has hurt me in some way, insulted me and put me down, or they represent a course of action to which I am diametrically opposed. I don’t want to love my enemy; I want to put them in their place. I want to ridicule them and reject them. I want them to experience the hurt and discouragement they have brought into my life.
Bobby Flay’s cat has more Instagram followers than I do. This fact plays havoc on my self-esteem. As someone who battles the constant torment of comparison, the fact that a celebrity feline makes a bigger splash in people’s lives speaks only to my own self-judgement; I can’t help but condemn myself.
Molly LaCroix writes: The (often young) wounded parts of you are the ones who believe things like, “I’m unlovable,” or “I’m not good enough.” They think it’s their fault bad things happened, that they are defective. Until their wounds heal, you will struggle with fully accepting God’s gracious, unconditional love.
Henri Nouwen is one of the authors I read a lot from. His words plumb the depths of the spiritual life in profound ways. So, when I started dreaming of my parish's Lenten program for 2022, I knew that I wanted to structure it around the works of Henri Nouwen.
It was uncomfortable to disclose my need for help. It felt awkward and out of place. Didn’t this person have better things to do than mow my lawn? How could I be so foolish! I condemned myself for my selfishness. But that Saturday, he came. There was no frustration in him, no judgement, just the offer of loving help. As I watched him push the mower up and down my lawn, I had a deeper experience of Christ’s love that I have ever experienced.
Forgiving ourselves begins with Christ’s forgiveness. His grace quenches our thirst. He understands our human conditions, creates community, and ultimately calls us to lay down your guilt and regrets. It is finished. We are free.
What if we chose to see frustration in prayer as an invitation to journey deeper with Christ? Discouragement in prayer, after all, is rooted in a desire to pray, and a call to pray. In fact, discouragement in prayer testifies to the fact that we understand prayer rightly.
Labels are a fickle thing. They do not describe what, or whom, they are intended to describe. Instead, they speak only of preconceptions, assumptions, and judgements. Is anyone truly the label they are associated with? If I’m not progressive enough for the progressives, or evangelical enough for the evangelicals, what does that make me?