Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Vulnerable Enough to Ask

In the past few weeks, I've thought a lot about questions and "tensions" within my faith. I've written two posts about it-- questions I'm sometimes afraid to ask and tensions I'm sometimes unwilling to live with. And in the past few weeks, the Lord has been nudging me forward in spite of those fears to engage with Him more fully and freely. 

Last week, we went to our church's monthly prayer service. Now, I always cry at prayer services, but the tears I shed that Friday were not Hannah's run of the mill "I'm emotional because this is beautiful" kind of tears. They were Hannah's "I'm discouraged because meeting God in this way reminds me of the heavy hurt I'm carrying in my heart" kind of tears. The pastor was there, and I had an urge to tell him about my discouragement and ask him to pray for me. But for an hour and a half, I chickened out. "He won't understand." He'll just think I'm an emotional female. My discouragement is stupid. What if he says no? What if he writes me off? What if he gives me some kind of cursory care that will just make my discouragement worse?" Those were just a few of the thoughts that raced through me as I battled my desire to be vulnerable.

This week, I had a conversation that challenged me to do something I'd been thinking about for months, but too scared to do. A person in my life who had been a meaningful role model and made a significant impact-- a relationship that had been "changing" since I left my hometown-- had been on my mind  and I'd been wanting to say, "I miss you. Let's stay in touch. Do you want to?" But that meant reaching out and admitting my vulnerability. It meant admitting my desire and opening myself up for rejection. And so, for some of the same reasons I battled at church, I had been chickened out. "He won't understand." He'll just think I'm an emotional female. My feelings are stupid. What if he says no? What if he writes me off? What if he gives me some kind of cursory care that will just make my discouragement worse?"

I remember during my Greek class working through a passage in the Gospels where Mary, Jesus' mother, asks him for something. She admits her desire to him. Books could be written on that little passage for a variety of reasons, but what I remember the most about our conversation that day is that Mary askedMy teacher said that sometimes we Christians can get so caught up in conversations about God's "sovereignty" and whether, since God is "in control," our prayers make a difference. We talked about how we sometimes can hide behind big words like "sovereignty" because it's easier to say, "well, God is in control, so why bother" than it is to get up the courage and be vulnerable-- to admit our hopes before an Almighty God who has the power to reject us-- and ask anyway. Jesus said yes to his mother's request that night.

I remember working through another passage in the Gospels, where Jesus, God's own son, asks the Father for something. He admits his desire to God. "If it's possible, let this cup pass from me." Jesus was about to face a horrible death, and He knew it. He was struggling, and He was not afraid to admit it. He chose to be vulnerable before an Almighty God who had the power to reject Him-- and ask anyway. And the amazing realization I made while thinking through this passage is that God said no to Jesus. God's eternal son, in whom He is "well pleased," who did no wrong, who had the Father's constant friendship-- heard no. But Jesus didn't take it as rejection. It didn't damage their relationship. He still followed the Father into the future. He heard no and His response was, "not my will, but Yours be done."  

What's my point? It's not that my pastor did show grace and compassion and pray for me, and that my hometown friend was thrilled to hear from me. The point is not that things "ended well" in these little vignettes. The point is that the Lord is giving me the courage to ask. He's reminding me that, like for Mary, He delights in granting my requests. And He's teaching me that, like for Jesus, even His "no" doesn't mean rejection. I'm learning that the point is not whether I hear "yes" or "no" about the things I desire, but that in His love, I've been made secure enough to ask. 

Does fear of rejection keep you from being vulnerable enough to ask?  How does remembering that Jesus asked and heard "no" change your mind about that? 

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