I am throwing you a lifesaver, I think. Are you drowning?
Is it my place to teach and share? My generation has a bad habit of thinking that everything they think about is eternally important, qualified by the falsity that they are the first and only who have ever decided to think and they never edit their long sentences, because everyone thinks being raw and honest is what makes it.
But I am here in my shed, decorated with autumn lights and memories of an 80’s Christmas in Chicago I never had, thinking and exploring.
And you may join me if you want, but right now I am feeling oddly poetic - I warn you.
I am going to assume that you are drowning right now. I am going to assume that you think you were once on a boat going somewhere exotic, but that boat hit an iceberg long ago, and your arms are getting tired.
I am going to assume, also, that you are desperate enough to take any advice that you can get.
The problem with being a human, is that we don’t want any repeated advice. We do not want to hear things we have heard before. And so we realize our hypocrisy. “Help!” “Well, alright, but you’re not going to want to hear what I have to say…”
Perhaps, we can do more to help each other than just throw words out. How about forcing you to action? Persuasion?
If your Mom tells you for the thirteenth time this week, “Put a jacket on, you’ll freeze out there,” we do not consider it advice. She has said it before. What difference does it make?
And by this time in your life, if you are old enough to read anything you wish, you think that you have heard every bit of advice by now.
You have probably heard that Mom is always right. You have probably heard that going slow and steady wins the race. You have also likely heard that it is better to think of others more than yourself. A walk in the park.
Jesus once gave a lot of advice, too. But by this time in your life, He isn’t saying anything new and, therefore, has nothing to offer. You have heard it all before.
Love your neighbor as yourself - this one would have come in handy, had you heard it only once.
Pure and undefiled religion is to feed the widows and orphans - did Jesus say this? You know it, anyways. Who cares?
Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect - how is this even helpful, or possible?
The best advice, you think, is the new advice. But all those other sentences and words, they hit you once and now they lay empty on the floor. They are hollow honey-balls to you.
And Proverbs. Why read it so much? You know the whore isn’t who she says she is. Spoons do not do their job, until you have raised them to your mouth.
At this point in your journey, there is no nothing anyone can say to get you out of the water.
And you are drowning.
Let’s go back to Mom. It is snowing outside and she is again screeching from the living room, “Put your coat on!”
Her help is unsolicited on both ends, old and stale. You cannot wait to move out.
Have you ever considered that the help in words is not in the words, but in the ability for the words to make you do something?
Mom is not helping you, if you are not moved to action. And you are the fool for not taking her advice.
Mom’s advice is only new - it is only help - if you actually do what she says.
If you are wishing for some new advice, for a shift in how people give you help, maybe you should start with yourself.
Like the long to-do list that is nothing but small, fifteen minute tasks, it is only helpful if you go and do the things.
Have you ever considered pushing the words down to your feet? To move you somewhere?
Maybe Mom will smile at you more when you do finally put the coat on. Maybe you will no longer be cold.
But you have to do what she says.
The only help we can offer are words of persuasion. And they will only persuade if we are humble. Words are hollow without humility.
So here I am, worried about you. I am worried about you, because I have been worried about myself before. I know what it is like to be drowning.
And the difficulty in drowning, is that you are not sure how to get out of the situation. You think it is a good idea to keep flailing your arms, but you wish there was some other way. A raft. A wooden spoon.
I am writing this quickly, so you can quickly hear it and do something about it. Consider this me throwing you a lifesaver.
Do you underestimate the power of prayer?
I am not talking about the power of prayer to heal people. I am not a charismatic preacher. Just because two or three are gathered together to pray for Aunt Maude, does not mean that Aunt Maude will never die. She is in her hundreds, for the sake of heaven!
If the righteous prayers of two or three gathered together were always fulfilled, why are there not companies that offer their services for those with lots of money and little life? We have discovered immortality.
Walt Disney, you should have tried prayer!
That is not how prayer works, because prayer is not a duty or labor. It is a conversation with a Father who loves you. And if there is a mutual love between you and your father, how could talking to him ever be a chore?
If prayer was a chore for me, I would be skeptical of the mutual love between me and God.
Prayer was a chore for me for a long time.
I cannot direct you to the place that changed my mind, that shifted my heart.
But I can tell you that when the Holy Spirit is rattling inside your chest, it feels like your heart might explode and your lungs deflate.
It is scary to welcome Him in and it is even more scary to ask God, “I don’t know about this situation. Can you tell me? I just want to be obedient. Do whatever you would like.”
Trust is frightening, especially when you are trusting someone that can do whatever they would like. Trusting God is dangerous.
He kills people.
He killed Himself.
He rose from the dead.
He can make you rise.
He wants to give you what you want.
Do you want to be a famous writer? Do you want to be a famous homemaker (this is a joke)?
Then ask God for those things.
“Dear Lord, may you bless my labor. May you make me think things that no one else has and may I be able to communicate those thoughts effectively. May you use me to build the kingdom. Destroy my ego. Stir my soul. Disallow conceit from holding a chair in the Grand Council of my Conscience. Torture the pride in my soul, until he is finally willing to admit that he was the one who put the bombs under my chair.”
Prayer is shepherding all of our fleeting desires into a pen, closing the gate, dusting off our hands, walking back home, taking a shower, waking up, and going to see which ones survived the wolves of heaven.
Prayer is showing God the desires of our heart, something any good father wants us to do. “What do you want to do this summer?”
“I don’t know. What do you think? I’ll do anything you think is a good idea. I was thinking of getting a job.”
This is why prayer is confession, gratitude, hope, satisfaction, and investigation of further blessing. The foundation of all these things are desires, whether profane or sacred.
What do you want that you know you should not have? Lay it before God, confess it. It is scary to trust Dad, when he knows everything you don’t want, but likely need. A wooden spoon. Five minutes in the bathroom.
Do you want to be a famous writer? Ask God to bless you.
And in all desires, know that the greatest desire is a desire for the things He wants. A faithful son wants to be like his dad.
The first few conversations may be awkward. You don’t talk to Him a lot, do you?
Wait until you see His eyes light up when you say, “Dad, this is what I really want, but I am willing to do whatever you think I should do.”
Tell God what you want. Ask Him for what you want through prayer. If you show Him all of your desires and tell Him to do what He wishes with them, I can think of no greater weapon against your own destructive self.
If you love to pray without ceasing, if you desire to talk to Him, your sinful and distracting desires will shed like gyro meat from a butcher knife.
And for the first time in your life, you will see how crooked you are. You will look at yourself and see how big your shoes are, how red and bulbous your nose is, and how thick your tear-streaked white makeup is, plastered. You have been wearing a costume and no one told you. Everyone is scared of clowns and now that you see yourself, perhaps you can be scared too.
A clown is where laughing and fear converge.
Take that silly costume off.