Recently, I was invited to do an interview for a popular podcast called “Broken Catholic” hosted by Joseph Warren. Unexpectedly, the discussion turned toward regret, forgiveness and mercy. Hope you enjoy this half hour journey.
Lord, why do my prayer times most often focus on me—myself? I would like to be more outward.
So, began an entry in my journal. Have you ever felt the same way? As I thought about the question, I realized that the outward always begins with the inward. Obstacles in my inner world can be like rocks, all jammed together and wedged to impede the flow of compassion and purpose. Don’t be concerned that your prayers begin with your heart. To have a clear heart is to release the flow of living water.
The enemy would plug the well with rocks of uncertainty and fear. God’s work in, for, and through you loosens the impediments. Do you remember when the Father said to Jesus, “You are my beloved son”? It was from those words that Jesus did all the works that His Father gave Him to do. If His heart had been wedged shut with fear, uncertainty and self-hatred, Jesus would never have been able to respond with obedience to the interruptions. opportunities and human needs. The springs of life came out pure and free because He moved confidently in His Father’s love.
That can be true of you, too. In prayer, you can ask your Father to remove the rocks so you can respond from a place of confidence. God may not always tell you in advance what He will do, but He will prepare you to hear and see by helping you clear the well of your heart.
When you struggle in prayer, it does not mean God is far from you. That is the time the Spirit intercedes for you. That’s what Paul, our brother and apostle, said. Do you know what that means? The Spirit is alive in you. He is not an inert substance, but a living presence that shares the will of the Father and the mind of Christ. And, in the sharing, none of them are lessened or diminished. Each of them, the presence, the mind of Christ, the will of God, is fully alive in you. This is what is meant by the love of God: you are not alone, never alone. That is the “always.” It never changes. Though you dwell in the depth of the sea, walk in the valley of shadows, or struggle through jungles of despair, He is there.
When you are discouraged, it doesn’t mean that Father is far from you. It means He is very near. The discouraged feeling is not God’s absence or presence, it is your focus on the things that are less important than His purposes. If you can turn toward His kingdom and righteousness, you can move forward despite feeling discouraged.
So, when prayer is a struggle, remember the Presence. When you feel the absence, let that be a reminder of His “always.”
I’ve been reluctant to admit it too publicly, but I’ve been exploring a personality typing system called the Enneagram. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It divides people into nine basic types and identifies the tendencies, strengths, and weaknesses of each one.
There are other systems, of course. You may have heard of Myers-Briggs; Taylor-Johnson; StrengthsFinder; DiSC Assessment—the list is lengthy. Seems like everybody is at least a little curious to know about themselves. Just why do I do what I do? That question could be unhealthy if it causes me to become self-absorbed and self-centered. On the other hand, to be self-aware isn’t such a bad thing. John Calvin, in his Institutesproposed that “without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God” and then went on to suggest that the converse was also true. The point being that when kept in balance, self-knowledge is probably a good thing. It keeps me from operating on impulse without knowing why.
It is now the Lenten season. Forty days of preparation preceding the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. This year, Resurrection Day falls on April 1st.
Ah, I can hear them now, the remarks about the foolishness of belief—snide words: “He is risen! April Fools! Just kidding!” Only fools could believe this resurrection mythology. The life of Jesus ended, not with a bang, but with a sneer. Use your head. How appropriate such nonsense falls upon April Fools Day!
There are many who see followers of Jesus as “hollow men; stuffed men, leaning together, headpiece filled with straw”; deluded people leaning on empty promises, living in a world destined to end with a whimper. **
No matter. I’m foolish enough to believe for more; to hope, laugh and look forward to more.
Count me among the April foolish. I don’t mind. I am grateful for the convergence of days because it means that this year I can stand with the Apostle Paul and declare “we are fools for Christ.” I can openly rejoice in the triumphant foolishness of God that is wiser than I am. I can rest in the confidence of what Frederick Buechner calls the Magnificent Defeat. *
This year on April Fool’s Day I will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. On that day I will declare I am nobody’s fool. I am a fool for Christ.