Each morning, I have a daily routine that usually begins at 5:00 am. Just before the wake of day, and before the heat of the sun touches Earth, I either go for a jog or a walk, with the key to the house tucked securely away in my Nike sneakers. After my exercise, I come home and brew my green tea with honey, grab my book, and head out to the back patio where I welcome my morning communion with God. And last Saturday, I had a lot I wanted to tell Him.
Lately, I’ve been reading two books simultaneously, The Jesus I Never Knew and Prayer by Philip Yancey. The first book is a good reminder of who Jesus is and the grace and love that He has for humanity – more importantly, the grace and love that He has for me. The second is a reminder and eye-opener on what “prayer” is, how to approach prayer, and whether there is a right or wrong way to pray. Well, lately, Prayer has had me question my current spiritual relationship with God. Have I truly been communicating with Him? Do I tell Him everything? For the most part, I’d like to think that I do and have. However, I realized there were two emotions that I had been holding back from Him. Two emotions that many Christians say are wrong to have, let alone express towards God: anger and sadness.
Up until Saturday, I thought that I was doing all right, allowing myself to feel and be angry, to focus on my blessings, to take everything under prayer to God. However, Prayer by Yancey awakened me to what my prayers were lacking: the anger and frustration that David expressed, the unrelenting wrestle Jacob had with God, the weeping of Job that he wished he was never born, and even the sarcastic mockery Abraham had with God when He said he and Sarah were still going to have children at such an old age! I realized that over the past several weeks I hadn’t allowed myself to get personal with God. After all, that’s what God really wants of us anyway: for us, His children, to build an intimate relationship with Him.
So, I let loose. First, I told Him that I felt awkward praying to Him, which I did (something that happens when you haven’t really talked with someone in a while!), but that I was going to drop the clichés of praises and acknowledgements and tell Him how my heart really felt. And, in the humor of it all, God already knows what we need to say and what we are going to say before we even speak (Ps 139:4).
I told God that I was really angry at Him. I asked Him why it felt like I was doing this all by myself. After nine years of battling with a mental illness, and three years of recovery, I yelled in my heart: “If You are God, then why don’t You just take this away from me?” I told Him that I felt like He wasn’t helping me, that I felt abandoned with the overwhelming loss of people in my life and with barely enough funds to pay off living expenses during the summer as a full-time graduate student. I got even angrier and told him that I wish I didn’t have the mental illness, because I was tired of being misunderstood and judged and unheard — and because it makes me have to work twice as hard sometimes to achieve or accomplish tasks. I asked Him why my grandpa had died and why I didn’t get a chance to even say goodbye, and why people can be so insensitive and judgmental to those who struggle with pain. And the last thing I remember saying, quite bitterly, was: “Where are You?”
Less than two minutes later, angry tears running down my hardened face, I heard a drop of rain. Then another. Next thing I knew, it was drizzling outside. Rain fell lightly on the stone steps, the vegetable and herbs of the garden, the leaves and plant vines along the side of the maroon brick wall to the left of me. Immediately, my face softened, and tears fell more calmly. I got up and walked into the rain with my head hung low, looked up, and said: “God.”
I had my eyes closed and stayed there standing, raindrops washing away tears that still lined the sides of my face. And, in that moment, I knew God was answering my questions. Most importantly, I knew that He heard me — that He was listening. Really listening.
And, in that moment, He spoke. In that moment, He was with me. In that moment, He whispered love into my broken heart.
“Daughter, be still. I am here.”
I stayed there in rain for about five minutes, letting peace mold itself around me, and returned to the comfy lounge chair on the patio, drawing my knees into my chest.
The rain stopped immediately.
And, like the little child who, at night, used to get tucked into bed securely by her daddy, I smiled.
Unfortunately, many Christians believe that we cannot represent God if we are open and honest with Him about who we are and how we feel, which makes no sense to me since God is open and honest with us. And which also makes no sense to me since Jesus was drawn to the ones who were open and honest than the religious leaders who “had everything together.” Fortunately, the Bible speaks otherwise of great men who held nothing back from God. Jesus Himself doubted God and expressed His open sorrow, feelings of abandonment, rejection, and loneliness. If one cannot be honest with oneself, how can one expect oneself to be honest with another person? A relationship is built on the deep connections of our innermost beings, the depths of who we are, not on superficial grounds.
When I begin to doubt God, I make effort to tell Him. At least, I try to. What is there to be afraid of? That God won’t approve of me? That God won’t love me and that he will begin pointing His finger in disappointment towards me? Nonsense. God would rather take an authentic heart that speaks from deep brokenness than one that is superficially perfect, because the reality is that no one is perfect. And there is no such thing as a perfect Christian. Yet, despite our imperfections, He still wants to spend time with us, to listen to our stories, to laugh and cry when we laugh and cry, to tell us that He loves us just as we are, to tell us that we are beautiful and worthy, to show us that we are beautiful and worthy, and to merely be available when we hurt the most:
“Immanuel,” the Hebrews would say.
Or, in our English tongue: “God with us.”
So if you ask God: “Where are You?” in midst of a storm,
He will quite simply reply: “I am here.”