Friday, November 26, 2021

Openness and Honesty with God

All of us have been affected by the pandemic in one way or another. Seventeen months after the initial shut down, I have found myself becoming comfortable living and working within my “bubble” of home and office and masked existence. My somewhat introverted personality even began to enjoy the alone time and the social distancing. You see, I am naturally wired to keep everyone at an arms-length. The pandemic only reinforced that and made it stronger. In a sense, folks that are beyond my “bubble” became a potential threat and I began to not only see them as such but also to view them as annoying irritations.

After a conversation with my sister, Kate, in which I expressed the feelings I shared above, she leaned closer to me and said, “Ger, show them what love truly is. Put down your arm and love them as a Sister, a sister-sister, a mother, and as a friend.” Tears poured down my face as her words settled into my soul.

I countered, “But I do not know how to do that.” She retorted with a smile, “Perhaps you do not know how today, but one day you will!”

I am reminded of this as I continue my series on prayer. Let’s focus on the second key as described by Eamon Tobin in his book, “13 Powerful Ways to Pray:” Being honest with God.

As Tobin reminds us, “If we are honest and open with God, we will feel close to the Lord most of the time.” On the other hand, “if we treat God as ‘polite company,’ we may find that while we have a ‘nice’ relationship with God, it lacks fire and intimacy. … Learning to be open and honest with God is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult lessons that we have to learn in the school of prayer, especially if our tendency in human relationships has been to hide our real thoughts and feelings.”1

Being honest with feelings in the presence of someone else is truly a form of love.  Tobin goes on to explain how to deal with feelings. The words in bold are his; the explanations are mine.

Name the feelings. Feelings are neither bad nor good. They simply are. Giving them a name, an identity, robs them of their power. Names are important since they describe the essence.

Express the feeling. Naming the feeling is, in a sense, a skeletal form. Expression of the feeling, especially negative ones, give flesh to the feelings. I have found that the best way to express them is to picture the person I’m angry with in my imagination and let them verbally have it.

Own the feelings and accept them as a part of who we. It is not easy to admit that we all feel moments of jealousy, hate, inadequacy and the entire list of “negative” emotions. However, if we choose to stuff them down, they will come out someplace else. It’s like squeezing mud; the mud comes out between your fingers! By dialoging with those feelings that we have buried in our spiritual closets, they once again lose their power of affecting the present.

Talk to Jesus about these feelings and seek his healing. Jesus was truly human and truly God. He understands feelings and that being human requires us to understand, listen and learn from our feelings. He wants us to come into relationship with parts of ourselves that we bury or hide.

Tobin states further, “We need to realize that learning to be real and honest with God involves bringing our whole selves before God: our messy selves, our confused selves, as well as our good selves. It involves learning to talk to God about our relationships, our jobs, our possessions, our sexiest, wildest, most cruel thoughts, feelings, fantasies, and desires. It involves talking to God about our money: how we make it and how we spend it. It involves talking to God about how we use our time and talents. … Honesty in prayer will involve bringing before the Lord our doubts, fears, and the anger we may have toward God, others and self.”2

Through this sincere conversation, long lasting healing does indeed happen!

Praying like this allows a relationship of trust to flourish and deepen. The “distance” between God and ourselves is melted away. Work at it! The advice I got from Kate should be repeated, “Perhaps, you do not know how today, but one day you will!”

1Tobin, Eamon. 13 Powerful Ways to Pray. Beacon Publishing, 2016. Pg. 31.

2Eamon, pg. 41.

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness

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