Our God is a consuming fire, and my filth crackles as he seizes hold of me; he is all light and my darkness shrivels under his blaze. It is this naked blaze of God that makes prayer so terrible. For most of the time, we can persuade ourselves we are good enough, as good as the next man, perhaps even better, who knows? Then we come to prayer – real prayer, unprotected prayer – and there is nothing left in us, no ground on which to stand.
~Sr. Wendy Beckett
Real prayer…unprotected prayer…when we come to Jesus raw and oozing and leave pretense at the torn veil as we pass through. We see ourselves in the clear light of His Presence, and we grieve. We look into the mirror of His Word, and we mourn. We fall so short of perfection. Is it any wonder so few want to come close?
I mean, who WANTS to be humbled and broken?
I’d prefer to hold tightly to arrogance, to the soothing voice that says “now, now, you are not that bad! you’ve never (fill in the blank) like that guy over there…”
Mostly though, there is no voice. Just the smug assurance that really, when you get right down to it, I truly do deserve God’s grace, at least a little bit. Surely He didn’t have to spill quite so much blood over me. Surely all the stripes and the thorn-piercings and the nails were for everybody else. I mean, for me He might have just needed a spanking. Maybe a really hard one, but truly…all that blood and suffering? Not necessary. But I’m glad He did it for everybody else, don’t get me wrong.
And then I read about the woman at Jesus’ feet, who washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair, who loved Jesus with such an all-consuming, extreme passion that her act of devotion prepared Him for death. I believe that her love for Him, the image of her pouring precious oil on His feet and kissing them repeatedly, must have been foremost in His mind as they drove in the nails. Because it was for that kind of love that He gave Himself up. For a bride who would accept His gift without reserve and return that Love in earnest, forever rejoicing in His wholehearted embrace.
I want to have that kind of love for Him.
Yet I stand aloof, not wanting to blubber and make a spectacle of myself.
He pursues as a lover, the bridegroom who yearns to draw me near, who calls out my name and beckons me just come…just come, and let Me look at you! I love you, I accept you, I died for you.
Oh, come come now I say, shaking my head a little nervously, thinking self-deprecation is the proper response. Get ahold of Yourself. Not me, surely. I think You have the wrong person.
Pride and doubt mingle to keep me politely declining His invitation. I think I am at some kind of party where there are just two or three hors d’oeuvres left and I must resist the urge to devour them all so that there will be enough for others. Because, you know, they aren’t ALL FOR ME. I mustn’t be greedy. I must show some decorum!
But greed is exactly what He is wanting from me. A holy greed that is hungry for Him, and all of Him. And nothing else. A holy passion that doesn’t care who it has to offend and who it has to bypass in order to get at Him. A thirst for Him that is not satisfied until it is at His feet, weeping and kissing in gratitude.
Where does that kind of gratitude come from? That kind of passion? From understanding just how much I have been forgiven. From understanding that what was done, was done ALL FOR ME.
Passionate love is the only true response when I come face to face with His holy fire that burns all the pretense away and I see just how far He had to come to bring me home. I pray the unprotected prayer, for my senses to be awoken to how truly filthy I was, how very large my debt, and how merciful my Ransom.
And the passion, it grows.
Luke 7: 36-50