I want to begin our time together with one of my son's children's books - Pete the Cat & his Magic Sunglasses - by Kimberly and James Dean.
This month we are continuing our discipleship journey – thinking about how we can grow in our faith – and this month – we are talking about how we can grow in our relationship with God.
All of Scripture is important in your relationship with God – and as your pastor – I am certainly supposed to encourage you to read Scripture –– but if I’m honest – I have a very soft spot for the Psalms. Because when it comes to learning about what it means to pray – to really seek God in our lives. I haven’t found anything in Scripture that has helped me to see what this looks like more than this particular book.
One of the things that's so beautiful about the Psalms is their ability to speak about the human experience exactly as it's happening in the moment.
The Psalms themselves are poetry, but they are also prayers. They are songs that speak of praise and joy but they are also often raw poems of sadness and lament and devastation and fear.
This psalm in particular is one that speaks of sorrow and depression of the ups and downs of life of the places of great despair, wondering where is God in the midst of this?
The psalmist, who was likely King David, is having an experience that many of us have had before. He finds himself feeling terribly sad, distressed, and lonely. And he knows that he shouldn’t be feeling this way. He remembers all the good moments in the past when he felt joyful. When he knew God was there. And yet – he feels far from God in that moment. The poetic metaphor of the deep calling to the deep – as the waves crash over him… brings to mind the kind of violent and successive showers of rain – one coming after the other – and the kind of moments where we feel we are just being beaten and beaten – one thing after the other – and we don’t know what to do.
This is the place where his prayer emerges – from this place of a drooping spirit – longing more than anything – for God to move and for joy and hope to return again.
We’ve all been there.
And I don’t know about you – but for many of us – for me particularly –
This is where I really learned to pray.
In the place of desperation and despair – where I realized how very much I needed God.
In the depths of experiences of failure and loneliness – I cried out to God.
Where are you? Will this go on forever? Please – help me to find hope again. And what I wanted in those moments was a quick answer. I wanted a solution to the problem I was facing. I wanted God to fix the thing that was hurting so deeply inside me. I wanted it to go away.
I wanted the magic blue sunglasses.
Where all of sudden – things could look different.
It took me a long time to learn that prayer and a rich relationship with God was
less about changing my external circumstances and much, much more about transforming my internal spirit.
It took me a long time to move beyond my prayers of desperation and panic
And begin to
listen and learn, find wisdom and clarity – and to unfortunately to discover that I did not have it all figured out – and that the very things I so desperately wanted – were not the things that I actually needed.
It has taken time and is still taking time to
allow my own heart to be changed so that I could begin to see the world the way God does – and walk differently because of it.
What I love about Pete’s lesson in this story is that he recognizes that in his place of sadness, he doesn’t need a pair of magic blue sunglasses – it’s not his external circumstances that need to change - it’s him who must be different. And the change of his heart and the change of his perspective - means that he can see the world differently – and because he can see the world differently. He can WALK in the world differently as well.
So this is the place where it starts to get kind of personal.
And when I say personal – I mean for me as well – but let’s be honest -
What does your relationship with God actually look like? Is there much of one? Is there an occasional desperate prayer to God for help when you are in a moment of need? Are there ongoing conversations? How much time do you spend talking? And how much time do you spend listening?
Is your prayer time just a time to try and make yourself feel better about things? Or are you ACTUALLY interested in being a totally different person? About learning to see the world the way God does?
If we are indeed GROWING in our Relationship with God – then it ought to mean that it is US that is changing.
So, I don’t know what your prayer life currently looks like – but I want to issue you a challenge this month…
To set aside a moment for prayer EVERY DAY.
Now if this is something new to you – decide on an amount of time – and a place.
It might be 5 minutes – it might be 30 minutes.
And I invite you to speak to God – as the psalmist speaks to God. Say what is on your heart. Maybe it’s thanks – maybe its frustration – maybe its anger – or calm.
If you aren’t sure how to start. Just start with this Psalm 42. And read it outloud.
AS if the words are coming from you.
Maybe you are a writer and you might write your own psalm. Or an artist and you might draw out what you are feeling. Or maybe you will just speak it outloud.
And then - I invite you to LISTEN. Not just in the still moment of the time you’ve set aside. But all the rest of the day.
For how God will speak to you. Perhaps in moments you didn’t expect.
And my prayer for all of you – is that you would find – not magic – but that you would find yourself being changed. That you would find yourself able to see more clearly through that frustrating situation or that you would find yourself experiencing Gods presence in your loneliness.
This month, may we be a people who are speaking honestly with God about what is really going on – in hopes that as we walk more closely with God – we would be able to SEE the ways that God’s grace is already at work in our lives – and when we do – that we could more faithfully follow.