What have I said to God today that was any different than yesterday?
It’s a simple question, but a sobering one, especially, if you were raised like me. I’m a Bible-belt born and raised Carolina boy. Church is what we do in the south. It’s sort of a right of passage. Like, you ain’t truly southern unless you know what Camp meeting on the ground and sweet tea is. And if you are from the south then you already know that you pretty much can’t have one without the other. It just isn’t proper. Anyway, growing up in the south we would have meetings— a lot of meetings. And these gatherings had all sorts of names ascribed to them. We had, the above mentioned, camp-meetings, jubilees, revivals, tent meetings, deacon meetings and of course, home-coming meetings- and the list goes on, trust me. Not to mention, Sunday school, which was quickly followed by Sunday morning service, followed by Sunday evening service and even Wednesday night services every single week. Like I said, it’s what we do. If you’re not from the Southeast, you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. If you are, then there’s probably a smile pulling at the corners of your mouth right about now. Sadly, I’m not sure I can say that the Holy Spirit was the focus of every single one of those prayer meetings back then, but somehow chicken was involved in a lot of them.
Not sure how that happened…
Anyway, when half your life has been spent on a church pew, eating church chicken, hearing church messages and church songs, something happens. Don’t misunderstand, I’m being funny, but I wouldn’t trade my heritage for anything. These are good things, all the way down to the gospel chicken. The point is, I’ve come to learn that some temptations, the most dangerous kinds, are the ones that I don’t even recognize as temptations.
Think of it this way. If you believe in God, and have a relationship with Him, and I hope that you do, what do you say to Him? Just take a second and think it through. Think of some of your prayers. A good example of a typical southern food prayer might be,
“Lord, bless this food to our bodies and our bodies to Thy service, in Jesus name we pray, amen.”
Sound familiar? Yeah, me too. I’ve probably heard it a million times and it’s usually spoken so fast it would take the good Lord Himself an interpreter to understand it.
Seems harmless, right? Well… now try to imagine that you’re God. I know it’s a weird thought. But just roll with me. Colossians 1 tells us that all things hold together by God’s power alone. So, I thought we’d have some fun with the next example. Imagine with me, as best you can, and take on that roll. Imagine that you are God and that everyone exists because you will them to.
Imagine stoking the embers of the sun with your breath to provide a warm day for your beloved (humans)- not too hard though, you might just blow it out. You make the flames just hot enough to give warmth and light and in the process you feed the plant life of the entire planet. Now, imagine your will moving the heavens, the earth spinning around the fire that you have made. And just because you are peerlessly good, you paint the morning with a one-of-a-kind sunrise- never to be seen again, using the firmament and stars. Now, imagine your world, your loves, the people that you gave your Son to die for, humans waking up to the gift of life and coming to the breakfast table. Your glory, love, and goodness toward them is literally on display, lighting up the morning sky. Now Imagine that sacred breath, the same life that you breathed into Adam’s lungs, filling up their lungs to speak your praise.
Finally, imagine if you will, a thick southern accent speaking out a prayer that sounds like an auctioneer on crack.
“Lord, bless this meat, bless this skin, back ya ears and poke it in!”
Y’all, I got so tickled writing this on the Forge this morning that I belly laughed out loud, but there is so much of it that is painfully true. There is a whole culture out there that functions in the wonderful trappings of church community, but it has become a slave to its traditions. A tradition of prayer in the church is a good thing, but the “act” of praying to God should never become sterilized to powerless repetition. We have forgotten the privilege of speaking to God. We have forgotten that Someone had to die for that sacred right. (But that is another journal post altogether).
Back to our main point.
What if we addressed our friends like we address God? How weird would that be? How long would they call us their friend? Can you imagine trying to have a relationship with someone but they just keep saying the same exact thing to you over and over again? You sit down to dinner with a buddy and suddenly they speed-read a salutation to you and begin shoveling food in their mouth. It’s weird how wrong this feels when the shoe is on the other foot.
Honestly, this might be the strangest and best concealed temptation the church has ever faced. This journal-post is laced with more humor than most of my others. Please, don’t miss the seriousness of this temptation though:
the temptation to address God but never know God.
I have some homework for you today. I hope you play along. I promise, it’s worth it.
Today, what would you say to God if He gave you one breath to say it instead of many? In that beautiful moment, what would you use your one breath to say to Him?
Try it. And remember to take a deep breath. I think you’ll be surprised at a few things:
One, that love doesn’t fit very well into the confines of a one-breath prayer. And good luck with thankfulness and glory.
Now… take another breath for the sacred gift that it actually is, set your repetitious traditions aside, and meet God head-on with everything you could not fit into the prior breath.
I’m not one to break tradition, but I don’t think chicken is going to make the cut this time..