I came across my first prayer journal the other day. I’ve kept them fairly constantly since I was 14, but it’s been a while since I looked at this one. All scribbles and messy handwriting and teenage angst and lots and lots of exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Because being a Christian was just so awesome and great and wonderful.
I’m 30 now. My prayer diary these days has a lot less exclamation marks. Probably a lot more swear words too. Lots more crying out to God. Because I’m not that 14 year old anymore.
16 years covers a lot. Eating disorders and depression and suicide attempts and ill health and miscarriage. And the good stuff too – marriage and family and volunteering and campaigining and all the stuff that makes me me.
I’m not the Christian I was at 14. I’m going to be honest here, and it’s not actually very easy – I no longer have an easy faith. I really, really struggle to trust in God’s mercy and grace, despite the fact that He’s shown me again and again how much He loves me. I was speaking and praying with a friend today, and we were both talking about how we’ve lost that – I guess, sheer joy in faith.
And in some ways, that’s ok. Faith was never meant to be easy. Jesus didn’t promise us rainbows but a cross. And there comes a point where we just have to grit our teeth and get on with it.
I guess the challenge for me is learning how to be honest about that. I’m generally perceived as being a fairly excitable and bouncy creature – perceived being the appropriate word there – and it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of giving a cheesy Christian grin and tellingyou how wonderful it all is. But it isn’t always like that, and we do each other a disservice if we make that out to be the case. If we’re all doing the happy grinning crap, and inside we feel like it’s falling apart and we just don’t know where God is anymore, we’re not engaging with each other – we’re not being a family. We’re just being puppets.
Obviously, it’s not a great idea to spill your guts out to the whole world. It’s good to find people to be safe with. But the more I go through life and the church, I realise it’s not the shiny people I learn from. It’s the people who dare to be real in both the happy and the sad – who dare to take their mess and offer it as a gift to the world.
Because that says “you’re not alone” That says “you don’t have to have all the answers”. That says “there’s hope”. And it says “I don’t know what the answer is right now. But we’ll get there. Together”.