"How much should I tell them, Lord?" I ask God as I sit criss-crossed in front of my laptop, the cursor blinking back at me as I wait for His response. "Should I tell them the truth about how I've been feeling? The unbelievable ways I've been tempted? The moments I've fallen? How I've questioned? How it seems like you and I haven't really been able to connect?"
I pause as I consider how much to reveal—trying to calculate how much is too much.
"Do You think they can handle it, Lord?" I press on.
I lay my fingers across the keyboard and let out a sigh.
I guess I'm about to find out.
Those familiar with ayanasymone.com know there's very little I won't cover. There's not too many topics out there that make my skin crawl. I'm willing to talk about it all. And, that's not to say I approach the blog ready to give my two cents on some popular Google-searched conversation trending across the world. No way! That kind of research is boring. Instead, I like to start with the library of topics I carry within myself: questions I have, ideas I haven't explored yet, conversations I reserve for some of the most profound people I know. These are the things I like to come to the blog with. I don't have to look any further than my own life to be inspired to write a post.
Lucky for us, I am not lacking any new ideas for today's post—my first blog back after a small work hiatus. A lot has happened in my world since you and I have talked, and I think I owe it to each of you to catch you up-to-speed. However, I've given you an exclusive, inside-look of my prayers with God early on in this post, wondering if you'll be able to handle the details I'm about to disclose. I want to warn you: They are not all glamorous. If you wanted a cookie-cutter Christian post, I hate to break it to you, my friend, but this ain't that.
Therefore, before you continue reading, I'll let you be the judge. I'm leaving it up to you to decide whether or not you want to continue reading this post.
Can you handle real?
Can you handle honest?
Are you—yourself—willing to open up and be vulnerable?
If not, that's okay. No one is holding a gun to your head, forcing you to read today's blog.
But, if you are, then come on in. You're exactly the kind of person I want to talk to.
Just like how I would with any old friend, I'm inviting you to some honest conversation over a (virtual) cup of coffee. I want to know what's going on in your world, and I want you to know what's going on in mine. Don't worry. There's no need to hide here. In the same way I'm asking you to be vulnerable, I vow to be vulnerable with you myself. After all, you and I can't really connect if we're both wearing masks, right? Let's strip those off. Let's get honest. And, to make you feel more comfortable, I'll take the liberty in going first.
Quarter one of 2023 hasn't exactly been my favorite.
Just like most believers, I didn't let January slip me by without fasting. I prayed and dreamed with God about the future. I made some goals that can only be accomplished by the grace of God. I celebrated wins. Mourned losses. I thought I was stepping into the new year pretty well.
With one fell swoop, I lost a handful of some of my favorite answered prayers—prayers that God only knows how much I have begged, pleaded, and cried over for years before He responded. What I thought was sure, certain, and secure slipped right through my fingers in a matter of moments. And, for someone who is not at all a fan of change, let's just say I didn't handle it elegantly.
I've been told to move on. I've been told to get over it. But, that's not exactly how I'm wired.
When I grieve, I grieve hard. I feel pain all the way down in my toes. And, when the pain comes up—if I'm not careful—so do poor coping mechanisms. And, when I choose into poor, yet familiar, coping mechanisms, I miss out on the chance to get what I really need to heal.
What do I mean?
I mean, pain has a way of exposing what you really want. In addition, it has a way of exposing what you need too. And, I have found that what I want isn't always what I need. But, what I need? If you peel back the layers of what I think I want, low and behold, you'll see that what I really want are the things I actually, really need.
And, what do I need exactly?
Love. Unconditional love. A whole lot of it too.
Compassion, being another one.
Grace, being a close third, though all of them come in the same package.
But, how do I try to get those needs met?
By going after what I think I want.
Yet, going after what I think I want doesn't always get me what I need. Instead, I run the risk of getting a valid need met in a harmful, more painful way.
And, trying to heal pain in painful ways?
Do the math, my friend.
It just doesn't work.
And, though it is embarrassing to admit that I actually do know the way that does work, I have to confess that I still don't always do what I know I should do. Even worse, the thing I know I shouldn't do is the what I end up doing anyhow. Why do I do this? Because I'm trying to get a need met. And, I'm trying to get that need met fast. And, sometimes? It's easy to believe that praying and reading my bible isn't going to get the job done. When I'm in pain and every emotional need inside is raging for a taste of unconditional love, it's frustrating feeling like I have to wait around for God to reveal His love to me again through prayer and worship. Sometimes, it feels like I'm waiting around for a feeling, a sign, a hint of anything that looks like God's love, and that sign just...doesn't seem to come! Which is sort of disappointing, isn't it? When the pain is making everything in you yearn so desperately for love, but when you ask God to reveal it to you, sometimes it doesn't seem He wants to show you at all. And, if you feel like God is withholding that from you in those moments, it's easy to choose a quicker route—a more tangible one, even. An unhealthy coping mechanism that seems to temporarily, but quickly, fill your need.
And that, ladies and gentleman, is how you fall into sin.
At least Apostle Paul would agree.
What he wrote in Romans 7 is by far the most relatable piece of literature I've ever read. Are you familiar with it? If not, take a quick look at what he wrote below.
Verses 14 through 23 say this:
14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. 16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. 18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. 21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
Who would've thought Apostle Paul—the man of God who pretty much wrote all of the New Testament—would feel the way we do? That he also chose into the things he shouldn't have, knowing full well he shouldn't have? That he also didn't do the thing he knew he should've done?
Doesn't that make you feel less alone? Visible? Doesn't that make you feel less crazy?
If that doesn't have that kind of impact on you, it certainly has that influence on me. It made me realize that if Paul can talk like that, then with God, I can be just as clear. Like, I'm miserable down here, God! What's taking You so long showing Your love for me in the moment I need to experience it the most?
It's kind of like what Paul prayed in Romans 7:24—
24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
But, thankfully, we don't have to wait long to read his response. He says in verse 25—
25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. ...
"But, Yana, what if I just can't feel His love for me? What if I've tried to? Waited for it? Spent another hour in my devotional time just to feel it, and I still just...didn't?"
Well, my friend. I thank you for being honest—especially after you now know I have felt very similarly the last few weeks. Therefore, I'm going to encourage you to do what I have been and will continue to do—something that has gotten me by the last few weeks of figuring this whole thing out:
If you don't feel that God is showing up for you when you need Him most, tell Him that.
Tell Him you don't feel He's satisfying you.
Tell Him you're unsure of how capable He is of filling your needs when you're in pain.
Tell Him you're frustrated by how slow you think He is in responding.
Just tell Him.
As Paul opened up about the reality of his struggle, we also can be just as open, just as vulnerable, just as honest. We can tell Him we don't think it's fair. We can tell Him it's hard believing He'll deliver us out of the struggle when we can't even feel His presence. It was only after Paul's honesty in verses 14 through 24 is how he was able to find his answer in verse 25. Paul didn't hold back. He didn't use a filter. And, through his honesty, he came face-to-face with the answer all along. Consider how true this can be for us if we would dare to be honest about our experiences with God. Consider how convicting this would be if we decided to get real in our devotional time as well. We can join Paul in his prayer, in his proclamation, and in his conviction:
24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. ...