24 August, 2009

Pray for Each Other

So I found a new blog. It's called (In)Courage and it is written by Christian women to encourage other women. They have several bloggers, but as I reading one it caught my attention:

This place is for you. As women we sometimes have a hard time saying, "Here's how you can pray for me." It's okay. Just leave a comment below and let us know.  

This place is for each other. Before you post your words, take a moment to pray for the last person on the comment list.

This place is for God. You can stay anonymous. Sometimes courage starts with just being willing to say it. He knows your name and we know your heart...that's what matters.

So I read some of the prayer requests women had listed. I was struck by how many of them are for hurts going on in their lives. I have to admit I almost posted to ask for prayer regarding loneliness and isolation. But instead took time to pray for the other women who had listed their requests. The reality that most people are hurting or lonely hits me again and again. And yet, we all pretend to be so put together, or think that we are the only ones who feel alone in a city of a thousand. I must be the odd duck because I feel misplaced at this party, when, in reality, most other people feel that way too, some just do a better job of hiding it.

There is a song by Tracy Chapman in which she asks: Why if there are so many people are some still alone. And I wonder that too. Why are there people sitting in nursing homes without anyone to come see them, why are their homeless people when so many of us have extra rooms and food, aren't there enough homes that would love children that no more need to rot in orphanages or be aborted? Why are there so many lonely people out there? Why is community so hard, and honest relationships so rare?

Is it because of selfishness? We hate showing weakness or admitting that we are lonely/hurting? Is it busyness? I am too busy for one more friend even though I feel like I have none? Is that why we are so busy - because if we stay at our jobs all night, zone out on television, serve continually we never have to think about how no know ones what we're struggling under? Drinking, drugs, sex, fame, being skinny, perfection - are these all nothing but distractions for the true cry of our hearts that we need each other and we failing at it? Or is it that taking the first step and reaching out is one of the scariest things out there?

I've told you about Rachel. I come back to what she said often. In the middle of her talk she says that the cancer, which will eventually kill her, does not define her. Neither does being a mother or a wife. What defines her is Christ.

She speaks on the lie of self esteem. The lie says: If I believe I am X then I will be happy. Or if I just reach X then I will be happy. Happiness = being complete. It's all about me, me, me and my sense of things. So when we fall short of our idea of perfection then we turn to ourselves to fix it. If I just lost 20 pounds I would be happy. Really, or would you just be skinny and still hate your life? If I just got married or had a baby then things would be okay. But then you get married and have a baby and realize you're still not happy and it is less than you thought. Why is that? Because it's not about us. It's not about what we can accomplish, it's not about this sense of purpose bred in our hearts with our ideas. It's about Him. It's about glorifying Him and enjoying Him.

Do I enjoy God? How do I see God? Rachel says that reading the Bible isn't something we have to do, but something we get to do. It's not an obligation, another task on our to do list, but a gift. And it's true! What if we approached God the way we would want a dear friend to approach us. I hate it when I know something is wrong but my friends won't tell me. They keep skirting the conversation or talking about generic, trivial things. I want to yell into the phone "stop talking about library books and tell me what's going on in your heart!" And yet we do that with God all the time.

The lie of self esteem breeds the lie of acceptance. I am not accepted if I do not meet X. I must be the only person in the world who feels this way, therefore I will pretend I don't so then maybe people will think I fit. And so we isolate ourselves from real intimacy. Because at it's core that is what friendship is - you show me your scars and I'll show you mine and we face the new battles together. But I have to be okay with who I am before I can show you what hurts. And I have to feel safe, but if I feel that no one could ever possibly understand X struggle - how am I supposed to find closeness?

Or we think that I have to be perfect. I can't go visit a stranger in a nursing home, what would I say to them? I couldn't entertain them for an hour, so I'll just stay home. But again, it's not about you. And yeah, you're not going to be her best friend from day one, but if you are consistent, and open maybe something great can develop.

Kat once talked about how all her kids want is consistency. And I think that's all people want in relationships. That's why stories like Tuesdays with Morrie or the friendship between the characters on Sex in the City touches us. I can't remember the number of times I called my sister from DC crying that I just wanted one friend like Carrie had. I wanted one person to do something with, who would be there consistently. And she'd tell me - but friendships like that don't exist - and I'd ask "WHY NOT?!?!"

Sorry for the tangent. Let's see if I can pull all of these thoughts together. So, the prayer requests were about the pains in these women's lives, Many, I assume, are meeting these pains alone or why would they post them on a random website? Most of the world is lonely, it's just the facts of life, look at our culture, look at how many movies are made about it, talk to most people candidly and you repeatedly hear, "I feel alone." One of the pastors at my church said that the most common thing he hears from people in his office is how lonely they feel. The feel like the odd duck, but if we are all the odd ducks why can't we just accept that and be okay with our oddities and be friends? Why are we all reaching for this idea of perfection, which breeds a false standard for acceptance, when no one, except a well crafted character on the TV, can meet it?

Find your identity in God! Let him speak Truth into your heart and find your peace in Him. That can only come from spending genuine time with Him. Seriously, don't BS God, He knows you better than you know yourself. So you might well just admit you hate your job, that girl makes you crazy and you thought things would be different by this point in your life and then let Him answer you. (This is different than how you think He should answer you, but we'll get to that at a later time!) Stop looking to these false ideals to measure yourself against and go befriend another person. Go to the nursing home or the women's shelter, walk up to someone at the party who is alone and start a conversation. Admit before hand that it will probably be awkward but that's okay. Laugh about it!

So here is a confession. My roommate in college and I went in on this conversation starter book. It was the cheesiest thing I ever read. Some of the questions were like "How do you get your grass so green?" or "What is your favorite fruit that is in season?" No joke. I stopped reading it and realized that a book will never tell you how to relate to people, dealing with people will! And that my quietness/shyness/reservation has more to do with my sense of self than with not knowing what to say. So until I got to the core of why I feel substandard no number of self help books will help.

And - by the way - this post is as much for me as it is for you. I am still learning all of this. In Rwanda, it's still as applicable as it is in DC. I am extremely lonely here, but until I take half of what I said above and apply it I will continue to be. So... moving on. Take a risk and take some time to genuniunely ask someone what is going on in their life. I guarantee you won't regret it!

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