“You really think you can pray?”
Whispers of accusation chased their way through my mind while I sat at the prayer team table for Pulpit Rock's IF Gathering women's conference.
“What if these true prayer warriors at the table realize you're just a counterfeit who only prays surface prayers and is far from knowing how to actually wrestle with God in prayer, far from knowing what praying in the Spirit really means?”
“What if they see the real you, a kindergarten pray-er pretending to be someone who truly prays?”
The whispers from the accuser that weekend gave voice to my deep-rooted fear of being “found out” that I'm not qualified, not deserving, inadequate. What if the image of who others think I am crumbles down to reveal the real me—who doesn't belong at the table?
It's one of my dominant stories that Jonathan referred to in his sermon on Sunday “Taking Every Thought Captive: Story.” He said that we create these stories based on our interpretations of life events, and they become strongholds in our lives when they don't line up with Jesus story. In our pursuit of renewing our minds we need to ask:
Are we willing to exchange our dominant story for Jesus story?
This renewal is a lifelong process by which our way of thinking comes to resemble more and more the ways of God.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
My fear of not measuring up has popped its head up throughout my life:
When I played basketball in 7th grade and hoped and prayed no one would pass the ball to me, because ball coordination was clearly not my strength. What are you doing on this team?
When I took on a job as a physics tutor for student athletes in college and it became painfully clear that I didn't know as much physics as I thought I did. And some of my students complained about me. How did you get a job you weren't even qualified for?
When we attended the wedding of one of the Chinese teachers at Charly's language school in Tianjin and (even though my children protested) I picked seats up at the front for our family to sit. And we were politely asked to move somewhere else. (I think there is even a Bible verse about this.) Who do you think you are taking a seat of honor?
When (even now) I read Cinderella to David and Daniel and feel like they see me in the story as the wicked stepmother. Because a good mother to them would be a lot more loving and affirming than I am. What if people (who think you're so amazing for adopting) knew what kind of adoptive mother you really are?
What God helped me to realize as I wrestled with these thoughts, before dawn this morning, is that I can have a seat at the table even if I'm not the best. Perfection is not a prerequisite for God. I can set down the measuring stick of comparison--that others are better at whatever it is than me. God simply wants me to come to His table with my sinful, repentant heart. Confession and communion. He doesn't love and accept me because of what I can do or who I try to be. But because of Jesus.
This song that I learned at church has become one of my favorites and I find that the lyrics often repeat themselves in my head. Such good words of Truth for me to soak in...to replace those of the accuser that tell me I don't belong, don't measure up, and might be “found out.”
O come to the altar
The Father's arms are open wide
Forgiveness is bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ.
The Truth is that my validation doesn't come from my performance or from how others see me. But from God Himself.
My audience of One.
And His arms are always open wide. Offering me (and you) a place at His table.
What dominant story do you need to exchange for the gospel story?