Lately, my prayer life has felt kind of empty. I’ve still been praying, but I’ve missed the warm hugs of the Spirit’s presence; the thrill of hearing Him speak so perfectly into my situations. I’ve been hungry.
And this past Sunday at church, although the music was well-executed and the energy in the room was incredible – I felt numb inside. So I sat down in my chair and began to pray.
“Why do you seem so far away? Why can’t I hear you? Is there anything I should be doing differently?”
I sensed an immediate response from the Lord. But initially, it seemed odd. And, simpler than I expected.
“Take off your jacket.”
I was wearing my brown leather jacket, which I really like – and today was one of the first days warm enough to use it. It was a steal a couple of years ago at $50, on our local buy-and-sell website.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I’m nervous or uncomfortable – usually, around other people, and usually, away from home – one of the things that I do to hide myself is keep some kind of outer layer on. A hoodie, perhaps, or a bulky sweater. Sometimes, it’s my parka – even if I’m hot. I’ve done this for many years; at least since I was a teenager.
And that morning, I happened to be hiding in my favorite jacket.
As I sat and reflected, contemplating whether I had the courage to take it off, I remembered the phrase found in Isaiah 64:6: “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”
My jacket isn’t a filthy rag, but if I’m using it to hide behind, it’s no more effective. I can’t help thinking of Adam and Eve in the garden, who covered themselves in leaves and hid from the Lord, when they became aware of their sinful nature. “Righteous acts” can be a way of attempting to cover this nature. We hope that what we do will make us more worthy of being accepted by God and others.
Maybe, if I’ve spent a lot of time in the Word, volunteered at church, and haven’t lost my temper with the kids that day, God will draw near. Bonus points for walking in on Sunday morning with a smile, and my hair done. And my nice jacket – on.
But what does He say? All these “righteous” acts are like filthy rags. Sure, He wants us to do good things, but as a loving response – not as a means of gaining His approval. There’s nothing I could ever do that will make me worthy of His presence. Only the cross can do that, and it has already been done.
What is required, then, to experience God’s presence? James 4:8 simply says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
Come near. That’s it!
But come near with the real you. He doesn’t need us to shroud ourselves in good deeds, false personalities, success, smarts, or leather jackets. He just wants us.
The real us.
So I took my jacket off. I felt weird in the shirt I had on, my hair hadn’t fallen quite right that morning, and my make-up itched my face. But, there I was. And the pastor, in his message, began to talk about how we needed to get real with God when we pray.
Coincidence? I think not.
Do you hide from God, or others? Where, or when, do you feel most like yourself? What would it look like for you to bring that real-self to God, and to your other relationships?
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.