From Olivia McGuire
"You turned my mourning into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent." (Psalm 30:12)
I find myself in a sweet, joyful season of life in which I get to spend most of my time talking to or about God. I'm in my third year of full-time college ministry, and feeling like I'm finally starting to hit my stride (though I probably said that last year, too). But this current season has given me cause to reflect more on all of the other times in my life when I've been silent -- either intentionally or unintentionally, or somewhere in between. In particular, God has started to show me how resistant I am to asking.
I'm not sure if it comes from growing up in a Midwestern rags-to-riches American dream pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps family, or from my own introversion and intense shyness as a kid -- but I sort of HATE asking people for things, and I always have. I remember being in elementary school and being terrified to ask the teacher if I could go to the bathroom. I remember making my little brother call to order pizza because I was too scared. I remember refusing to go after school to get help from my math teacher because it was too shameful -- I'd rather just figure it out myself. Asking for anything (and in most cases, asking for very reasonable, warranted things) was absolutely embarrassing, terrifying, and icky to me, even if it was asking people who I knew cared about me! The last thing I ever wanted was to impose upon anyone, draw attention to myself, and demand any kind of response. So I often ended up being silent.
The irony that God has called me into missions now hits me in the face every day. It's my entire job to ask people for things -- everything from giving financially to the ministry, to following Jesus as Lord and Savior. After three years I can say with confidence, if I don't ask hard questions of people, and wait for their response, I cannot effectively fulfill my vocation. Praise God that He is patient with me.
I believe that fear of asking, of each other and of God, is a barrier and a stronghold for many of us, because pride is a barrier and a stronghold for many of us. Jesus's words about asking of God and asking of each other in Luke 11 seriously make me squirm, even still. In verse 8, he tells his disciples, "even though [your friend] will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity (also translated 'boldness' or 'impudence') he will surely get up and give you as much as you need. So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."
It doesn't take long in the company of Luke 11 to see that God is the ground of all our asking, as Julian of Norwich puts it. God calls us to ask, of Himself and of others -- of believers and nonbelievers -- because God wants our whole heart, our whole dependence, all our hopes and trust placed in Him. When I ask a student to commit to Jesus for the first time, or when I ask a potential donor to support me, I am putting everything on the line -- I am risking rejection, I am risking turning that person off to the ministry and/or to Jesus, I am risking that God will not show up. But I know that even as I'm asking a person, it is actually God who answers, who gives the good gift. And so hopefully I choose to leap, because it is always ultimately God who I am asking, and it is always ultimately God who answers, and I know who He is: He is the Good Father, the Giver of Good Gifts.
This is my prayer for all of us, dear friends -- that we would know in our heart of hearts that our God is the giver of the good gifts of the Spirit. That is who He is, no matter what culture or past hurt or poor theology has taught us. He does not always give us what we want, but He gives us Himself -- may He change and shape our hearts so that we want more of Him, for ourselves and for everyone around us.
Lord, teach us to pray.
Jesus, would you cast out any demon of fear that causes us to be mute.
Lord, would you cast out any darkness so that our whole body is full of light.
In our hearts and with our mouths, may we sing Your praises to everyone we meet, because we have known what it is to receive Your love and forgiveness.
I cherish Church of the Cross, a good gift that God gave me seven years ago. When I'm not talking to or about God, you can likely find me singing Sandra McCracken songs or drinking coffee and laughing with friends.