Last night Ryan, the kids and I were settling down to eat our dinner of a Taco feast and I asked who wanted to pray. Emmaline was the first to volunteer and as always, she gives the most beautiful prayers with deep love and adoration for God and thankfulness for her food and everyone, I mean everyone listed out in her family. Then Charlie offered up his prayer: “Peanut Butter, Jelly Sandwich.
When it’s time to pray, we bow our heads and say, Thank you God for EVRYTHING this Happy, Happy Day! AMEN
“Beautiful Prayer Charlie,” I respond and then I add, “Would you like to say a prayer all of your own?” (Trying to teach our kids to speak from the heart)
To which he responded, with a long, exasperated sigh, “Ahhhh, no thanks, that just takes too much energy!”
Well, okay, not what we were planning to hear, but point taken kid, point taken.
Ryan and I looked at each other and laughed but in that moment, I was reminded of the importance of authenticity and rest. You see, in his 4-year old heart, his Peanut Butter Jelly Sandwich prayer was plenty good for Jesus and he just wanted to get on with eating his taco…thank you very much. But I was the one pushing for the performance of faith; he was the one actually living it out. I was the one trying to teach deep theology and perfected prayer language to my 4-year old and he was just being himself before his Creator.
His honest and truthful response reminded me of our need to just be ourselves before the one that loves us more than we could ever know. Charlie’s exasperated sigh also taught me that the practice of faith shouldn’t be exhausting but it should be exhilarating. Charlie’s facial expression reminded me that sometimes the world expects too much of us and God is inviting us instead just to rest in God’s presence.
As I thought on this experience more today and then wove it through my experience of the lesson of Forgiveness on Sunday, I wonder how many of my brothers and sisters struggle to forgive others because they have not forgiven themselves. I grew up in a very healthy church without a lot of toxicity and drama. As a young Christian, I was encouraged to ask questions, be my true self and that grace is offered even in my failures. But how many of us have grown up in a church, or family or denomination that sought to “prove one’s holiness?” How many of those people that we love are carrying spiritual trauma done to them by a faith leader or spiritual leader or one’s own interpretation of the Scriptures? I don’t know all of your stories, but my heart breaks for those that have so much shame piled on them because they felt like being a Christian was more about the perfect performance rather than a friendship with the perfect Savior.
My prayer for you is to embrace your imperfections and questions and doubts and incomplete prayers and inability to forgive yourself, and let Jesus turn it into something beautiful. To let beautiful things come from ashes. I hope you never hear me say that your Peanut Butter Jelly Sandwich prayer isn’t “good enough” and I hope you never fall into the trap of thinking that worshipping and following Jesus “takes too much energy.” Truthfully, when done the right way, following Jesus and being who you truly are leads to abundant life; a life that is free and unshackled and isn’t out to prove anything. Maybe we struggle with forgiveness because we have forgotten that. Maybe you are too far removed from our honest, child-like selves that call things out for what they really are. Know that you can always come to Jesus as you are, bringing what is your best and letting God fill in the gaps. And so I encourage you this week to be honest about what is life-giving in your spiritual practices and what wears you out. Pursue that which brings you abundance of life because at the end of the day, it isn’t about our perfection, but about our God’s perfect love.