The Cynic and the Circle Maker

Circle MakerI know I keep telling you this story, but I don’t know how to talk about The Circle Maker without talking about that circle I drew on the carpet at age 14. That sort-of-boyfriend who told me to kneel down in circle and stay until God told me which country to go to on my TeenMania mission trip.

Tell me the ancient story of Honi and his circle in the sand. Tell me about how he stayed there until God sent rain.

Tell me this, and instead of feeling inspired, I will feel the depth of my own failure.

I will feel the silence of that moment fifteen years ago when I knelt small and hopeful in my basement room. When I prayed and prayed and never felt an answer, and so I chose the Dominican Republic by pointing at a page with my eyes closed and hoping God was involved.

Tell me about praying in circles, and I’m back in the Dominican Republic, you see…because this is how the memory works, jumping from one sharp pain to another. I’ll remember the unkindess of that trip. I’ll remember the flimsy look of my faith next to everyone else’s. I’ll remember the mime costume and the hot, dirt roads and getting “disciplined” for sitting next to a boy on a bus. I’ll remember feeling entirely invisible.

I will feel it all like I’m still there.

*

Over pizza and wine at the Crave restaurant in Mall of America, my friend Kim and I segue seamlessly from publishing to prayer (because that’s just the kind of friendship we have).

She mentions a great sermon she once heard on prayer and spiritual warfare, and I feel my face drain. I look down at the roller coasters below, the flashing lights, the giant Ferris wheel in the middle of the world’s biggest mall, and I feel unmoored.

“Oh,” she says, apologetic. “Is that a trigger word for you?”

And it’s never occurred to me to think of it like this. Trigger: a term I’ve only ever heard used in relation to victims of rape. But maybe it’s the right word, because when she says spiritual warfare, I feel like I’m Jericho-marching around a school, battling something I cannot name.

I feel stretched-thin and small. I feel the weight of all that is at stake. I feel my own inadequacy. I feel my faith small and slight, my prayers disappearing unanswered into the sky.

And I’m writing this blog, and it’s because words like this undo me. I write here because I’m trying to find the true thing at the heart of all of this loaded language. It’s about reclaiming something. It’s about finding my way home.

*

circle maker coverThe Circle Maker is book about dreaming big and praying hard, and not giving up before you see a miracle. It’s a chronicle of the impossible realized. It’s story after story in which prayer was met with a resounding, amazing yes, and it’s glory and it’s movement and the whole world pulses with the power of God.

It’s meant to be inspiring, to awaken the dreamer in each of us. To rekindle a sleeping imagination with the embers of faith and prayer.

But this cynical heart of mine is not easily inspired anymore. I read books like this through narrowed eyes. I allow myself to become closed off by words and sentences that feel too simplistic. I am stirred to frustration rather than faith.

Show me your slideshow of Before-the-Miracle and After-the-Miracle snapshots, and my first thought is It’s not really as simple as all that. My thought is You’ve left out the mess. It’s the craft tutorial that leaves out the glue-gun burns and all the times you’ll have to pull out the stitches and start over. It’s the episode of Extreme Home Makeover that’s so inspiring but so unrealistic.

I want to know more about the “long, boring” years of praying that Batterson mentions in the book. I want to know what it feels like to walk around and around and see nothing happen.

I want to know that the mega-church pastor who sees miracle after miracle come to pass feels it too – the discouragement, the doubt, the fear. He mentions it briefly, but I need to see it. I want to know what happens, really, when the simple, desperate prayer goes unanswered for years.

Because unless you tell me the dark, unsexy truth of it, how can I tell you my own hard truth? How can I tell you that it’s not that I don’t think God can do wildly wonderful things? That, if I’m really honest, it’s that I don’t think he’ll do them for me?

*

This is less a post about a book than it is about my own steeled heart.

I don’t think that The Circle Maker is a bad book. I think books, like anything, speak to us all differently at different times in our lives.

For me, for now, I am conflicted. I am frustrated and grateful all at once.  I love Mark Batterson’s believing heart. I am inspired by his faith. And also, I am annoyed by some of his black-and-white-sounding statements. I am thankful for the way this book threw a stark light on my own gnawing questions. Is God FOR me? Do my dreams matter? Does prayer really change anything? I will probably never love the term praise-through.

And here’s the thing: for a long time, I gave little thought to prayer, this tender spot in my faith journey. What you are seeing are my first steps back in.

I spent all these years walling myself in with cynicism. Ram that wall with big questions and giant claims about God, and what you’ll see is 15 years’ worth of crankiness flying loose like so much dust. Trigger those hard memories, and there will be fallout, and it is bound to be messy.

And I think this is just part of it. The beginning of a process. The first steps of something new.

All I know is this: grace anyway.

Grace for the cynic. Grace for the Circle Maker. Grace for every beating, broken heart reaching toward God.

67 thoughts on “The Cynic and the Circle Maker

  1. I’m so grateful for your beautiful honesty. I imagine there are many hurting, doubting hearts who need to hear exactly this.
    I’m not sure if The Circle Maker address this (I do plan to read it soon), but I can look back at years of my life in which I literally had no dreams. Even my imagined future was dark and blank. I could never have prayed big dreaming prayers because I didn’t even have the dreams.
    Now, a few years further down the road, I can say that God not only hears and answers big, big prayers, but he gives us the prayers themselves. He gives us his dreams for us, which turn out to have been buried in our hearts all along.
    Ok, I’m realizing how cheesy this sounds, but it’s hard to write about without resorting to cliche. 🙂
    Thank you for always finding a way to the truth beyond the cliche.

    1. Loved this Christie: “he gives us the prayers themselves. He gives us his dreams for us, which turn out to have been buried in our hearts all along.” Lovely. Thanks for the beautiful comment.

  2. “I want to know that the mega-church pastor who sees miracle after miracle come to pass feels it too – the discouragement, the doubt, the fear. He mentions it briefly, but I need to see it. I want to know what happens, really, when the simple, desperate prayer goes unanswered for years.”

    I think this is why I get frustrated with Perry Noble, Craig Groeschel, Mark Driscoll, Mark Batterson, Steven Furtick, etc. They THINK they know what made their churches big, but I don’t think they do. Some of them are extremely “unhumble”. They don’t realize – truly – that their “greatness” could be stuck in a church of 12 where half the people are within 3 years of death, and there would be NOTHING that they could do about it, no matter how hard they try or how many circles they pray in. They’ve seen success on a level that MOST Christians will NEVER experience, and a few days of only 7000 people instead of 7500 will NEVER make them feel like my pastor does when only 8 show up for a service instead of 25. In my opinion, they just don’t get it. They talk about how they started small, and I get that, but MOST of them have seen HUGE growth, percentagewise, almost from the beginning.

    But maybe I’m wrong. But I despise it when rich people tell poor people how to handle not having money.

    1. The numbers game is a little hard for me too. Does God really “get more glory” from bigger numbers? (It’s something I struggle with as a blogger as well. It’s nice to see the numbers increase, but does that really mean that it’s more important or valuable or “blessed” than if there were just five people reading? I kind of don’t think so.)

      It seems like a very American more-is-more mentality. Personally, I am finding much deeper connection and growth in our new smallish church than I ever did in a huge church. Upside down kingdom and all that.

      Thanks for the comment and the insight Bernard.

      1. I hear that loud and clear. Last year I had a book published. It’s everything I can do to avoid obsessing over sales figures and Amazon rankings (and they’re small, believe me) and instead focus on God’s call to write the danged thing in the first place. But as you say, the more-is-more culture is always with us. The irony of it is, even when we get “more,” it never feels like enough.

  3. “I want to know more about the “long, boring” years of praying that Batterson mentions in the book. I want to know what it feels like to walk around and around and see nothing happen.”

    Every word you wrote I understand. I’ve been fleshing all of my own thoughts out, and I have yet to make a coherent post out of it, but I have always felt alone “in the messy middle” as you call it. If you talk about the fatigue, the moments of doubt, the feelings of being alone, instead of encouragement I have just been admonished to not be lacking in faith. To not “speak out your doubt” as if I do God will move on from me to the next person. It then makes me feel like there is more on me and less on God, and then my theology all but goes flying out the window…..

    So, thank you for the words and thank you for a place to be able to speak out the questions without feeling like God will abandon us if we do.

    1. “To not “speak out your doubt” as if I do God will move on from me to the next person.” I’ve struggled with that too, and I have no idea where it comes from. Yuck. I know that’s not what God’s like, so why do I feel that so deeply?

  4. I love how you get right down to the nitty gritty. I want to hear about the hard part – I need to know that I am not the only one not getting it…the only one who can’t seem to get it right. Grace – thank God for it. Remembering that everyone has a different path to the same place helps me remember.

    1. Thanks so much Sonja. I’m so glad it resonated. (I’m always afraid that I’m over-sharing on posts like this.)

  5. I have deep concerns about using prayer as any kind of inspiration for religious instruction.

    1) if you try to argue that you know that God answers prayers because he always answers with “yes”, “no” or “not yet”, it doesn’t take long to realize that a magic 8 ball has that same amount of power.

    2) when you show the amazing results that prayer CAN have, and then it doesn’t happen for you it can be a source of doubt, not encouragement

    Encouraging prayer can be a good thing; encouraging it for ANY spiritual education purpose is probably unhelpful in the long run.

    “Pray, why? Just try it.” not “Because it will teach you about God”, or “because it will help ease your mind”, or “because it can fix these problems”.

  6. Sometimes I wish there was spelled out the right way to do things in our spiritual life so we could get “it right” as if there was a correct way. I have struggled with that. I guess I would be disappointed in God if I got to heaven and he told me that he did not answer that one prayer because I needed 10 more minutes in the circle or I was a quarter of a mustard seed short.
    I feel that God knows me way better than I know myself and he does not hold out on me unless it is to make a better me. I want my “communication” with God to be richer and deeper. I know that I can find what he wants to tell me in his Word and I need to spend more time there.
    I think sometimes we want God to knock us over when he is satisfied to be standing by as he helps us struggle through the grind that life can be.

    1. Reading this new book on prayer now (A Praying Life, by Paul E Miller), and I your comment makes me think of this powerful line: “Private, personal prayer is one of the last great bastions of legalism.” He talks about our fear of coming just as we are and the need to banish those lies. I love that.

  7. Your reflection on prayer is one I relate to. In the last 6 months I have transitioned to a different congregation. Among the many adjustments has been the congregations relationship wtih prayer. Special meetings for healing have been planned. The congregation seems to have a simplistic, faithful prayer life similar to the one The Circle Maker describes. Instead of igniting my faith and prayer life, I have turned to the cyncism of it all. I struggle to put prayers together. While I believe God is active in the world, I regularly ask “why pray?” I am not sure how to make sense of the reality of my expereience with prayer and my theological understandings, but I believe honest words are half the battle. Thanks for this post because it lets me know I am not the only one struggling; I am not the only one with these thoughts.

    1. Thanks for this comment Kevin. This part particularly struck me: “I am not sure how to make sense of the reality of my expereience with prayer and my theological understanding.” Yes. That’s me too. For every example of God’s miraculous healing, I can think of a counter-example where he chose not to heal. For every dream realized, I can think of ten broken. I don’t know what to do with that. Trying to work through it I guess. Thanks again for the words.

  8. Addie, I came across your blog the other day, and have been curiously reading about your journey. You are a bit ahead of me on that journey; I am still stuck in a dark corner and haven’t figured out how to turn around yet. I was particularly interested in this post because I have long had prayer issues.
    When I was young I was always sure that God would want me to be a missionary, and I knew I did not want to be a missionary. I was really worried about that whole “thy will be done” phrase. For some reason I really believed that God and I would never/could never have the same plans about the future.
    But now? Now, in my nearly middle-aged dark corner, I can’t pray. The other day a friend of mine found out her father has cancer. The expected response in evangelical circles is, of course, “I’ll pray for you/your family/your dad”. But I couldn’t help thinking to myself “you don’t want me praying for you, no good can come from that!” I realized that I have not come very far since those days of worrying that God would make me be a missionary.
    These days, when I am so far away from God, I sometimes find myself wishing I could pray but I am paralyzed by the thought that I am doing it because I want God to fix my life, and if he doesn’t fix it then does that mean he might of if I had been more faithful? Or does it mean my expectations are wrong (the whole my/thy will dilemma)? Or does it mean he doesn’t give a flying monkey what happens to me? Or does it mean he was never there in the first place?
    Anyway, I applaud your efforts to find truth hidden beneath the veneer of clichés, corny rhymes, and misrepresented truths. Maybe someday I too will find a way out of the dark corner, and take my chances with prayer again. (No circles for me though!)

    1. Your comment really resonated with me, particularly the fears about the missionary life and this line: “For some reason I really believed that God and I would never/could never have the same plans about the future.” I struggle with all of the questions you have, and my work toward redefining and re-entering faith has been full of doubt and questions and cynicism. Grace to you in your dark corner friend. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Yep. I’ve been having a hard time putting words to it. I roll me eyes (mentally, if not outright), and then catch myself because for many years I’ve thought all “those” people are either gullible or faking it, but lately I’ve come to see that maybe they are in fact inspired by things that for me are triggers, and I’m not exactly sure how to express that, other than to say–for the moment anyway–that I’m a) a recovering church kid, and b) very cynical. And somehow I want to say both ‘don’t mind me, I’m just cynical,’ and yet ‘please believe me, and hear my heart,’ and also ‘don’t you dare try to fix me or I’ll kick you in the shin.’

    1. Me too friend. It’s a good place to be…that spark of understanding that comes when you realized that different voices and words and approaches work for different people. What speaks to someone else might make me crazy insane. What speaks to me might sound bananas to someone else. Realizing this has helped me to give grace to others as well as to myself and freedom to leave situations where I can’t hear the truth for frustration with the delivery.

  10. Thanks for making me cry today, Addie. 😉 Seriously, that whole middle section and then these particular lines: “Because unless you tell me the dark, unsexy truth of it, how can I tell you my own hard truth? How can I tell you that it’s not that I don’t think God can do wildly wonderful things? That, if I’m really honest, it’s that I don’t think he’ll do them for me?”

    And boy do I have trigger words, including spiritual warfare. Let’s keep walking this out together. Glad you’re a part of my life, friend.

  11. Ooh, you and this blog. (And your commenters! Love them.) So good for my soul to read words that mirror so closely where I am, right now. I get goosebumps when I read each of your posts because (for even as cynical as I am), I cannot deny that God has miraculously led me here to get a taste of His Truth.

    This is such good timing. I heard a sermon on prayer at the turn of this year, and it made me realize how much of a wall I had put up toward the idea of praying for “things” (as opposed to just maintaining a relationship with God). Who knew prayer could be so hard?! 😉

    1. I know. My commenters are totally the best. So thoughtful and insightful and KIND. It’s pretty fantastic. I have a huge wall about “praying for ‘things'” too. So wanting to get rid of that…hence the year of ASK! 🙂 Thanks for the kind words Asta.

  12. Addie – spiritual warfare is a trigger word for me, too. All sorts of connotations and experiences flood to mind and create almost instantaneous disorientation, disgust and flight reaction, honestly. You are brave to have read the book, doubt I would have ‘gone there.’ Love your candor and candid response. I’m with you… also – praise-through – seriously?

  13. I prayed a prayer of faith and desperation when I was a teenager too. I too was answered with silence. I cried. I then responded like the rich young ruler and said (literally) “I can’t do this anymore. It’s too hard all by myself.” I turned around and walked away from the God I had committed myself to, very purposely, not in lack of faith but despair and disappointment.

    Several years later – He decided to re-initiate the conversation, on His terms and not mine.

    http://relijournal.com/christianity/the-silence-of-god/

  14. I physically recoiled when I read the phrase “spiritual warfare” – it’s a huge trigger word for me. I had never thought of church-speak that way until it came up in therapy (me: “I can’t figure out why it’s so exhausting to go to church, and I always end up feeling sad and hurt and confused”. Therapist: “Sounds like it’s a very triggering experience.” me: “…oh. Yeah.”)

    But it makes so much sense. I am better able to deal with (my new, non-evangelical, wonderfully welcoming) church now that I can take a deep breath and remind myself that the uncomfortable “run away NOW!” feelings are triggered by old memories and catch-phrases and sometimes just… church community, no words necessary. Knowing this doesn’t do anything about the raw, scraped-open feeling or all of the processing that still needs to happen afterwards, but it makes me feel a little less ashamed of having such a hard time with church.

    I am still in the trenches with you as far as doubt goes, and prayer. Maybe a little farther behind, because I could not end a post like this with the assurance of grace for the cynic. So I’m taking a little comfort from the fact that you did.

    1. I love this: “I can take a deep breath and remind myself that the uncomfortable “run away NOW!” feelings are triggered by old memories and catch-phrases.” YES. That’s so good. The runaway feelings aren’t because what’s happening here, now, is bad. It’s all those old ghosts. I love that. Thanks so much for sharing.

  15. This post was beautiful. I was in tears as I read, “I spent all these years walling myself in with cynicism. Ram that wall with big questions and giant claims about God, and what you’ll see is 15 years’ worth of crankiness flying loose like so much dust. Trigger those hard memories, and there will be fallout, and it is bound to be messy.”

    I have no big thoughts or theological observations, just that your words comforted some deep part of me. I look forward to reading more. Thank you!

  16. Where I am right now is I’m not big on “purpose-driven” prayer, i.e. going to God and telling him that I’m supposed to be important and accomplish something significant. The best prayer I’ve experienced has had the simple goal of knowing God. In those moments of deep intimacy, it doesn’t matter that I’m nobody in the world’s eyes. I’m in a lifelong process of crucifying my pride. I’m not sure I’ll ever make peace with insignificance. Maybe I’m not supposed to. I’m just not sure how different Circle Maker is from Your Best Life Now. Christian celebrity becomes a celebrity by telling all the groupies how to become a celebrity. That’s the cynic talking. That’s just where I am.

    1. I so relate to this. (And I’ve never read Purpose-Drive Life. Probably for the best. Chances are, I’d react to it like I did to The Circle Maker.) There’s just so much in this comment. The journey you spoke of toward “making peace with insignificance” feels so much more to me like Jesus’ upside-down kingdom than giant, number-based dreams and celebrity. Thanks for the insight.

  17. Thank you Addie. First let me say, I have not read this book so I can’t speak directly to it’s specific content. However, your conclusion is striking to me: “Grace for every beating, broken heart reaching toward God” beautifully illustrates the Christian life. The “reaching” is our journey. I too, struggle with the dark corner and some days I just give up on prayer (and laughter and song). We sometimes share a path intersecting the cross but our individual road with Christ is uniquely our own. I can’t read these types of books anymore and your post reminds me why- my cynicism keeps me from my own path. For me, trying to follow the given formula for XYZ makes my journey that much harder. They seem to harbor the implicit message: if you do this or that, then, this or that will result. And what if the promised results don’t appear? Am I now a failure? Is sin an issue? Do I have enough faith? Is the devil crouching at my door (name your cliche)? Is God up in heaven, tapping his foot, looking at his watch- waiting for me to get with the program so he can bless me or approve of me? Works righteousness never leads to freedom and grace but to law and eventually death. I think the problems arise when expectations (our own or others) enter the mix and we attempt to follow a formula or success of someone else. Prayer is talking with/to God. It’s a deeply personal and intimate thing. Thank you Addie for sharing your personal process in a public forum.

    1. Love this Lori. I struggle with all the questions you mention here, and love the way you respond to them: ” I think the problems arise when expectations (our own or others) enter the mix and we attempt to follow a formula or success of someone else.” Lovely.

  18. Thank you Addie. You wrote exactly what I needed to hear. Your words read like a blessing.

  19. first steps…
    So, this is a serious question: Would a book on the frustrations of prayer sell? Nobody publishes a book that won’t sell. No publisher thinks a basically “negative” book will sell. But most of us have experienced, if we’re honest, far more frustration related to prayer than otherwise. I wonder if a mega-church pastor wrote that book, people would buy it. There is, after all, a certain quiet humility owned by the person who, while experiencing wrong answers, or no answers, rests quietly assured in the magnificence of God…anyway. Grace anyway.

    1. Neal: Have you read “Prayer” by Philip Yancey? It’s kind of like that. The book presents lots of truths and experiences of prayer, but doesn’t really answer many questions about it. It’s more of his journey toward trying to understand prayer, it’s purpose, effectiveness (if there is any) and how it impacts our relationships with others and with God. I found it a very liberating read … if for no other reason than to affirm that it’s okay to have questions and it’s okay to doubt and struggle. And that God can and will still be glorified in the face of my struggles.

    2. I love the idea. I’d totally read it. I think that people gravitate toward honesty. That we all know, deep down, that it’s not as simple as 10 easy steps.

  20. I cannot express how greatly it frustrates and pains me when the will of God gets warped into some mysterious blueprint that only the “earnestly devoted” can find. This is false! God’s will is simple: Love Him, love others. All the other bits and pieces of following Him naturally come when we love Him and love others.

    I am sorry you were so wounded. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like.

    In an interesting coincidence, I wrote about trigger words and how they affect our faith earlier this week. Here’s a link, if you care to read it: http://tanyadennisbooks.com/2013/01/22/trigger-words-vs-truth/

    Thanks for speaking your heart.

    1. Thanks for sharing that post, Tanya. When my friend Kim offered that word “trigger,” it was very freeing to me. I think that’s the first step: realizing what’s happening. Then I can, as you so beautifully wrote, respond to it instead of simply reacting to it. Love.

  21. The book is entitled: “I can’t pray…” and other steps toward perfectly broken living.
    Chapters:
    …unless God will answer.
    …unless I feel like it.
    …unless I know my prayer changes something.
    …unless God plays nice.
    …unless I haven’t sinned today.
    What else?

    1. …unless I have all the answers
      …unless I do it “right”
      …unless I have enough faith

      (Do it. Write it. Do it.) 🙂

  22. Addie, I love your heart and I love your words. I can relate to this on so many levels. I am a cynic at heart who longs to be the believer. I’m protective of the church and the ones I love, because I know how easy it is to be swayed by a way of thinking that feels good or promises good, but cuts out the “work” that is required, the begging prayers, the late night doubts, the angry reality, and the resignation. I’m all too familiar with these, and not at all familiar with the miracles.

    1. I love this, Tammy. Especially this: “I am a cynic at heart who longs to be the believer.” Yes.

  23. Addie, this is so amazing. God gave you such a gift to articulate such important truths for those of us who came from a way of faith that came at some point to seem false. I love your raw and honesty and your willingness to set aside cynicism without discounting your own heart’s experience. You are brilliant, friend. And your book…. it is AMAZING. I got hired to read it–and it knocked me over. And kept me awake because I couldn’t put it down. Your readers have no idea the wonderful treat in store for them down the road!

  24. As a former fire breathing-prayer warrior Pentecostal, all I am is doubt. After sorting through all the b.s. in the church and getting stuck on too many contradictions that have not been reconciled, I only know that there is a God. I don’t know how I feel about the bible. I don’t know how I feel about Jesus. I mostly roll my eyes at any mention of miracles. And prayer, what’s that? This is what my 34 years of life have brought me to. To top it all off I’m not miserable or unhappy, my marriage hasn’t fallen apart, I’m not broke, and I my once seemingly infertile body has since produced two babies. I guess the notion I couldn’t live without Jesus was b.s. too (not that I don’t wish it where true).

    “This above all: to thine own self be true”, has been my motto since I was a teenager. So I guess the faithlessness was inevitable. I may not be in the best place spiritually, but I am in the most honest place. I do to some respect feel that God has brought me here. I can only hope that he will bring me back to a faith in Jesus and the his word. No doubt it will be a vastly diffrent faith from that fire breathing warrior.

    1. Your comment made me cry – tears of knowing. I’m with you. I went to a different church after I was made aware I wasn’t Ok, I wasn’t the right mix of female to be a real Christian woman. I went because I wanted to believe and I wanted my sons to believe. I read or drew while they went to the chidlren’s program. I couldn’t participate. I couldn’t be that anymore. I didn’t loose all faith – just what I thought faith was.

      That was six years ago.

      Ever so slowly I’ve begun to find ribbons of truth fluttering, caught in the bushes of life. Blowing past me down the sidewalk. I’m gathering them together. I’m not ready to pray per say and weave my new faith into words. But, I’m gathering for now and I’m good with that. But more so, I believe God is good with that (and that much faith took a long time to embrace).

      In my experience, keep walking and one day when you’re ready you’ll raise your eyes up from the pavement trusting your feet to be on safe ground. You’ll look one day. You’ll feel the breeze on your forehead again. Until then. It is Ok.

      1. EV,
        Thank you. I will continue walking. “I didn’t loose all faith, just what I thought faith was.” Gosh, how did we get here? Will we ever have a faith as strong as we had before? Will we ever have a close relationship with God. Although, somehow, deep inside my heart I feel this has all been his doing. I hope I find Jesus someday. Maybe, just maybe, he’s already with me.

        1. Love this conversation and the honest ways you both are sharing your own “journeys.” (Not crazy about that word, but don’t know how else to say it.)

          “Maybe, just maybe, he’s already with me.” Yes. I think God is not as frenzied and hurt by our doubt and struggle as we once thought. And I also think there’s something to wanting to figure it out. And being aware of the space between.

          Peace to you in this place friend. May God find you in the small ways over and over again.

  25. I can so relate. Thanks for your honesty. I believe as Tom Tarver in his Curious Band of Others wrote, we often carry about extra weight of feeling because we don’t pray as someone else does, or don’t see huge miracles and answers that blow us away we are somehow not praying right. I have come to believe prayer is simply a conversation with God who created me, Abba, my Heavenly Daddy. He created me and has a plan and purpose and if I apply my word for this year, “listen” He will guide me and use me, maybe not in some huge way, but each day to be His light, His hands, His feet, as I love my husband and support my friends through prayers and text and email.

    Yes triggers can take us back, really quickly to places that hurt. But that is not God speaking! Negative things do NOT come from Him who is Love.

  26. This is my heart. This is me. I am there, with you, standing as God is breaking down these cynical walls I’ve let build over years of failed relationships – with people and with Him. I can feel it, the breaking. And I’ve begun pounding with my fists, because I don’t want to wait anymore.

    1. “And I’ve begun pounding with my fists, because I don’t want to wait anymore.” This is such a great line, April. So. Wonderful.

  27. Aw, sweetheart. Yes, God is for you. And God is for me – though I, too, struggle to believe that many days. But anything that begins to sniff of a formula, six easy steps, or even hints at a ‘correct’ way to pray is a huge trigger for me, too. Unless. Unless. This is a person who has been through the desolation, walked through the valley and then tells me about the glory. I’m with you 100% on this one. YES.

    1. I read this comment on my phone after dinner while sitting at the table with my husband.

      Him: Why are you weepy?
      Me: Oh, you know, Diana left me the greatest blog comment.
      Him: [Blank stare]

      (In other words, thanks for this.)

  28. I find I need to first type my comments in my own private space before I copy and paste them into your blog site. Each post I read becomes a prompt – a sort of personal devotional time for me to sort out my own spiritual issues. Often these struggles are subdued and too quiet until someone comes along to help me articulate them.
    Triggers are so often on a subconscious level as most acts of aversion tend to be. Like some of other commenters here, I too have not been reading Christian books for several years as the pain seemed to outweigh any other consideration. I found the formulas barren and sterile, so I started reading the classics instead. Even newsletters from missionary friends flashed a red light on my dash, though to my surprise there was usually nothing in the content for me to be concerned about. It was the fear that something might jump out at me to scold me.
    From a human viewpoint my life has been a shipwreck though not in the sense of any moral breech. The distancing from church has been more related to the falsity I encountered than anything else.

    1. Missionary letters get me too! Totally thought it was just me and my own cynical baggage. Glad to know I’m not alone. I so appreciate your insights Vincent.

  29. “I’ll remember the flimsy look of my faith next to everyone else’s… I’ll remember feeling entirely invisible.” Yes, I remember that as well. Sometimes don’t you feel a wrenching compassion for that young girl you used to be who was feeling so inadequate longing after things that weren’t real? Or at least weren’t quite right. They were things that weren’t quite God. I meant so well, but I was so battered by not living up to things that weren’t nearly as godly as I thought they were.

    Thanks for reviewing this book. I envy your reading of it a bit and REALLY need to do some reading of my own because reading with those two voices, the author and my own cynicism, once I can relegate my cynicism to the position of ‘another voice’ instead of feeling like it speaks for all of me, can be so … growthful. (Yes, I know that isn’t a word, but there’s three kids running around tackling each other with bean bag chairs and coming within an inch of terribly bodily injury every 30 seconds or so. But they’re having so much fun I can’t bring myself to do more than cringe at all the close calls and cry out the occasional desperate, “Don’t swing Liam around on your bean bag chair! HE’S ONLY ONE!!!” Anyway, it’s not a word but it’s all I can come up with at this moment and I’m sure you get what I mean.)

    And thank you for putting “praise-through” into this post, too. It causes me to do this slightly hysterical shudder/laugh thing.

    1. I love the word growthful. 🙂 And yes, putting that cynical voice in her place is a long learning process, but it is, just as you said “growthful.” 🙂

  30. I just stumbled across your blog today so I may be asking a question that has an already posted answer…. but as I was reading this post it made me wonder if you have read the book of Mother Theresa’s letters to her mentor, ‘Come Be My Light’. It will give you a look right into the heart of what happens when desperate prayer does not get answered for years and years… its heart wrenching and made me see Mother Theresa in a whole new light!

    1. I have not read it, but who doesn’t love Mama T? Just added it to my list! Thanks so much for the recommendation and for stopping by!

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