More Than Church Smiles

In order to truly depend on God we must first realize our deep need for God. Humility affirms our need for God. I am always the first to raise my hand in a room when being asked for help, even if it means having to make sacrifices. But, you will hardly ever see me on the other side, as the one who asks for help.

I can remember many car rides as a child during our 20 minute commute to church. I don’t remember why, but it seemed that all of our travels to church were filled with constant fighting. I knew we were not the only family doing it, because I can remember looking out at the car next to ours and seeing our friends, also on the way to church, doing the exact same thing. I remember our fighting would sometimes last up until we reached the church parking lot itself. But, we always knew when it was time to “put on our church smiles” and enter into the land of “everything is great” and “God is good.”

I think part of the reason why there is even a phrase “put on your church smiles” is because, though we strive to be a welcoming church, we come seriously short of being a safe church. We fail to be vulnerable to one another. We often lack humility. I think this same thing happens in all of our communities. As we strive to live together in community we still carry and hold on to our inner demons: pride, greed and judgment.

Part of the reason we can’t be honest with others is because we aren’t always honest with ourselves. Remember in the book of John, chapter 8, when the Pharisees were going to stone the woman who was caught in adultery? God spoke to them saying “Let him without sin throw the first stone.” Of all the Pharisees, having to take a moment to self reflect, not one threw a single stone.

Mother Teresa teaches us that “Both humility and prayer grow from an ear, mind, and tongue that have lived in silence with God, for in the silence of the heart God speaks.”

Are we making room in our lives for self-reflection? For God to speak? I had to come to the realization that my prayer life was very one-sided, that I wasn’t always spending time in contemplation and silence to listen for God’s voice. Maybe this is something you can identify with, too.

If you are like me, sitting in silence is hard. I find myself easily distracted. The term “Prayer Discipline” or “Prayer Practice” makes more and more sense to me because I have come to realize that prayer is more than just me talking. Often our wordy prayers become meaningless, and at times seem more like a selfish monologue. Do our prayers show that we truly believe there is someone on the other side?

To be fully intimate with God is to be humble, to become “naked” and vulnerable, putting all of our imperfections on the table. This includes confessing our “inner demons,” allowing God to speak into our life. But often our relationships with God are more about ourselves than they are God. We speak and speak and speak and never allow God to speak. How then are we going to hear God speak to us if we are never listening?

Thomas Keating says, “The spiritual journey is not a career or a success story. It is a series of humiliations of the false self that become more and more profound. Theses make room inside us for the Holy Spirit to come and heal.”

I have grown to realize, through my own spiritual journey, how much I need to spend more time with God in silence. Though it is hard, I can be ok with my weaknesses because it is when we are weak that we are truly strong. It is with humility that we realize that we need God. I think once we realize that we actually need God, that is when we will see more Christians rising and doing “crazy things” like living more simply and standing up for human rights. Because it is in our humility that we will speak up for others, and it is in our humility that we will be courageous.

It is a sign of strength to be able to ask for help, to face our weaknesses and be able to give them to God. In return, we will not only better accept other, but we will better accept ourselves. We will be an accepting and safe church, where none will dare to throw a stone.