"Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow someone other than yourself to enter into the very center of your person, to see there what you would rather leave in darkness, and to touch there what you would rather leave untouched. Why would you really want to do that?"
~ Henri Nouwen ~
God has blessed me with many friends.
There are the acquaintances I know well enough to smile and nod a greeting to on the street. They may know a little about me – what I look like, what I like to wear, maybe even my testimony if they’ve ever heard me speak. Most of what they know is surface stuff or things they see on the outward part of me. They are friends, but not people to whom I would reveal the innermost parts of my being, simply because we haven’t developed a relationship yet.
Then there are my friends, those with whom I share parts of myself in an open and honest way – a genuine smile, a heart felt word of encouragement, allowing them to see some of my vulnerabilities. Mostly these are the members of my “extended” circle – like church family members, relatives and those with whom I would enjoy sharing a cup of coffee and some good conversation. We share many things, occasionally even on a level below the surface, especially as I get to know them better and begin to develop a trusting relationship with them.
However, we all have that inner circle of friends – those “best friends” as we called them in our childhood days – to whom we confide our hidden flaws and faults. These are the friends who have proven themselves trustworthy – the ones we have spent time with and worked hard to develop a depth of relationship to the point where we can talk about anything and everything without fear of rejection.
For many people like me, the wounds of childhood make it difficult at best, if not impossible to allow anyone past the second stage of friendship. I feared becoming vulnerable to others who might see my hurts and fears and exploit them, hurting me again. Even though it was painful to lock away my innermost being – that pot-bellied, love-starved child with the big sad eyes who hurt so bad – it was preferable to feeling hurt and betrayal all over again. I just couldn’t take that chance.
Even though I met and accepted Jesus as my friend at an early age, I couldn’t trust Him enough to let Him into the center of my person. I was adept at praying for others and for the things I needed, but I refused to let Him become my “Best” Friend - to see the hurting child inside of me. For a long time, I wouldn’t even look at her myself. She simply didn’t exist as I went about my daily routine of doing for my family and others.
Christ and I shared a good friendship as He worked slowly and patiently to build a relationship of trust and love all around that imprisoned part of myself. I loved Him as a friend, but wouldn’t let Him close enough to really know His love. I wouldn’t allow Him to touch that sensitive part of my heart.
But Jesus is never content to remain on the outside looking in. He could see past all my stone walls, past all the chains and locks on my inner doors. He saw the needy vulnerable parts of myself, that hurting inner child, and He smiled at her. In her weakened state, she began to wail. Faintly at first, but hungrily determined – she was starved and desperate for the love in His eyes.
Between Christ’s gentle outward pressure and the insistent wailing from within, I knew I would either have to turn and run away or allow the intimacy of relationship prayer demanded. My old nature died the day I allowed Him to bread down the walls imprisoning the sin-emaciated part of myself that wounded, hurting child inside.
It wasn’t something I wanted to do. Rather, I needed to make that choice to allow Him in to feed and heal that malnourished part of myself. Sin brings death and eternal suffering. His healing touch brings life and eternal peace. It was time to truly know His peace in every part of my being.
Making the choice to trust Him to break down my inner walls meant praying Henri Nouwen’s kind of prayer – the kind that lets Him into the very core of my being to touch the parts of myself I would rather leave untouched. It requires developing an intimate relationship, far beyond the surface friendship I share with most people.
Why would I want to do that? Because the suffering, starving part of me demands it, craves it weeps for it. That hurting child inside wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than His unconditional love and acceptance!
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