I will never forget hearing those words for the first time. I was making my second silent retreat. The first time I attended a silent retreat I discovered an intense personal relationship with God which I had never fully realized was there. Everything about my first silent retreat was peaceful and nurturing. So you might imagine my surprise when I found myself frustrated and angry with God the second time I attended. I had been anticipating a weekend filled with peaceful silence and relaxation. Instead, I discovered anything but peaceful feelings. I was mad at God and I had never even realized I was. Throughout the retreat I was so tired, lethargic, and lacked focus in a big way. This made me even more frustrated because I was so thirsty for a deeper relationship with God.
A spiritual mentor of mine was at the retreat and sensed my animosity. As we talked through some things he told me, “Jackie, I think you’re just going to have to let God have it. Give it to Him and tell Him how you really feel. Scream and yell if you have to, but you’ve got to get this out of you.”
It was so odd for me to hear those words. Let God have it? Really? My response was, “I can’t yell at God. Can I? I don’t feel right doing that.”
How could I? He’s my creator and knows all. I’m the one that gets in the way of everything. I’m so insignificant in the grand scheme of things and He, so magnificent and loving. How and why would I let Him have it? But I have to admit, it was refreshing to be given permission to do so. I had never given myself permission to even think it would be appropriate. So I warmed up to the idea and then…
I let Him have it.
I yelled and cried everything out that was spinning round in my head – all the questions, the frustrations, the selfish demands. Then I jumped in my car and went for a drive and let Him have it some more. And after I did, I felt…empty. Very, very empty. I had dumped my baggage. I had laid it at the foot of the cross and when I returned from my drive that is just what I did with myself. I laid at the foot of the cross in the Church.
I said what I had to say and God just listened. He just took it all in.
I was reminded of this experience when I read an article about Pope Francis’ homily from Mass today titled, Pope: OK to fight with God, hold him to his promise, remember his love. Pope Francis was expounding on the first reading today. I recommend reading the entire article, but if you don’t have time, here are the nuggets of wisdom which leapt off the page straight into my heart.
Prayer should be like speaking face-to-face with a friend: “without fear, freely and also with insistence…”
Pope Francis said that, in the day’s reading, Moses shows what praying to God should really feel and sound like: not filled with empty words, but a heartfelt, “real fight with God.”
By freely talking out the problem and underlining all the ways God has always shown his mercy, Moses was able to rediscover, deep in his heart, what his head already “more or less sort of knew.”
“Prayer changes our hearts. It helps us better understand what our God is like,” it helps people grow closer to him, recognize his love and rejuvenate one’s faith.
The pope underlined what Jesus said: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.”
“No, say what’s what: ‘Look, Lord, I have this problem, in my family, with my child, with this, with that … What can you do? Now see here, you can’t leave me like this!’ This is prayer. And does this prayer take a long time? Yes, it takes time.”
Open one’s heart wide to God and get to know him better, he said. Prayer is a grace, and the Holy Spirit is present; it changes and reinvigorates one’s heart so people can strike back out on their life journey.
What I gather most from all of this – the article, todays readings, my experience from my past retreat – is we must be authentic and vulnerable in our relationship with Christ. It’s quite like our human relationships – they aren’t very successful if we aren’t painfully honest sometimes. I don’t think my mentor gave me permission to “let God have it” because He wanted me to offend God or start a fight or keep the animosity within me burning. Instead, he knew if I could empty myself and be genuine and vulnerable in every way, it would be me who would change. It would be me who could better understand God. It would be me who would have a change of heart.
Give it a try. Be authentic. Painfully authentic.
Laughs and Love,