I recently finished watching True Blood. It didn’t take too many episodes for it to become one of my favorite shows. There were characters that you loved to hate and characters that you simply loved. One of my favorite characters is Lafayette Reynolds, the short order cook at the local hangout, Merlotte’s. He is flamboyant, charismatic, black, gay and proud of all of those things. He makes you laugh, makes you care about himself and makes you care about the people who are important to him. He is also a medium and as such has begun to use the powers he has inherited. He comes home one night after almost getting main character Sookie Stackhouse killed by invoking these powers and he has had enough. He is afraid of what he has done. He steps up to his altar, faces his prayer icons, lights some candles, and begins to pray. The icons appear to mock him so he sweeps them to the floor and begins to destroy them, all the while saying I am a good man. I’m not sure who he is trying to convince of this, himself or God. He falls to his knees and in a moment of desperation cries out…
“Listen up, I ain’t never put too much stock in you, Lord God, but if you up there, I’m tired of all this bullshit! . . . Fuck this shitty stuff! Cut me a break!”
Some of you couldn’t get past the fact that Lafayette is black and gay. For some of you, medium and powers lost you. For some of you, the only thing you notice in this prayer is the profanity and that negates it for you. For others, it’s the fact that he admits to not giving God a whole lot of credit in his life. It’s irreverent. It’s bold. It’s raw. Those can be offensive on the face of them, but especially in the context of where they are found. Prayers are not typically where you expect to find those things. Prayer is, after all, supposed to be reverent. The place where we meet God face to face. Holy ground as it were.
The thing that struck me the most was the transparency and fearlessness of the request. He’s not at all afraid to say exactly how he feels. To ask for exactly what he needs. Isn’t it funny how desperation can bring that boldness out in a person. I immediately thought that’s the most honest prayer I’ve heard in a long time. And I have been feeling exactly the same way . . . cut me a break.
I know especially for me as I shed the trappings of organized religion, holy ground is most often found in the questioning. It’s in those moments of doubting, when I question the very stock that I put in God, that I meet him more and more frequently. He knows I feel this way already. He knows I want to cry out in the very same way that Lafayette has done. It is in the rawness of those moments I know he hears me. In those moments when my guard is down, my self-imposed righteousness cast aside and I am completely at the end of myself that he sees me. That I see me for who I am. That I see what I truly need. It is in those moments when I am being brutally honest with myself and with God that I feel I am actually standing on holy ground.
I think we have been so desensitized by the church to our actual feelings that we forget we have them sometimes. We’ve been told we should be humble and repentant, a new creation. All of that old stuff supposedly has passed away. We stand before God with our Sunday Best on – not just our clothing, but our attitudes, mannerisms and language as well. We spend so much time and effort trying to be what we think God wants us to be before we come to him that when we come before him we’ve forgotten who we really are. I know I have. My prayers have become sanitized. As if I might somehow offend God by simply being who I really am. As I said earlier, he already knows how I really feel anyway. Why do I think I need to make my feelings presentable before I ever express them?
Let’s be honest. Sometimes life really sucks. Children die tragically and suddenly. Couples who have been together for a lifetime find themselves newly single and alone wondering what in the world happened. Jobs are lost. Homes are lost. Families are destroyed. We go to church in search of comfort. In search of God. Wanting and needing to be seen and found lacking. Made to feel we are not worthy because we haven’t checked our real feelings at the door. Because in the eyes of religion we haven’t spent the required time making ourselves presentable for God. Because our messiness, our brokenness, our shitty stuff is too much to deal with and nobody wants to get their hands dirty.
I’m done with the games. Done with the platitudes and the pretense of religion. I’m done with being afraid of showing who I really am. Expressing what I really feel. I’m done with being ashamed of my messiness, my brokenness, and all the stuff life has thrown at me that I am not handling very well.
I think God can cut us a break. The way of the cross encompasses our messiness. It’s all about our brokenness. In its honest brutality the cross made a way for us to bear those very things.
So, here’s to you and me embracing who we really are and what we really feel.
Here’s to honest prayers…