We’re on our way to church. Three teenagers squashed together in the back of the car. My husband was driving and me applying last minute make-up in the passenger seat because, as usual, I’m running late.
Our ten-minute journey should be uneventful. Yet, someone makes a comment, an argument breaks out and before we know it, it’s like world war three has erupted in that small space.
My husband stops at the front door of church instead of driving round to find a parking spot because he can’t stand having us in the car for a minute longer. My sons uncurl their long legs, and we climb out.
We smile as if nothing has happened. Even though inside we are reeling from the explosive conversation.
Everyone else walking up the steps into church looks respectable and we want to, too.
We pretend to look all together because they’re not falling apart like we are. Or are they?
Often, when we pray, we behave in the same way. We think we need to be cleaned up and have our lives together to be in God’s presence.
We pretend everything’s okay when in reality the incident in the car isn’t a one-off; it’s a typical Sunday morning. We’re ashamed because we know we should be able to do better.
Maybe our attempts to look respectable go one step further. We act as if we have it all together in front of God.
There is hope for us, though, when we behave in this way.
Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners. Mark 2:17 (CEV)
You and I don’t make an appointment with the doctor when we are well, unless it’s for an annual checkup. We go when we realize we are in need of help to get better.
Likewise, we do not go to God because we are good, but because we are not good.
We go to God because he is perfect, and he can make us as good as new.
Take that truth and let it bring you comfort.
Scripture says it’s actually more of a problem if we think of ourselves as worthy, rather than seeing ourselves as disheveled and disreputable.
Jesus did not reprimand those who were unworthy, but those who thought they were okay and could do without him. He constantly addressed those who were prideful about their own righteousness.
So, how do you pray when you realize you’re in a mess?
Come as you are.
Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 (NIV)
Come knowing he is a best friend.
Jesus reclined—he relaxed and had a meal with the most despised people in society. Table fellowship, as it is called, in the Gospels was an intimate form of friendship.
And that is the scandal of Jesus. He didn’t make those “sinners” –the prostitutes, the addicts, the foul mouthed, the disbelieving—repent, or clean up before he loved and accepted them.
So, when he comes knocking on your door, invite him into your messy life.
Ask him to climb into your car on a Sunday morning. Invite him to have dinner with you at your house when the tension is rising and the battle is raging.