Romans 8:26 is such a powerful passage. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” That’s how my heart is right now. I just spent the last hour or so balling my eyes out for no particular reason. Or maybe it was for many reasons, like how I’ve potentially ruined things with my future wife by watching all the porn that I’ve watched, or maybe it was because I’m so terribly afraid of losing my grandpa and my brother, or maybe it’s because I hate being alone, I don’t know. But I laid out on my bed thinking about what to say and there were hardly any words, but there were so many tears. It felt like so many things just blending together and weighing heavily on my heart.
Sometimes I try to pacify or dull the spiritual pain by mindlessly browsing Facebook clicking “refresh” every five minutes on my homepage just to see if anything changes on the news feed. Or I’ll start watching a movie or some TV shows off Hulu. But at the end of the night, it’s still there. Like Paul says, sometimes this pain is too deep to be expressed by words, but the beauty of it all is that God understands.
Not too long ago, I had some serious doubts about God. I wondered if He was really there listening to my blubbering or my whining or my boasting or my laughing. I wondered if maybe the atheists were right, that there isn’t a God at all. But then it’s subtle moments like the ones tonight that touch me in a way that doesn’t make any sense. Instead of speaking to us in a regular voice or appearing before us in physical form, God speaks in a way that He knows we hear.
Blue Like Jazz is one of my favorite books of all time. It’s the book that started me off on the writing path and right now I’m reading it for the fourth or fifth time. This time, however, something different stood out to me. In the chapter “Shifts: Find a Penny,” Miller writes the conversation he had with his friend Penny. From what’s there, she had an interesting experience with God. She was drunk and high one night and for whatever reason wanted to hang out with a friend. But wherever she turned, none of her friends were available. So, she just wound up heading back to her apartment. And while she lay on her apartment floor, she heard God speak to her. Her experience was probably different from mine, but that’s not what I’m highlighting. What she said later on about the experience is what caught my attention. “I kept asking Him to say it again, but He wouldn’t. I guess it’s because I heard Him the first time, you know,” (49).
God found a way to speak to her that He knew she would hear. A lot of the time, I find that’s the way God speaks to me; not in one routine pattern, but in a way that He knows I will hear Him the first time and He won’t have to repeat Himself. I don’t think God likes having to repeat Himself.
Tonight I felt a lot of guilt. Of all the things I struggle with, I think guilt is the most frequent. For whatever reason, when I start feeling down about myself, I start thinking back to all the times I’ve failed. Compliments may come may way, but they’re completely ignored when I’m feeling guilty. Only the negative criticism echoes in my mind and somehow it gets twisted into messages of worthlessness. Eight years ago, I dealt with these messages by holding a pair of scissors in my hand ready to end it all, or at least I hoped to then. But it’s different now. I’ve met Jesus. And no, I’m not talking about becoming a Christian, going to church, reading my Bible, learning all the doctrines; none of that. Knowing Jesus is different. It’s real. There’s no façade you could put on that He can’t read through. There’s no poker face that He can’t break. And there’s no heart that He can’t penetrate.
I find it kind of funny how God spoke to me tonight. It definitely wasn’t any expected way of communicating, but I was so wrapped up with my sins, my failures, my flaws, and then the judgmental silence that I was totally caught off guard by the dumbest of things: a fart. It’s strange how I feel more embarrassed about saying God spoke to me through a fart than talking about all the things I’ve done, but that’s what happened. When I let one go, I couldn’t stop the laughter from catching my gut and taking flight from there.
What Don’s friend Penny wanted was something we all want: a confirmation from God that He is real and that He speaks to us. But what she got is what we all get pretty much: what we need. She got the one-and-done message while I got a perfectly-timed fart. And like Penny suddenly investigating God and the Bible more often after that message, I relaxed a little and remembered what happened on the cross. I remembered that Jesus meant what He said when He said, “It is finished.” The guilt lifted, the silent judgment faded, and the fear of losing close loved ones evaporated, for now anyways.
What I hoped for tonight was for a friend to call me up and tell me it’ll all be okay and that I’m not guilty, but what I was given was a reason to laugh. God gave me the message I was essentially looking for, but definitely in a different way. I now have a pretty good feeling about this Spring Break.