Have you ever heard of the slang term, “politicking”? Definitions vary depending on where you were raised. For me, among my friends in North Philadelphia, it was used to describe my ‘talent’ for answering certain questions without actually answering the questions…like a politician. It would go something like this:
Friend: Hey Tasha, I can’t believe she turned on you like that after you defended her so many times. The same people you stopped from beating her down, she’s now with them plotting about going after you. How do you feel about all this?
Me: It is…unfortunate that the circumstances you have just described have transpired in this way. We must remember that people often make choices that are unwise, even detrimental. Perhaps time and maturity will assist such people in making better choices in the future.
Friend: UGH! (insert eye roll) It’s like you have a Masters in Politicking. Just keep it real with me!
“Keeping it real” was a highly valued characteristic among my circle of friends. It conveyed that you were a genuine person, who was upfront about where you stood on things. It was also an indicator that you had bonded with and trusted your listener because they were getting the special “uncut edition” of what was really going on inside your head and heart.
However, for me, “keeping it real” was just an opportunity for disadvantageous exposure, a risk that I avoided with meticulous precision (hence my Masters in Politicking). I didn’t want to expose that the betrayal of others hurt me. I didn’t want to expose that people’s plots against me worried me. And I didn’t want to expose angry sentiments about these people that could be held against me in the future.
But there have been times when life’s circumstances have become so exasperating and my feelings have become so overwhelming, that I reached a breaking point. What followed was something I called an “editing system failure”. This was when a flurry of schizophrenic ramblings would pour out of my mouth uncontrollably. I would oscillate between crying out in despair and calling down some very scary (but creative) disasters to come upon the people who had hurt me. I would consider it fortunate that these episodes happened in private, no witnesses. Afterward, I would feel a strange trifecta of relief from the emotional back-up, shame over the vulnerability of admitting people’s actions affected me, and fear that I may somehow be punished because of the things I wished on those people. I would always vow to never speak that way ever again, even in private.
Many years and a whole lot of broken vows later, I started reading the Bible regularly and found that I wasn’t the only one who suffered from “editing system failure”. Psalm 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 109, and 139 are all examples of King David’s schizo prayers to God (theologians call them imprecatory Psalms which means “to curse”). Basically, one moment he’s crying to God:
“My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.” (Psalm 55:4-5)
Then the next moment he’s telling God to:
“break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord! Let them vanish like water that runs away; when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted. Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.” (Psalm 58:6-8)
After reading these I was completely confused. Wasn’t it wrong to pray like this? I mean, in some of these Psalms David sounds like He is telling God to hurry up and exact some serious vengeance. Wouldn’t this type of prayer be offensive and disrespectful to God?
So here’s what I learned: God loves and can handle the uncut me. God’s not surprised that I get angry when people betray me. He’s not shocked that I want people who harm me to brought to justice and get a taste of their own medicine. He doesn’t get alarmed when I am exhaling my terror and pleas for vengeance in the same breath. He doesn’t even even hold it against me when I question why He seems to be taking so long and letting wicked people get away with so many evil things. God can handle me “keeping it real” because He already knows the real me. But it speaks volumes about the true nature of my relationship with Him if I choose to be this transparent and vulnerable with Him.
You may be wondering about “crossing the line”, the point where “keeping it real” becomes irreverence. One thing I noticed with David’s imprecatory psalms is that he never attacks God’s character in his rants. He never accuses God of not being holy, not being loving, or of being on the side of the wickedness. Now he did sometimes question God’s response time (who hasn’t) but David always comes back to the same conclusions: God knows (Psalms 139:1-4) and God cares (Psalm 35:27).
I have learned that God doesn’t consider it a testimony of faithfulness to pretend that wicked treatment and circumstances don’t get me overwhelmed, desperate, vengeful, and sometimes flat out crazy. The faithfulness comes by what I do with it. Do I take it upon myself to suppress these feelings and/or hurt back? Or do I expose it to God in order to be comforted and healed?
Are you keeping it real with God? About everything? What gets in your way?
Now that you have finished reading it’s time to SyncUP with God. Start by downloading this week’s “SyncUP Guide” below. It provides 5 daily guides on scripture reading, reflection questions, life application steps, and prayers to help you have your own daily SyncUps with God for the rest of the week. DON’T FREAK OUT…if doing all 5 this week is overwhelming, set a goal of 2 or 3 and work your way up from there. Enjoy and God Bless!
This week’s SyncUP was inspired by a sermon from Pastor Jerome Gay Jr. of Vision Church RDU. Click the button below to listen to the sermon.