Sunday mornings are the worst.
They’re early (10:30 never feels so early except on Sundays). Everyone has to dress nicely and be somewhere on time. With socially appropriate attitudes.
Whose idea was this, anyway?
A couple of months ago we were on the way to church and I was so angry I couldn’t speak. The anger was physically hurting my throat and chest.
It was a cumulative anger, as usual. The outfits had been cried over (because yes, two year old little girls can articulate “That NOT cute! That not match! I not look boo-tiful!“), breakfast was a train wreck, there were lots of nit-picky issues to correct and direct and mediate. We were(as usual) so late it almost wasn’t worth going, and my leaky, lumpy post-baby body couldn’t squeeze into any clothing that didn’t make me feel like a slouchy mess.
And my hair looked greasy — even though I had just washed it.
All legit reasons to cry.
And those have been my two go-to responses when emotions become overwhelming: I could either cry it all out in that ugly, sobbing cry or painfully stuff the emotions which all get channeled into anger until I could sleep it off or enough hours pass so the anger-ache eventually fades.
I usually chose anger because at least I can function with anger — tears have to be explained and leave puffy evidence all over your face that you’re struggling.
But neither option would work for this particular morning, because it was our first day back at church since I’d had the baby and I knew people would come see our new little one and ask me how I was doing and make other kind inquiries.
My emotions were too raw for the interactions that every minute I was getting closer to.
And added to those cumulative emotions was the ache that I didn’t want my feelings to take center stage during worship time. I didn’t want this struggle to dominate the day — and I knew I could not change the direction of my emotional state on my own.
Only God could do such a powerful thing.
I needed Him to do it.
And I remembered: a few months previous to this Sunday morning, I heard a sermon from a missionary who was about as different from me in personality as a person can be. The way he was describing his ministry and his communication style in general just did not resonate with me. I kept listening through my annoyance because I keep learning through many humbling circumstances that God uses all kinds of different in the family of believers to share what He wants to communicate.
Maybe it was because I was struggling but determined to listen for the Holy Spirit through this man that I heard one of the most-needed and piercing truths I’ve heard in a long time.
He said: “I tell the men in my church: Have you stopped asking to be full of the Holy Spirit? We are commanded to do this. When is the last time you have prayed to be full of the Holy Spirit?”
God brought this to my mind as we neared the church and I prayed silently, staring out the window with an anger-and-pain clenched jaw and tears around the rims of my eyes: “Lord, please fill me with your Holy Spirit.”
Nothing changed in my emotions… but the thought surfaced about what kind of Spirit I was asking for.
I continued. “Lord, please fill me with your Spirit of power, your Spirit of love, your Spirit of self-control, of a completely sound mind.”
Nothing changed in my emotions… but the thoughts surfaced about the power of His Spirit — the very same Spirit that went into a tomb of deadness and raised Jesus to life — I was asking this same mighty Power to fill me and therefore push out all the death in me by The Life.
A shift began in my emotions… and the thought of Him preparing a table for me in the presence of my enemies came to mind… He personally anoints my head… and I prayed bigger, further, deeper, sincerely: “Lord, please fill me so full of your Spirit that my cup overflows… that your Spirit overflows onto everyone I interact with at church. On my children. On my husband. All over every inch of me. Fill me to overflowing.”
And the filling that had been happening all along reached the point where I felt the freedom to take a deep breath.
So I did.
And as we stopped at the red light, at the intersection just before church, I knew God has just parted a Red Sea in me, lead me through, into a powerful truth. Every step of the way lead by The Way and there is no going back from some experiences.
This was a miracle.
Instead of all that pain and anger — I had joy and peace.
When God leans in — more than that — fills me and His power and love changes the state of my emotions?
It’s a miracle, I tell you.
I was able to go into church and worship. I was able to focus on others, and not myself.
I was free!
And I have not forgotten how I received that freedom: “Lord, please fill me with your Spirit!”
Life is busy and the kids are crazy and I am exhausted but in no scenario, in no day, can I not say this short prayer.
It is so multi-faceted and there is so much power packed into these 7 words, it has become my main prayer for the last few months.
When I want to lash out at my husband? I pray this prayer.
When I want to shriek at my kids? I pray this prayer.
When I want to give up and just quit already because it’s all too blasted harsh in this broken world and I want to stay in my comfy, non-confrontational bed? I pray this prayer.
The more you think about it and pray it — the more it will change your life.
And yes, I absolutely still struggle. But. But…
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” ~2 Cor. 4:7-9
I can’t wait for you to experience this.
Take that, Sunday mornings.
Jesus promised: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” ~Luke 11:13
Repost from June 8th, 2014.
This short prayer is still, daily, changing my life.
Thank You, Jesus.
You can find the beautiful, encouraging reminder to "Think Less, Pray More" here.