The girls and I have a couple traditions that take place every time Daddy goes away. First, we have “Mommy and Chicas Movie Night” where we always watch a cartoon comedy involving animals (“Madagascar” is our favorite!). And second, we eat Mexican food (because Tim doesn’t do spicy).
Chips and queso, rice and beans, quesadillas, burritos and tacos – yum! Seasoned meat, veggies, and gooey cheese all wrapped up in a tasty tortilla – we love it!
Emotions are the spice of life. As humans we feel big feelings – from rage to delight, depression to elation, anguish to euphoria and everything in between. And even though at times they burn our mouths and ears and make our eyes water – without them life would be plain old boring!
As big feeling-feelers, many of us struggle with what to do with our emotions. Sometimes we pretend they aren’t there, sometimes we bury them deep inside ourselves, and sometimes – if you’re like me – you feel an intense need to just get them out (you can feel bad for my family now).
I learned the “how to’s” of praying at a young age. I remember memorizing the Lord’s Prayer in Sunday School and hearing people pray at church. When I looked at that painting of Jesus holding a baby lamb in the front of our church sanctuary, I knew that He cared for me and I knew I could talk to Him whenever I needed to. I knew that He already knew what I was feeling and thinking, so I could be honest with Him in every prayer.
But, as a “good” kid, I also wanted to say the “right” things when I prayed. I wanted to make sure that God knew that I knew that He was God and I was not. I wanted Him to know that I wasn’t being selfish. So I filled my prayers with disclaimers before and after everything I said – because I wanted Him to know that I got it.
And as I’ve read the prayers of David and the other psalmists over the years, I thought they were doing the same thing.
The words in these verses and chapters give us great insight into the emotions of the writers. It’s here that we get a vivid picture of what it means to have a “personal” relationship with God – to be open and honest with Him about what’s going on in our hearts and minds.
Take Psalm 77, for example:
I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me.
When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted.
I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. (v. 1-4)
Distress, discomfort, despair, frustration – the psalmist doesn’t hold back in expressing the fullness of his emotion. He even goes on to boldly share his feelings toward God Himself:
“Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” (v. 7-9)
It’s clear that he feels abandoned and even rejected by the very God He is talking to. And even though he probably knows that this perceived abandonment is not the truth, the feelings of it are real and raw and very valid.
Just after these verses, though, there is a turn. The writer begins the end of his song with this:
“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God? (v. 11-13)
The psalmist wraps up his emotional rant by reminding himself of the truth about God.
The question is: Why? Was it for the “happy ending” effect – did he just do it to make his song sound good? Was it an attempt to balance the bad with some good? Or to make sure God knew that he got it?
Or was it exactly that – that he wrapped all of his emotion, all of his big, spicy feelings up in the truth?
You and I – we have lots of feelings. And no matter how spicy they are, they are necessary ingredients to our prayers. Even though, as our all-knowing Father, He knows our hearts better than we do, He still desires for us to communicate our emotions to Him.
But if left on their own, those ingredients just turn into an all-over-the-place mess (or a taco salad – ew). They need to be surrounded and secured in the tortilla of truth – in the acknowledgement that God is God, that He is the caring shepherd of our souls, and that He is working all things for our good and His glory. It’s the truth of who He is that holds us together and turns our relationship with Him into something amazing.
Lettuce, tomato, salsa, peppers, meat, beans, and cheese – the ingredients make up a taco but they’re not the whole taco. Your feelings are truth, but they’re not the whole truth.
So be real with God today. Spice up your prayers with some of that raw emotion you’ve been keeping inside (whatever it is, He can handle it!). And then wrap it all up in this truth:
You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.
With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
The waters saw you, God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water, the heavens resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. (v. 14-20)