It’s Thanksgiving! And this year, I’m especially thankful for an answer to prayer that I wasn’t expecting because, frankly, I quit praying for it a long time ago. It began last week with a painful confrontation that felt like anything but an answer to prayer. It was something that completely blindsided me.
I didn’t think that anything was wrong.
Well, that’s not exactly true. I thought that a lot was wrong… with other people. With systems and cultures and practices and traditions that I didn’t really care for. But me, I was fine! There was nothing in me that I couldn’t excuse or ignore as insignificant.
It’s not that I had never been confronted before. But my default response was a bristling defensiveness: The accusations were unfair. It wasn’t my fault. I was the injured party. Why were people talking about me instead of talking to me? What about so-and-so? They’re not perfect either. And THEY hurt ME…
A good illustration of that comes from this post, which I wrote a little more than two years ago. I was frustrated and trying to explain what it was like for me. But when I read it now, I can see that I was paralyzed by fear. I resented those who didn’t understand. I was making excuses. And I was really bitter.
I had become “nose blind” to my own stinky attitudes. Looking back now, I can understand why people were afraid to have difficult conversations with me. It’s no wonder I’d wind up burning people out without even realizing it.
But last week, I was still in defensive mode. And I still didn’t see anything wrong with that. Until in one excruciatingly painful conversation, I learned that I had burnt through someone’s final reserve of grace towards me. I was stunned.
My first instinct was still to lash out, to deflect the blame. But this time… I knew it was my fault. It cut deep and it absolutely tore me up inside. It exposed things in my heart that needed to change… things that I felt helpless to change on my own… and it drove me back to God in a raw, desperate, genuine way.
I didn’t care about saving face anymore. I didn’t care about protecting myself from the pain anymore. All I wanted was for God to fix what I had so selfishly broken.
And thank God, He is answering that prayer!
I’m not saying that things are “fixed.” But when I cried out to God to fix what I had selfishly broken… He started by breaking something I had selfishly “fixed.”
I had built walls to hide behind, to protect myself, to make myself appear stronger. And the more I felt threatened, the more I re-enforced them from within. I built it with fear and distrust and negativity. The walls thickened until there was almost no room left and my fortress became prison… or a trap. I was stuck.
I justified the walls in a lot of ways. And I called them lot of different things. An introverted personality. Privacy or protection. Being task-oriented. Cultural differences. Panic attacks. Over-committing. Exhaustion. Social anxiety.
But you know what I call them now? Gone!
God hasn’t just given me a much-needed attitude adjustment, He’s torn down the walls and given the kind of fresh start I never imagined possible. It used to be a tremendous struggle, trying to “fake it until I make it.” Now it’s not a struggle. And I’m in awe of what God has done.
I’m now free in a way that I haven’t been for a very long time. And I don’t say that lightly or to boast. I understand now perhaps more than ever why Paul had to remind the Galatians to stay free. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1, NASB). I have to stand firm. I can’t go back. The walls of my prison were built from cheap and abundant materials, but I know can’t afford to lay a single brick again.
So as I sit here on Thanksgiving night, I can’t help but thank God for answering the prayer I wasn’t praying and using the situation I never wanted to be in to bring me to the place where He needed me to be.