The Silent Treatment

I’m a believer.  I’m a worship leader.  I’m a low-key, unofficial counselor.  Blah, blah, blah.  I’m a human.  Today, I am going to be honest even if it makes me look a little less spiritual.

| The Silent Treatment |

I recently saw a post on Facebook that read:

“Ladies, which one are you… temper tantrum or the silent treatment?”

The post was referring to how a woman would react if she were upset with her man.  Well, my mama used to say to me, “Two people going at it is an argument, and one person going off is a tantrum,so I REFUSE to be a temper tantrum type girl.  When I am upset, irritated, disturbed, or even if I feel misunderstood, I am a silent treatment girl through and through.  Sometimes that is for the best; I know my mouth and how sharp my tongue is.  I know when I am pushed to the edge, I don’t just use my words to cut but to kill.  Yeah, silent treatment it is.

Recently, I polled a few of my closest friends and asked about their prayer life.  I wanted to know if they had a set devotional time or a particular way that they’d prayed each day if they even prayed at all.  One friend said she prays in the morning and sporadically throughout the day.  Another friend said he has ongoing conversation with God throughout the day but doesn’t necessarily say prayers before he goes to bed.  When questioned about my prayer life, I grew quiet.  Ironically, that quietness was metaphor for my communication with God lately.  In some ways, I have given God the silent treatment.  Now before you grab your stones to cast them, let me explain.  It isn’t that I don’t talk to God at all, I just don’t talk to him like I should.

When I was a relationship a few moons ago, I can remember pulling the silent treatment on my then boyfriend.  Now to know me is to know I will pull all the way back and avoid talking to you at all costs, but I’ll talk AT you.  In this particular situation with my ex, I was still in the room with him but would not address him.  Instead, I’d say random things out loud that were intended to trigger his response.  For example, if I was angry with him for staying out too late when he promised to take me out, I’d blurt out, “Oh yeah, I just adore broken promises and wasted time.”  My sarcastic jab was strategically stated to make him feel bad because he screwed up.  Truth is, that was a very cowardly and immature way to convey my feelings.

When asked about the methods of my prayer life, I could basically sum it up this way: I talk AT God not TO God.  Don’t get it twisted, I say quick prayers here and there for others, but when it comes to praying about me – I have very little to say.  I want to clarify the difference between my dwindled communication with God and my cold shoulder towards my former beau.  I am not upset with God.  He has not angered me.  He understands me better than I understand myself.  I didn’t intend for there to be such space between us.  Somewhere over the last few months, I pulled back and to him spoke less.  Though I have some really big, scary, and life-changing requests to ask of him, and though I need clarity, guidance, and wisdom, I take the cowardly way to express my feelings to him.  I pray very safe prayers.  I don’t ask for what I really want, let alone need, if I ask for anything at all.  Despite some of the stress that I’ve carried lately, I don’t ask him to help me carry the load with me or remove it altogether.

I talk at God.  I was stunned by my confession.  WHY was I only talking AT God and not TO God?

I am sometimes guilty of treating God the way I treat some others in my life.  I’ll assume that he may think I am a burden or that I’m asking for too much.  I’ll question if he’ll think I’m needy or clingy.  On the surface, I am independent and self-sufficient; however, when I grow close to someone, I let my guard down.  I am more open and a sap – for lack of a better description, then as a defense mechanism, I slowly build the guard back up so that I’m not too vulnerable.  I’ve done that with God.  I’ve built up a guard so that I won’t have to be so exposed and vulnerable about what I really need.  This is STUPID!  He knows me better than I know myself.  He knows my thoughts before they reach my brain.  Why, WHY would I reduce him to human frailty that can’t handle my vulnerability?  Why would I try to hide from him all that I need to ask of him or share with him or receive from him?  Why?

“Oh, what peace we often forfeit.  Oh, what needless pains we bear all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

Hymn: What a Friend We Have in Jesus

Lyrics – Joseph M. Scriven

THE MORAL OF THE STORY

Last night in lieu of our normal Wednesday night service, my church had corporate prayer.  Let me veer to the left as say that I had intentional expectation that in that moment I’d be able to feel safety in God’s presence and leave lighter.  God honored my expectation.  When instructed by my pastor to get into my posture of prayer, I found a space to kneel at the altar.  I began my prayer by asking God for forgiveness for quieting the communication between us.  Merely talking at him instead of to him has not only repressed my expression to him but diminished his expression to me.  God is a gentleman and won’t force himself on me to be heard or felt.  How can he share with me if I won’t even create an adequate opportunity for us to talk?  I believe he sincerely heard the cry of my heart, and though he didn’t shut the door between us, he opened it.  Thanks for that, God.

Somewhere near the end of the corporate prayer, my pastor said the aforementioned lyrics to the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  My unintentional silent treatment has been causing me to endure unnecessary pain.  Here is God ready, willing, and able to carry my grieves (what I’m suffering with and what is causing the suffering) AND ME, but I won’t release them.  It is like the the child who has a splinter in his finger but refuses to let his mom pull it out for fear that the pain of the removal will hurt worse than the pain of the splinter.  OH MY GOD, THAT’S IT!  I’ve only prayed safe prayers and talked at God because I was afraid that the pain of his response (possible denial or delay) would hurt worse than not having what I want at all.  Woah!

So what is my resolve?  I don’t want to not tell God what I’m thinking, feeling, or needing.  Even though he already knows, I need him to hear me, and I need to hear from him too.  I am accepting that he wants to talk me.  He cares about me (1 Peter 5:7).  He isn’t like the people I know…it’s okay to be vulnerable with him.  There isn’t a set formula, time, or even script for prayer.  The only rule is I just can’t give God the silent treatment.

I hope this helps.
-Chris

 

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