Monday, September 7, 2015

War Room

I went to go see War Room on Saturday. My friend Erin asked me to go; otherwise, I probably wouldn't have made myself go see it. Because I knew that it would wreck me.

I don't like emotional movies. I avoid crying in theaters. Emotion makes me squirmy and uncomfortable. My mom used to say that people used things like sad movies and funerals as an excuse to cry, and I inferred that she saw showing emotions like sadness or sorrow as a sign of weakness. Anger could control someone. Sadness could manipulate someone. And being stoic was the best way to show that you were in control. Unflappable. Strong. It was confusing, because my mom was also very big on talking about how you feel. Hours-long conversations would take place because she would not let things go until I said how I felt. Which I didn't want to do, because I was a) stubborn and b) showing my strengths, because I had a lot of weakness to make up for. Like crying because a movie made me sad. 

So Saturday, I dragged Anna along with me (why do we have to go see a movie, she wanted to know. Since when does a tweenager not want to go see a movie? I looked up the trailer, she informed me. It looks weird.) and we met Erin and her daughter at the theater. (P.S. I have not been to a movie in a verra, verra looooooong time.) My mind was still trying to convince me that I did not, under any circumstances, want to actually watch this movie with other people around because I did not, under any circumstances, want to cry in front of said people. 

The message hit me deep in the heart. I looked at the ceiling and took deep breaths, willing myself to stop sniffling. I found excuses to dislike it. This is just unrealistic, it's too pretty, it's wrapped up too nicely, I cannot believe in this concept. I told my husband it was just too unrealistic, with the caveat that, of course, maybe my problem is not the movie but the fact that I don't really believe in my heart of hearts that prayer is all that powerful. 

The confession took me aback just a little bit. Do I really not believe in the power of prayer? Not when prayer seems more like a coincidence than it does an actual thing, my voice said back to me.

"But it's not about God being a genie in a bottle," my friend told me. "It's about developing a relationship with God through the praying."

Hm. I'd sometimes much rather prefer the genie. 

It wasn't until Sunday morning, when I expressed my trepidation over the reality of the movie, that Erin made me realize that, yes, of course the movie was wrapped up in a nice, neat bow. Because it's a movie. A two-hour long movie. The point is not that the prayer changed everything. The point was that the prayer changed her. The main character. And everyone else responded to the changed woman that she was. "It's like dance partners," she explained. "When someone changes direction, the partner has to change, too. Good, bad, or otherwise, it affects the dance." 

She's good, that one. She needs her own page of quotable quotes.

And so as I sat comfortably processing the whole dance analogy, I was stopped in my tracks again as we watched the session 5 video for the bible study "Fight Back with Joy" by Margaret Feinburg, who was talking about being disappointed with God. And how that can affect prayer life. 

And I realized with a startle that I know the right things to say and do, but I am so disappointed with God sometimes that I can hardly stand to pray. So disappointed that I'd rather cry than deal with a moody child that I don't know how to handle, a friendship that has dwindled that I don't know how to restore, a blog that hasn't grown enough for my liking, prayers that haven't been answered and I don't understand why. The disappointment has settled on me like a heavy cloak, bringing with it a sense of fear and dread over things like parenting, the future, and my marriage. I've developed an edge, a smile with a bite to it, a sharpness to my words and responses that I didn't even realize was there. 

I got home Sunday with the realizations of myself banging around in my head, trying to make sense of what I don't know how to make sense of. And the only answer I could envision, the only words that would come to mind, the only answer I could hear in the midst of my thoughts was this: war room.

I do have a walk-in closet with some wall space, I realized. I can't remove all my clothes, like the movie, but I can make the room that I have into a war room. If I'd let myself become hopeful in prayer and in God again.

So I did.

Now, here's the thing about me. I do not like paper taped to the wall. It bothers me. Sticky notes, notebook paper, even plain printer paper. I knew I'd hate walking in there, regardless of the words on the wall, if it couldn't be pretty. So I went downstairs and got the old piano music that I inherited after my mom died, and picked out the ones that could be ruined, if you will. At least written on and taped to the wall of my closet. Sheet music is so pretty, and Pottery Barn has entire rooms wallpapered with it. So I took that sheet music, cleaned up my closet, and wrote my heartfelt, most sincere, most scared prayers in the margins and around the titles. I wrote prayers and I wrote specific verses, I wrote names and requests and prayers and fears and confessed all the disappointment and the fear and the anger and the distress and the worry.

When Anna came into my closet a little while later, after the furious writing had ceased and the sheets were being taped to the wall, she curiously asked me what I was doing. "OH!" I said. 

Making a war room.

(A war room??? she questioned. What's a war room? Sigh. Sweetness, did you watch the movie when we were there?)

There is nothing like just sitting back and crossing your fingers and your toes that it'll all work out okay, because it leaves you with such a sense of hopelessness, doubt and despair that things will ever change. Because even if you don't believe in prayer, we all know crossing our fingers is a completely worthless act.

My heart hasn't just suddenly done a 180, leaving behind all doubt and disbelief and questions of trust in the past. But I've decided to, despite my disappointment, continue to chase after God, because my hope doesn't lie in the answer to the prayer.

It lies in God.

Prayer is not about saying the right thing but being
in the right relationship with God.
We pray to center our lives in the presence of God.
We pray not to bend the will of God to our desire but to be
united in love with God and one another.
{the rev. joe nassal}


  1. Heather, thank you for your vulnerability! Praying for your "chase after God" dear friend.

  2. A daily decision, this chase after God, and one that requires grit and determination, but one that is totally worth it!! Praying for you as well, sweet friend :)

  3. A daily decision, this chase after God, and one that requires grit and determination, but one that is totally worth it!! Praying for you as well, sweet friend :)