My momma raised us right. We were trained to chew with our mouth closed, say please and thank you, and offer firm handshakes. Our politeness was furthered polished in Southern Cotillion classes. If you aren’t from the Southeast, imagine ballroom dancing meets manners class with Southern draw and white gloved girls. Now that I have children of my own, I find myself on the teaching end of similar lessons (sans the Southern finishing schools).
Politeness has its place in the home and in hallowed places; however, polished politeness does not belong in the prayer closet. Reverence, of course. Respect, absolutely. But not politeness that says and does what ought be said and done without a heart posture to match it.
Lately, I have found my heart impolite at the most inopportune times. Car time spent running to and fro during errands has become confessional time. I wish I could say that it was all niceties and praises that welled up from my heart during those surprise sessions with the Lord. But, if I am honest with you, such times with the Lord have been marked more by rawness than rightness. Twice in the past two weeks, the Lord and I went a few rounds. I asked some zinger rhetorical questions, not the least of which was, “Lord, is this how you treat your children?”
Prolonged zoom school and constant change have been steadily chipping away at my politeness. The deaths of people I love and the strain of ministry in a pandemic have finished the job, leaving me raw and needy before the Lord in ways I have not been in years.
Going against my semi-Southern sensibilities, I am learning to realize that impoliteness can be a source of intimacy rather than a source of shame. In bringing where I actually am before the Lord, rather than where I ought to be, I am acting in trust. Rather than hiding and settling for fig-leaf fixes, I am bringing him the real stuff of my soul, asking Him to shape it with His supernatural love.
Thankfully, the Scriptures provide ample examples of such impolite intimacy with the Lord. From the wrestling psalms of David, to the gut-level honest cries of Job and Jeremiah, to the tearful prayer sessions of Hannah and Hosea, we find encouragement to pour out the real contents of our hearts before the Lord.
An Impolite Intimacy
Pain pushes us past politeness;
Suffering scrapes our veneers.
But intimacy is born of honesty,
Faith watered with truthful tears.
The disarming love of the Father
Makes room for raw and real
Even though His living Word
Changes not with how we feel.
He always receives His children,
Impolite though they may be.
Our righteousness was secured
By Him who hung on the tree.
If you find yourself impolite and a bit unhinged in this trying season, you are not alone.
Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:8.