Getting Cranky With God

November 18, 2013 — 17 Comments


Some of us who grew up in Evangelical Christian subcultures began learning how to pray using annoying little acronyms. They were meant to bring order and structure to those of us who would fold our hands, bow our heads, and then immediately begin making grocery lists. These acronyms were mostly helpful, until they weren’t.

Here’s my favorite:

A – Adoration. God needs lots and lots of attention and words from you in order to feel OK, so fill up at least a page of your “prayer journal” by telling God how awesome God is. If it’s helpful, use Awesome as an acronym to tell God how awesome God is! A – All-powerful! God you are the most powerful person ever! W – welcoming. God, you’re so welcoming… and wonderful! We called this the “acronym within the acronym” trick. (No we didn’t, but we should have).

C – Confession. Rub your temples vigorously as you conjure up your past sins in excruciating detail. Beat your breast. Don’t miss any! And… coffee! Yes, I have to get coffee when I’m at Target.

T – Thanksgiving! There is so much in your life to be thankful for, so turn that frown upside down. It’s Thanksgiving every day in the courts of the Lord.

S – Supplication. Incidentally, this could be the greatest word in the English language. But regardless how you feel about the merits of the word supplication, this is the chance for you to pour out all of the things that other people have asked you to pray about (Sue, I will pray for you about that), which you have agreed to do. So get to it. Use lots and lots of words to describe each situation, and exactly how you would fix it. God likes that kind of micromanaging.

Frankly, I would add another C, and it’s for cranky.

Most of us need to learn how to be a little crankier, especially with God. We need to stop pretending things are better than they are. Unless of course things really are better, then by all means, wear “T” out.

In the famous story of Mary and Martha, the two sisters that host Jesus for lunch that day, we are told that Martha is a worthless busybody who only cares about stupid things like feeding people, while Mary has transcended silly things like that. Mary is better, because she is content to simply sit at the feet of Jesus and learn. So, we are told in roughly 525,600 sermons that the point is to stop being busy and just sit at the feet of Jesus.

Go for it, single moms!

What I find so beautiful in this text is that Martha struts right up to Jesus and gets really cranky, right to his face.

“Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” (Luke 10:40, NIV)

Martha’s remark reflects an intimacy that must have existed between her and Jesus that is stunning. He’s a teacher, respected in the community. She’s a nobody. Yet she feels completely fine ranting to him about what’s unfair in the world, and in her own house. Who does this? I love it. She probably needed to learn a few things about slowing down. Whatever. She clearly was very close with Jesus, and that is what I find most captivating about this story.

The psalmist writes, “In the evening, and in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice” (Psalm 55:18).

So get cranky, people. Unless of course you’ve transcended silly things like that.

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17 responses to Getting Cranky With God

  1. This was quite poignant today. Thank you so much! I often need to be reminded that God knows where I am so I can stop putting on a show and just be me.

  2. Love this post! I’ve been listening to a lot of Walter Brueggemann lately, and one of his themes is this idea that we have lost the “art of the lament” within our church culture and then comparing that with the example of Israel; this nation of people, God’s chosen, those intimate with God who seemed to grasp lament as a way of actually keeping their intimacy of God intact because without that honesty, and without an outlet for their wandering, and their suffering, and their questions they would have lost hope long before the promise land was delivered. Israel continued to find a way to dance and sing in the morning after long nights of voiced and raw grief whereas most of us, myself surely included, have learned or adopted this idea that we should turn our grief into guilt instead of giving God an earful of the things he already knows we wrestle with…..good stuff my friend.

    • Thanks Freer! Haven’t watched the Brueggemann video yet but I love him. Such a great voice. “Israel continued to find a way to dance and sing in the morning after long nights of voiced and raw grief whereas most of us, myself surely included, have learned or adopted this idea that we should turn our grief into guilt instead of giving God an earful of the things he already knows we wrestle with.” Well said, Aaron, well said.

  3. I love this! Of course, I am also a person who named her son Thomas, because I hope he will doubt, and question, and challenge–himself, and other people, and God. Because I believe God can handle it, and there is nothing to fear in questioning and being real with him. I don’t think God expects (or wants) us to be automatons, believing without questioning; he gave us reason for a reason (ha ha), and I think we do him a disservice if we don’t use it.

  4. Oh my goodness! I LOVE this post. Thanks so much for writing. This is my before going to sleep blog. It’s a great thought to end the day. Keep being YOU!

  5. I fully agree with this post. We save our bad moods and crankiness for the people closest to us because we don’t have to put on a façade with them. If I am an acquaintance with someone, I ask how they’re doing, tell them I’m fine, smile, no matter how my day is going. If I know someone, really know them, I let it out, the crap that happened, the stuff I’m struggling with. It should be that way with God. And God can totally handle our crankies.
    DeNae recently posted…RememberingMy Profile

  6. This is wonderful. I confess to getting a little bit cranky with God lately. And I think He’s ok with it. If He can’t take our crankiness, nobody can.

  7. I grew up with A-C-T-S too. Funny how so many Protestants ignore the practical instructions Jesus himself gave us about praying. There’s the Lord’s Prayer, for one, and then those little things like praying in private, and avoiding public ostentatious self-aggrandizing prayers, and how appropriate just plain begging for mercy is sometimes.

    Thanks for making us stop and consider, Steve.

  8. Love it. I confess I’ve still used ACTS recently when I was praying, and spent as much time remembering my order of operations as what I was praying about. Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay to keep it real.

  9. Still giggling. We grew up in the same acronym (and alliteration!) loving sub-culture. I still cringe at any sermon, or devotional aid, that uses either. Call me jaded. The ACTS dealio taught me that God needs me to follow a careful detailed way of approaching him –get it RIGHT!! –before he might begrudgingly respond. Do not, under any circumstances, jump right to the S or start spilling out what is rampaging around my heart. “ACTS” is a book of the Bible so the prayer structure is Scriptural too. (Um, Lamentations anyone? the ranting Psalms? Jesus in Gethsemane??) Oh I learned to be a good little Pharisee. Thanks for the blast from the past Steve, a chuckle, and reminder that holy crankiness is a great way to pray if that is more authentic. I do it often. :)

  10. Steve, this is so refreshing!

    I’ve always connected with Martha and get so agitated when I hear, “Don’t be a Martha.” I think it’s terrible when Evangelical teachings use Biblical stories in way that leads people to reject pieces of themselves instead of embrace who they are. I agree that intimacy with God is what’s important; being honest with where we’re at.

    Thanks for this great post!

    • Erin – great to hear from you, and so glad it resonated! And yes – I agree – it’s terrible when teaching of any kind leads people to reject pieces of themselves, instead of looking to God to find healing for those places so that we can embrace who we are.

  11. Very nice!
    Sharona Zee recently posted…Babies MineMy Profile

  12. The gift of crankiness isn’t crankiness itself, but the fact that our complaints so often mask deeper unmet needs. Jesus reaches past the prickliness to touch what’s wounded in Martha’s soul. May we let the cranky flow, but may we also listen for what it tells us of our deepest desires and needs.
    Thanks for getting these thoughts started, Steve.
    Kelly Chripczuk recently posted…The Kingdom of God is Like a TreeMy Profile

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