November 2015 Final Issue
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Carmel With Jesus

“We should get together for coffee sometime.” Confession: I don’t drink coffee. I’ve never had more than a couple of sips in my entire life (and I’m a teacher!). I love the smell but can’t stand the taste. I have invited people to get coffee with me, knowing full well that I had zero intention of drinking anything even remotely related to coffee. Thankfully, though, most people nowadays don’t take the offer literally. It’s not about the coffee; it’s about something else (some of you are now looking for the “dislike” button on the screen). It’s why in “Good Will Hunting,” Will (Matt Damon), jokingly suggests that he and a girl he’s interested in get together and eat a bunch of caramels instead of drinking coffee because it’s just as arbitrary. It’s not about the coffee, because whether it’s coffee or caramels, what I’m really after, and what many of us have co-opted the coffee expression for, is connection. Conversation. Intimacy. Conversation seems to be at the heart of human intimacy, and it certainly seems to be one of the best ways to reach each other’s hearts. We get to hear each others’ stories, the trials and joys currently taking place, the hopes and fears for tomorrow. We get to be encouragers and supporters. We get to be students of life lessons as well as teachers of our own. We get to talk about the weather… Wait, what? Guilty as charged. I won’t speak for anyone but me, but I am profoundly guilty of deliberate small talk. Now, to be clear, I’m not criticizing or condemning, nor setting the impossible expectation that all conversations should be immediately meaningful and stirring and go straight to the heart. But I am saying that I am very guilty of using small talk as a shield. Of making it about the coffee. Of hiding behind topics like the weather, sports, a TV show, or a movie in order to avoid talking about anything deeper or more personal. It’s like the classic hallway exchange: “How are you?” “Good! How are you?” “Good! Take care.” “You too!” Let’s be honest...we hide. At times, I don’t really want to care about how you’re doing. At times, I don’t really want to tell you how I’m doing. I hide in an overabundance of words because if I let you get a word in, you might tell me about your problems instead...or tell me that you don’t really want to hear about mine. I hide in my silence, as monosyllabic as a caveman because I’m afraid of being rejected yet again. Sometimes, I just want to hide in surface-level conversation because my heart feels so heavy that I can’t bear the thought of anything more substantial. We hide parts of our lives, quietly declaring them to be conversationally off-limits. It starts to feel a little exhausting when we take a hard look at our methods of relating. And then we add God to the mix… Oh boy. Talk about hiding. Adam and Eve used to have long, meaningful conversations with God in the Garden in the cool of the day. Then they sinned. Then they hid and were afraid to talk to Him about what was suddenly going on in their lives. Some things haven’t changed much. Throughout much of my life, before I was ever aware that God could or wanted to speak to me, I conducted many one-sided conversations with the seemingly-distant “big guy upstairs.” But even after learning to tune my ears to His voice, I catch myself doing the talking out of fear that a momentary lull will let Him bring up that issue I’m afraid to touch. Even as I mature in my relationship with Him, I find I’m still making it about the coffee at times. I’ll “pray without ceasing,” but that’s really just a cover to keep Him from talking. I find myself keeping parts of my life on the out-of-bounds list...and I’m not just talking about big things. I’ll be honest...and I’m not proud of this...there are some unforgiveness issues that I’ve partially dealt with and yet know still need more addressing. And I don’t want to talk to my Papa about them. I’m tired of dealing with them, tired of what feels like the endless rounds of confessing lies I’ve believed and unforgiveness I’ve still held. And so I don’t ask. I avoid. It’s not good...in fact it’s downright sinful. As my friend Betty says, “Jesus didn’t go to the cross so that I could hang on to my junk.” And so I muster up the courage once again to bring up the topic with my loving Papa and then make myself listen to His side of the story. And it’s good. But so is the stuff He has to say about everything in my life. Literally everything. Here’s the thing about small talk. God doesn’t do it. Jesus didn’t do it. He says “beware the yeast of the Pharisees,” and His disciples think He’s making small talk about dinner (Matthew 16:6, NLT). But with Jesus, everything is intentional. Everything is deliberate. Everything is significant and meaningful. God’s Word and Spirit create. He doesn’t say things lightly, and yet He wants to speak into every single facet of our lives. Even to the things we hide. Even to the things we think are too small for Him to care about. Last year I grew a beard. I let it go for about five months, and I’ll be honest, it was a pretty awesome beard. Eventually, though, I just felt like I needed to shave it. But I couldn’t tell if I was doing it because I wanted to or because I was trying to do something nice for my wife (who actually liked the beard), or if it really had just gotten too itchy. So I asked Jesus whether or not I should shave. Honestly, I felt like an idiot for even asking. I mean, I was praying about shaving...how dumb is that? I was hoping He’d just give a simple yes or no, and if I’m being totally honest, I expected Him to laugh a little that I would ask such a silly question. Oh how thankful I am that our ways are not His ways. Turns out He had something to say about it, and it was far more significant and profound than I would have ever imagined. He showed me what was really bothering me was a feeling of unworthiness...that I felt I wasn’t worthy of that particular “badge” of manhood. Wow. Wasn’t expecting that. He also showed me that the root of my uncertainty was that I had problems choosing myself. That I felt like others’ wants and needs were more important than my own. He spoke Truth to me, helped me to unload decades of lies, and brought healing into dark places in my heart. He showed me that there were times where it was totally appropriate to choose something that I desired, not because I had earned it or deserved it, but just because many of my desires are good and God-given, and I’m allowed to have them. I kept the beard for another month. When I did finally shave it, it was with a sense of peace and with the words of my loving Papa ringing in my soul…”I liked the beard, Jon. It looked good on you. Bring it back next winter. Thanks for inviting Me into this.” It’s so good to hear from someone who sees me so much more clearly than I see myself...who sees to the heart of the issue as easily as He sees my heart. Someone who is so much smarter than me. As the poet Longfellow wrote, “A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.” I don’t know that he had our heavenly Father in mind when he wrote that, but oh how much more true it is when we apply it to Him. Let Him speak. It’ll be so good. We don’t even have to come up with the topic of conversation. We can just say, “Papa, what do You want to talk about today?” and then listen. The Roman philosopher Cicero once said, “Silence is one of the great arts of conversation.” It’s certainly true when we get together for coffee with friends, but how much more important it becomes when we meet with our Heavenly Father. He loves to hear from us, and we desperately need to hear from Him. Be silent. Truly listen. Lean in close and hang on His every word. Let Him speak. He is a loving Father who wants to talk about everything in your life. Literally everything. Let Him. Invite Him in. Go have coffee with Him. Or caramels. But remember that it’s not about the coffee. Or the caramels. Lower the boundaries and give Him access to the “big” things. Ask Him about the “little” things. It’s not small talk to Him, and He’ll have something loving and purposeful to say about all of it. Because He loves all of it, just as He loves all of you. He’s promised it. “Call to Me and I will answer and you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known” (Jeremiah 33:3, ESV). He’s inviting you to share every facet of your life with him...the things that seem way too big, and the things that feel way too small. Say yes. Follow the sound of His voice. “Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with Me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming” (Psalm 27:7-8, NLT). He wants all of it, just as He wants all of you. Give it to Him. It will be good. Papa, I confess that I keep things from You, both deliberately and by accident. I confess that I hide my “big” things and forget to give You my “little” things. So Lord, today I give You full access. Nothing is hidden. Nothing is off limits. Talk to me about my addictions. Talk to me about my unforgiveness. Talk to me about my hobbies, my food, and my hair. Talk to me about my finances and my job. Talk to me about whatever You want to talk about, and help me to listen and learn. I confess that I want You to be in every aspect of my life, and I confess that it will be good because You are good, and Your heart for me is good. Help me not to hide from You any longer. I love You.
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About Jon Ackerman

Jon Ackerman
Jon is a Midwestern transplant who now lives in Sterling, Virginia, with his amazing wife Brooke and their three dogs. He has taught world history to high schoolers for the last 10 years, and enjoys filling his spare hours with international travel, reading, hunting, and riding his motorcycle (when it’s working).

2 comments

  1. Margaret Carlson

    Jon, what an in depth look into prayer, talking with our Lord as we talk to each other.

  2. Brooke Ackerman

    You are amazing!

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