Giving Up... My Filters

Lent Series Button Awhile back, I was at the science museum with my family. There was a station set up to learn about filtration systems. A guy was there with large pretend filters, one with large gaps, one with medium gaps, and one with small gaps. He was challenging kids to throw balls and try to make it through the holes. It was easy to see how each of the layers of the filter was important: one to catch large particles, one to catch medium, and one to catch small.

We all know what it’s like to be around someone with no filter. There can be a lot of unintentional relational damage from someone who always speaks their mind all the time.

Me? I veer too far in the other direction. I over-filter and over-edit myself. Even in writing this post, I have pressed the backspace button way too many times for the amount of words I have written.

Bear with me, for in the spirit of giving up this over-filtering, I’m going to write the rest of this post unedited. (Except for spelling mistakes. I will fix those. I don’t think I can take this “giving up” practice that far…)

I have had this awareness of myself before, but last night, I realized it in new ways. I had a difficult afternoon, and I called a friend to talk about it. While I was still crying. And I thought, “I don’t know if I’ve ever done this before.”

I talk pretty openly about my life, but not when I’m knee deep in the middle of things. I wait until it’s safe. I wait until I can edit and filter and present the version of myself that can handle it. That is ok. That trusts God in spite of life circumstances.

I edit the version of me I present to others.

And without realizing it, I also edit the version of myself I present to God.

Though I am the type of person who shouts from the rooftops about the importance of honesty in prayer, of coming to God as you are without concern for how you should be, about yelling your frustrations because after all, if he is God, he can handle it, I have only pretended to do that myself.

I have come honest, but only after pausing to edit my honesty first.

Yesterday, after this conversation, I prayed. And I prayed ugly. My words were more raw and messy and truthful than they have been for a long time. Maybe ever. And I realized how scared I really was to utter those things outloud, and how I had only faked rawness before that point.

I removed one layer, and thought that meant I was being raw. But  I wasn’t unfiltered, I was only less filtered.

It wasn’t intentional. I can think of only a few times I have hid on purpose. But with each layer that God pulls back, I am finally able to see the other layer that is behind it.

And I’m pushing my way through, one at a time.

It is a mix of discipline and trust to give up this editing practice. The discipline of saying: I’m going to write this without pressing backspace, I’m going to have this conversation when I can’t yet articulate what’s wrong, I’m going to pray my questions before they have answers. And the trust of saying: I can’t control this process, I believe I will still be loved regardless of how things sound, I understand that my mess is just as much the real me as my beauty.

The trusting part? That will take time and prayer and the movement of the Holy Spirit more than anything else. But the discipline part? I can do something about that. I can push my way into things that are painful and uncomfortable and ugly and unedited knowing that it’s worth it.

Christ is sitting on the other side of my filters with his hand reached out. He longs for greater intimacy than I've allowed. He is already holding my hand, but he wants more of me than that. He is waiting to embrace the whole of who I am, once these things blocking the way are removed. He is patient.

It’s up to me to admit that I need to give up my filters. Christ won’t force it. But He also won’t judge me for how long it takes. He is with me, pouring his grace through any of the cracks that will let it get through.

Giving Up... is a Lenten Series asking a question: What if we gave up more than external things for Lent? It's not a belief that we can get rid of our baggage as easily as we can write a blog post. But, it is a belief that admitting those things that keep us from deeper intimacy with Christ is a good start. {Please note, this isn't in any way meant to be a critique of those giving up something external. Often that is connected to the internal in a powerful way. In my case, though, I realized that the external sacrifice was hindering me from dealing with what was going on below the surface.}