Many years ago, I lived in southern Michigan. One weekend I had a couple of events in Ohio, and since it was close enough to home, I decided to drive back late Sunday night after the evening service. It was after 11:00 PM as I drove down an isolated stretch of road in northern Ohio, working my way home.
The road was under construction and the prospect of driving 45 mph for miles on end did not appeal to me. It was late, and there were no other drivers on the divided highway. I decided it was no big deal if I didn’t slow down. I set the cruise control to 65 and kept plowing ahead.
I drove along for quite a while, listening to the radio in the darkness. At some point a car drifted up behind me in the left hand lane. I noticed it in my side mirror as it cruised along with me. I really didn’t give much thought to it until it pulled in behind me and turned on the blue flashing lights.
It was a police car.
I pulled off the road and shut off the engine. The police car pulled in behind me, and a bright searchlight pierced through my rear window as the blue lights continued to flash. I rolled down the window and looked up at the officer as he approached the car. At this point, I knew I was in big trouble. I was out of state. I was in a construction zone. The fine would be doubled. I was 20 miles over the speed limit. I was going to get the ticket. Normally, I would try to present myself in the best possible way, hoping to get out of a ticket. But there was no point in trying to get out of this one. I reasoned I might as well be honest with the officer. This was the moment of truth.
“Good evening, sir,” the officer said sternly. “Do you know how fast you were going?”
I looked at him square in the eye and with confidence said, “Well, I believe I was doing 65.” I knew there was no point in trying to talk my way out of it.
The officer looked back at me and said, “Well, this is actually a 55 mph zone.”
I thought it was a 45 mph construction zone, so I was very surprised to hear him say that. I looked at the officer and blurted, “Oh!”
At this point, much to my astonishment, the officer replied, “Well, I am just going to give you a warning this time. But the speed limit is 55, so please slow down and drive safely.” And with that, he turned and walked back to his car.
I was shocked. I sat there stunned. I was not getting a ticket! I could not believe it! I’m guessing that because I answered with such confidence, it made it seem that I thought I was driving the speed limit. In reality, I thought I was 20 miles over instead of just 10! Wow, this honesty thing really works!
I laugh when I share this story, but it is a serious illustration of how I tend to relate to God. Somewhere in my mind, I think that when I talk with God I can gloss over stuff. I come into his presence to speak with him but try to present myself in the best possible light. The irony is that God is already aware of the things I am doing wrong. He is cruising along right there beside me. He is completely aware of how I am violating his laws. He knows exactly what is going on in my life at this very moment. But somehow I hesitate to be completely open and honest with him.
When was the last time you had an honest conversation with God? I’m talking about the kind of prayer you would only dare to speak out loud if you knew no one else could hear you. God already knows what is really going on in your life. He knows the challenges you are dealing with that perhaps no one else is aware of. He knows the thoughts you have in the darkest corner of your mind. But he waits for you to talk honestly with him about these things. For some reason we think we can gloss over the difficult issues. We keep our prayers limited to praying for other people, praying for the food, or praying for a safe trip. But God wants more. He wants us to be real with him. He wants us to be willing to talk with him about the challenges we struggle with. He wants us to talk with him about the issues that are shameful and ugly, issues he is already aware of.
Here are some examples of what I am talking about when I speak of being honest with God. Your prayer might sound something like this:
“Lord, I don’t really love you with all of my heart. It’s not that I don’t like you. But I can’t honestly say that I really love you. I pray that you would help me to love you more.”
“Lord, I really do not like this person. He drives me crazy. So I pray that you would help me to love him the way you love me, with all of my faults and failings.”
“Lord, I really don’t think my sin is a big deal to you. Holiness never really enters my mind. I am sorry for that. Change my heart I pray.”
“Lord, I really don’t want to have accountability for the stuff I am looking at online. If I were honest with you, I do not want to give it up. So I pray that you would give me a heart to do what is right and to get some help.”
“Lord, I am really struggling to trust you for __________.” (Fill in the blank.)
“Lord, I am struggling with ___________.” (Insert your particular issue here.)
“Lord, I have a problem.”
In Psalm 51, after being confronted with his sin by the prophet Nathan, David gets real with God. He doesn’t gloss over his sin. He brings it out in the open for God to deal with it. He calls out to God in repentance and asks for His mercy. It is a brutal, open, honest conversation with God. I want to encourage you to take the time to read this Psalm in the next few days. For this moment, let me just share with you a little of what he writes.
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:1-4, ESV).
This is a man who is being honest with God. He is conscious that God is aware of his sin. Are you aware that God already knows what is going on in your life? Can you understand how silly it is not to talk with him about it, when he already knows what is there?
Today, I want to encourage you to take a few moments and just talk with God about the things that are on your mind right now. Don’t even think of it as prayer. Just find a place where you can be alone with him and talk with him like you would talk with a friend. He already knows the full extent of what is going on. He’s waiting for you to bring it to him. He’s ready for you to be honest and real in your relationship with him.
But here’s the best part. God is not only all-knowing, but he is also all-powerful. Imagine what he would do to meet us right where we are, if we were simply honest with him.
What if we were honest?
This article was originally published in 2009 and reprinted in the February 2014 Newsletter.