I think my difficulty in coming to Jesus in prayer, and when I say Jesus I mean also The Father and the Holy Spirit, has to do with mistaken identity. Not only my own but God’s identity is hidden from me. To give an almost comic example – and one I often reflect is the allegory taken from a short story called “Three Lessons from the Amazonian Jungle.”
Renato, a character in Pamuel Houston’s book, Waltzing the Cat, tells an interesting story that speaks to this phenomenon of misunderstanding. “Monarch butterflies make blue jays throw up. That is how monarch butterflies keep from being eaten. But over the years, by a process known as Batesian mimicry, several other butterfly species have learned how to color themselves to look like the monarch every time a blue jay comes around. The problem arises when a blue jay’s first experience is with an impostor butterfly. If the blue jay doesn’t throw up that first time, he will spend the rest of his life not knowing which are the safe butterflies and which are the ones that will make him sick.”
I relate to this confusion. I often mistake my experience with others for my relationship with God. I have experienced meaningful, profound, and truthful times of healing with others. It’s a rare thing requiring time and risk. I’m usually behaving with civility. Clearly, I am limited and flawed. The urge to gussy up the truth tempts me. But God knows more about who I am than I do. Going to God, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, going to Jesus, God in human form – fully God and fully human, I am received for who I am. It is safe for me to own my inability to change. I get a glimpse of God’s mercy. How humbling to experience God’s love! How do I show appreciation? How do I love enough? It’s impossible. But I am transformed when I dwell on His promises and believe the miracle of being adopted as His child.