This morning I was reading the book of James in The Message, and learned something that pierced my heart. According to church tradition, James was nicknamed “Old Camel Knees” because he had thick calluses on his knees due to years and years of determined prayer. Inspiring.
Hitting one’s knees in prayer is an active symbol of humility, reverence, awe, and honor. As I see it, the simple, silent drop speaks loudly: “You are God, I am not. More of you, less of me. Holy!” I learned a new prayer yesterday that I might add to that: “Anything, Lord, everything.”
As I sat in bed reflecting, I felt a soft prompt to descend to my knees. Immediately, I noticed a strong reaction within me — straight from my inner two-year-old that lets her voice be known every now and again. “I don’t wanna!” Curious about why I was so hesitant (perhaps defiant is a better word choice), I took the journal at my side and began to write. Reasons that were revealed:
1. I don’t feel like it. (I’ll listen and obey when it’s convenient for me, God. Please refrain from infringing on my plans.)
2. I’m quite comfortable right where I am. (How prone I am to serve the god of comfort.)
3. I simply don’t have the energy. (So I have no problem going to the gym for a high-intensity workout, but am averse to expending the <1 calorie needed to get on the floor?)
4. My life goes just fine without the daily discipline of praying on my knees; what difference would it make? What’s in it for me? (YUK. I’m being truthful, though. That thought came to mind.)
5. I’d like to take the easy way today; from my perspective, that happens to be staying in bed. (Last I checked, the faith-life isn’t founded upon “easy”.)
6. God is gracious and fully understands. He knows I’m comfortable right where I am. I’ll just pretend I didn’t feel a prompt… (When puffed up, my ego refuses to make the tiniest sacrificial acts! I am reminded of Bonhoeffer’s words: “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession…. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”)
Among other things, my writing exercise revealed laziness, a lack of awe, and a fair-sized helping of self-importance. Needless to say, after looking at these things on paper, my knees fell to the floor. Thankfully today I don’t have to beat myself up over all these self-serving thoughts, but instead I am free to cry out, “Have mercy!”
Do you have camel knees?