Wednesday, January 31, 2007

So, hello.

“So, hello.” I said, deciding that I should be praying out loud. I decided against listening to my audiobook on prayer and just practice my own method instead. I noticed I’ve avoided talking to God for any extended period of time. While I think it would be better for me to sit and focus with no outside distractions, sharing my commute with Him seemed better than nothing. So I put on piano hymns and tried to talk. Instead I made faces and attempted some reasonable amount of focus until I started to speak.

“I don’t know what to say.” I admitted. “I’m not sure if I’m angry at you or hopeless or tired or just going through a down time. I’m OK – I hope You can see that. I’m not nearly as bad as I was. But… I don’t know. I just don’t take time to talk to You. And now it’s like when you have friend and you haven’t seen her in a long time and have to spend so much time catching up on the background that you don’t get to converse over any fun topics. Though You know what’s been going on. So I guess I could just talk. About…something.”

“I thought You’d take Friend’s mother.” I admitted when I stopped at a red light. “All those times I asked for you to let the treatment work, to be with Friend as she waited for news… I thought you’d hurt that family and have people say it was for the best.” I shook my head. “I’m glad you didn’t. Thank you for letting her stay. For showing me that sometimes what we ask for is the right thing – the endpoint you want as well.”

I considered for another moment. “I want to fall in love. Thinking that I don’t get that makes me sad. And annoyed that You’re withholding it. Dr. Counselor says I should ask for the strength to be better so that I’m ready when my partner comes along. And that I should pray he is growing ready for me. So, yes. I’d like that. Please. I’d like You to pick someone out for me and lead me toward him. Teach me what I need to know beforehand and give me the patience to learn it. But I’m afraid you’re going to say no. That I’m asking for something that you have no intention of giving.”

I drove in silence for a little while – breathing deeply, listening to the piano play through my car speakers attached to my iPod, trying to hear some response. “It’s strange.” I offered moments later. “I know – intellectually, anyway – that You’re watching. That You know. That in the end, life works out. Events that seemed trivial or awful somehow coalesce into something good – nudging me down the right path so that I eventually see how I learned and grew over time. I know things work out. I know You love me and want me to be happy. I do know. I just don’t always remember.”

Having established that fact in my mind, I just started to talk. I began with people online – blogs I read, prayers I think are needed – some of petition, some of gratitude, some of simple conversation, telling stories and laughing or thinking. Then I drifted slowly into family members and friends, asking for guidance and love and grace. “I’m strong enough now,” I told Him. “If You need me, here I am.”

As I made my way quickly toward work, I found myself just listing names. Aunt, Uncle, Cousin and her husband, Older Cousin and her husband. Little Cousin and Other Little Cousin. Little One.

“I love her most of all.” I confided with a smile. “I think she’s growing up so wonderfully. She talks so much and watches her movies – the ones I sent got there yesterday. She’s so bright and strong and funny. Well, You know. You know her.” And I lapsed again into content silence, letting myself think and hoping God spoke somehow. Then I frowned with a realization.

I’m Little One’s Godmother. And I haven’t ever prayed with her. Told her Bible stories. Watched a Christian cartoon with her. I don’t know if Mom prays with her while she rocks in the chair before bedtime. Or if Brother and Brother’s wife talk to her about the concepts after church. She understands enough that we could introduce her to God, I know. I’m not sure how to go about that exactly, but God reminded me that it’s a priority today. It’s a job for which I’ve always been profoundly grateful – from the moment Brother asked me to serve as a Godparent, I was honored. I need to do a better job. And I will.

Then I thought of Friend, talked about some of her concerns, prayed over them. Admitted I don’t know the answers – I just understand some of the problems quite well. Others I can only guess at, but I don’t know how to help other than ask Someone I know to do some work on it. To guide me, to watch over Friend, to be with all of us – celebrate when we’re happy, soothe when we’re angry, comfort when we’re scared and sad.

“It’s hard here,” I admitted. “For all of us sometimes. I just wish it was more straightforward. Easier. That I didn’t worry over Friend because I know You’ll take care of her. That hearing war news didn't make my stomach hurt. That I trusted on some profound level that it’s all working toward a good place.”

I merged into the right lane of traffic to exit my interstate and get on the bypass. I pulled in behind a familiar car and cocked my head. How strange would it be if I followed Friend to work just as I’d been talking about her? But there were still many cars speeding about, so I didn’t put much thought into the fact that it might be her. But she moved from one lane to another and the shift was quicker than average. “That car drives like Friend’s.” I mused, deciding it really might be her.

I became more certain as we continued to move toward campus. I couldn’t see her all the time – traffic separated us at some points and large trucks sometimes blocked my view of her little car completely. But I didn’t panic – I knew where she was going and happened to be going there myself. I know her well enough to predict where she’ll park in the lot. I checked the time and realized that she was running on her normal schedule while I was getting in a bit later than I’d wanted.

I got a bit weepy when I thought about God. “She may not even know I’m here.” I told Him. “Just following along after her for these few minutes. Ready to stop and help if needed, pleased that traffic is moving swiftly for her, hoping she has a good day and slept well last night.”

God isn’t a hovering parent. I think sometimes He follows me silently, just watching and waiting for me to realize I need help and guidance. Then He nudges in certain directions, introduces me to the right people at the right times and removes opportunities that – while incredibly tempting – just aren’t right. He’s a strong presence – moving along at whatever pace I need, sometimes tugging me along when I’m too weak to continue, other times offering support when I’m too tired to travel on my own. It’s the times like today – when I’m driving along and everything is fine (if a little boring or vaguely unsettling) and I don’t even glance in my rearview mirror to see if He’s back there. So He waits until the morning I decide to spend some time talking and sits through the lists of names, the general requests, the honest thoughts of why I can’t get serious about spiritual growth.

I parked one spot away from Friend and got out of my car as she paused to wait for me.

“How unlikely is that?!” I offered cheerfully. “That I ended up following you all the way to work?”

“As unlikely as me screwing up the same experiment different ways every time I do it?” She responded.

I smiled then told her that I’d been praying. Just talking – halting and awkward at first, then making some progress as I made my way to work. “I was praying about you and then I ended up right behind your car.” I said, thinking it was a minor miracle and some indication that God wanted me to be sure He was listening. That He knew. That He heard.

“I saw you way back there.” She said and I nodded.

“I saw you as soon as you were merging from the entrance ramp.” I offered.

The rest of the day was frustrating and productive depending on the moment. I got bad news on funding a small part of Project M and tried to fill out still more paperwork when I thought I was finished. I was wildly irritated so I took a walk to turn in more paperwork around campus. I returned to make a presentation at meeting then ran an experiment in the afternoon. I listened to music and swore at traffic on the way home, oblivious to God or anything He wanted to tell me.

I find it tremendously moving that He was there anyway. Following along, watching protectively, yet waiting until I chose to notice Him. He knows where I’m going though. Is familiar enough with how my mind works that He can predict the route I’ll take to get there – the things I’ll see and people I’ll meet around the way. That He chooses to join me is miraculous. That I rarely acknowledge Him is depressing. But I heard Him this morning – if only for a few spare moments, I got it. I felt loved and appreciated even as He gave me an idea of the work I have yet to do.

“Thank you.” I just said. He deserved it and sometimes it helps me to say it out loud.


The Contessa said...

I am always pleasantly surprised when you write a post like this.

It touches me in ways I can't describe.

I tend to "pray" the same way. I draft mine like a letter, sometimes I address it, Dear God, other times, Hey it's me - again.

When something works out well either my way or God's - I always thank him too.

So to find another soul who prays like me is really touching to my soul.

Thanks Katie - I needed that today.


Terminaldegree said...

I do this too--talking out loud.

AND I get angry for the same reasons you describe. It's illogical. But there it is anyhow.

Thanks for writing this.

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