Maybe I’m Not Praying Enough (For Them)
I have a hard time empathizing with individuals going through grief or in a challenging time in their lives…I wish it were easier for me to befriend them, or give more of my time; or just listen to them. I find it difficult to get comfortable in those situations or have those conversations at this time in my life. It is not a place that I am comfortable venturing back to right now. You see, I’ve been trying to get away from “those people and their baggage.”
Do you think it makes me a bad person?
It makes me feel like a bad person. It makes me feel like an especially bad Christian. It makes me feel terrible about myself. So I just don’t think about it…
…until God makes me think about it. Then I can’t get it out of my head. Like now, for instance. So I will write about it and shine the light of Christ on it; and call it out for what it is; and try to figure out ways to move toward having more compassion for my fellow man.
Thank God, I am going to my first Women’s Spiritual Retreat next weekend! Shine On!
So here is what God is confronting me with right now:
I generally like people. I think they desire to do good, yet are eternally sinful; and thus, I am skeptical of a person’s character and motives as soon as I meet them. I think my years at the SoCal beach influenced my ability to be a ‘street-savvy judge of character”; whether for better or worse, is now under debate. Consequently, I am not quick to open up or reach out to new people proactively, and keep them at arms length until I decide to let them in.
I am not exclusive, but I am discriminating. I’ve discovered that I discriminate based on emotional well-being.
Like attracts like. And I am afraid of being attracted to suffering. On my personal evolutionary journey over the last 10+ years of my life, I have been increasingly purposeful in choosing my friends and associations to maximize my experiences and create amazing memories! Not a bad lifestyle goal, eh? It has seemed to work pretty well up until now.
I have escaped many bad habits in this struggle toward more authentic living. I have distanced myself from people and situations that are not aligned with my way of living. I have increased my happiness quotient at each choice. And I have been making friends with some truly intelligent, joyful, purpose-driven, truth-seekers I could have ever scripted for myself in a novel. (A novel I keep telling myself that I will write one day!)
I pay homage to God for giving me a blueprint and a savior who guides me along this quest. I am following His leadership. But God planted this question in my head to consider: am I really listening and following what he is teaching us through his living word? in my desire to avoid pain in my own life, have been blinded to the pain of others around me? WWJD? ( I seriously ask myself this when confronted with a choice that is not immediately clear- and I think it’s funny that I do that!)
So, living a Christ-like life is not one that is pain free, I think to myself. Although he lived a perfect life and is the message of salvation, it is not without pain that he went to the cross and died for our sins. In fact, he took on all the pain of the world for us, so that we would not feel the pain of separation from the father. And all that he asks in return is for us to follow him. That is what we are all seeking throughout our lives, anyway; to follow him. It’s why we never feel satisfied…we will not be satisfied until we let him in to fill up that hole inside us.
Therefore, when you feel like things are pretty cushy, and life is good, and free from anxiety…you can probably expect that God will lay something on your heart. I’ve been learning that he likes to “shake things up a bit” to stretch our capacity for glorifying him (that’s where it all leads).
So I guess God was drawing me inward to take a look at my heart, and if I could use some light in there. I think I do. I think that Jesus needs to take his light and shine it on in there – see if he can find some corners for us to scrape out together – make room fo’ some mo’ love. More love toward those around me who are hurting. Make space and time for those around me who could benefit from the listening ear of a Christian woman with a heart for God.
My heart is being softened, and fashioned in a way to be more like God’s. I am ripe for compassion, so Lord, fill me with that desire to love on my fellow man. Heck, just help me to love-on my neighbor first, Lord! Fill me with the desire to get close to those who are in pain. Open yourself up and be a friend to them.
God will protect you from being emotionally manipulated. God will protect you from being emotionally drained. God will protect you from giving more than you are able. God will show you what is true. God will use you to your full capacity. God will stretch you. God will teach you more about yourself. God will teach you more about Him. Just trust God.
(Listen to The Stand here: “And I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned”. This is the ultimate image in my mind for the liberation that come when we surrender to God and follow him. “In awe, of the one who gave it all” followed by the breath-taking realization that he did this all for little ‘ol me)
So if I don’t smile back; or I don’t see you wave; or I’m hustling my kid off to wherever; or I seem dismissive in passing; or we’ve passed by each other dozens of times and we’ve never made eye-contact; or I haven’t returned your email yet; or I keep forgetting your name (this is one of the most challenging things for me, in spite of my genuine desire to learn your name and address this default in my humanity)…
…don’t take it personally. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I think you are in an emotional lull, and I’m like, picking up on your negative vibe, man! It just means that I’m working on myself right now.
I am learning not to be as self-absorbed as I feel I am. I am learning that being task oriented limits opportunities to make connections. I am learning that reciprocal relationships are the best ones to have.
I am learning to pray more. better. often. intentionally incessantly. purposefully. lovingly. receptively. consistently. creatively. joyfully. hopefully. specifically. enough?
Can you ever pray enough? Uh, probably not. I can’t imagine that God would be satisfied with a certain number of prayers. Please don’t infer that I believe God should be appeased with prayers; or that you can petition something to happen by praying to God a certain amount of times. Christians did away with indulgences a long time ago, remember?
James Douglass Morrison said it so eloquently in my favorite Doors’ song The Soft Parade
“You cannot petition the Lord with prayer”
So again, I will restate that I can’t imagine that God would be satisfied with a certain number of prayers. I just can’t imagine God would dust of his hands and say to us, “Okay, that’s it. That was your last prayer, Hollis. You’ve finally prayed enough”. What a funny image, to me!
I will learn to live with the fact, that my prayers will never be enough. But I will always be praying. And so, right now, God has placed it on my heart to be praying to be a better friend to those in pain around me; and to reach out to them. And to pray as much as I can for them, and pray specifically.
(thank you Jeremy Casella for being the soundtrack behind the writing of this post. You continue to be a source of musical and lyrical inspiration…I’m going to write you a letter one day and let you know this because you are a biblically inspired musician and I respect you. I’m so grateful to have had you in so many recent memories in my life and with my family)Add Comment