guest post by Bill Lewis
Oh, to live in a fairy tale: where our current hardship (whether real or perceived) will be followed by living happily ever after – content, loved, and at peace.
As a child, we think one day we’ll grow to up be and do exactly what our dreams convince us is possible. But then we scrape our knee or realize our limitations and feel embarrassed for such lofty dreams. We ‘mature’ into knowing that once we can get out of our parent’s house and off to college we’ll have reached a place we can make our own choices and live happily ever after. But college becomes a place of professors managing our lives, intense studying and struggling to sort out our particularly unique identity in a complex world. As we struggle through the college years we come to realize that we’re not there yet; but once again we convince ourselves that when we are finished with school and can get married with a unique career, our life will finally be full and complete. But marriage becomes sandpaper on our rough edges so we start looking forward to a cute, cuddly baby to give us purpose and joy. Finally, the endless cycles of sleeping, feeding and diaper-changing that make up a baby’s early life lead us to an exhausted place where perhaps we begin to realize that perhaps this ‘happily ever after’ stuff isn’t ever going to happen. In these, and in so many other ways, we have been seeking a home where our unique selves can be known for who we are and loved for who we are, only to come up short. The frenzy of life around us draws us into distraction, or a brief time of relative comfort lulls us into dullness and torpidity, but we still sense that there is more. Deep down, we still want to know and rest in the feeling of being home. Perhaps there is a quiet center where our soul rests in God.
Prayer is a word that has so many facets. Yet, in so many ways it is a homecoming. As we spend time in prayer we begin to sense a settling in. There are prayers in times of desperation or quick bursts of joy, but having a rich and full prayer life means that we reach out to God consistently, in all parts of our life. It is in this repetition that we find that God is with us, accepting us and loving us, in all times and in all situations.
Prayer is there for us in times of lament – in anguish or a deep empathic pain for ourselves or for others who are suffering or struggling. This steadiness can keep us from being overwhelmed at the pain and find a strong place for our soul to stand, where we can bring God into the situation and we can see the situation through eternal eyes.
This steadiness in knowing we are fundamentally loved can keep us from the temptation to pray for improvement of our character and positive changes in our inner being. Instead of these resolutions ending in the failure of not achieving the result we wanted or the failure of achieving the desired result but becoming arrogant and prideful on how well we accomplished the task, being at home in the deep sense of begin loved by God can help us realize that our part of this inner transformation is really to make space for God’s grace to work in our deepest being. We realize that our goal is to simply do what we can so that the Holy Spirit does what we can’t.
So we come home to peace and love and contentment through the multi-faceted jewel that is called prayer. As we realize we are the beloved ones of God, we find the quiet center where we can rest in God. As we live in the strong, unshakeable Kingdom of God we find that place of strength and renewal allowing us to face life. As we trust and obey the inner nudging of the Holy Spirit we make space for God to work in us. We consent to God’s action within. Then we can live and serve knowing that God loves us and there is nothing we can do to change that love that is beyond measuring.
Bill Lewis holds a Masters in Christian Spiritual Formation, practices Spiritual Direction, leads small groups, and regularly lead outings exploring natural areas. Join him and learn how prayer can help you find your calm center by enrolling in his course, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, which starts on July 10.