Thanks for going out with me for pizza the other night. I really needed to be out with a friend and I was exhausted from work all week and painting all day friday. I'm still tired and it's a week later. I think I know five single moms and only two in town, you being one of them. Sometimes I worry I won't make it. That my life will go down the path of tired, broke single mom, until I'm living on welfare packages of tuna helper and never take curlers out of my hair or bother to get dressed. (This must be something I saw on TV once and it stuck with me.) Fears are crazy things. My image of the end of the road involves tuna helper hmmm. Funny that the waiter at the restaurant the other night was one of triplets-- and that they all worked at the same pizza place. I felt like we were in some great episode that deserves to be written down.
You always make life exciting. Remember when my car wouldn't work and you used soap to grease the belt and get it running again? At the gas station we were there and not looking our best. That lady in a size 5 blue dress with her expensive car and high heels looked over at the two single moms in their old clothes and probably house slippers and had the nerve to say aloud she'd, "trade places with us in a heartbeat." What did that mean. It haunted me. What kind of situation would make someone want to give up beauty, being thin, and having a nice car --to be broke, out of gas with an old junk car, and out in public in house slippers? ..... Now that I think about it, maybe she meant she'd give up everything to have a friend. We were together and she was by herself.
As I've said before, your life should really be written down. You are one of the toughest, kindest, and most street smart people I know. I'm proud to be your friend, your adopted family, and to have had the chance to hire you as body guard for all those late friday night art events when I first started working in the arts distict. Every story you have is priceless whether you scared off a bunch of guys wearing white sheets in your middle school by punching one of them in the jaw, or whether you drove four hours to take your kid to a soccer tournament where they rocked. They are all good stories.
This whole prayer discussion we started has been interesting. It wasn't too long ago that I felt it was high time to be real with people and find a way to be my true self. Finding that impossible, because I just enjoy all my different friends and family so much-- I felt I might be a bit different with each of them. So I started this blog: letters are where I can be totally honest. With each friend I write to, I think I am the truest version of some part of myself, even if that changes a bit with each friend.
It's hard for people who love to think a lot about words, to stop and talk at the same time. Which sounds odd but it's true. I can use the best words when I write. When I talk, my vocabulary decreases to about 2,000 words-- most of those words turn out to be: cool, awesome, and nice. I even bore myself. Writing letters is where I can finally keep up with all those words I want to access. Prayer is where I can finally be my real self too--- if I put my mind to it.
So let's get down to it. You said that it feels selfish to pray for yourself, for something you want. I've never really felt that way. I ask for things all the time ...I think. NO, when I stop to think about that, I realize it is't true. I don't. I'm always forgetting to ask for what I need and want in prayer. It's an odd problem. I mean there is all those verses about "ask, seek, knock..." Jesus was really into reminding people to ask.
Since I had no idea where to begin, I googled it. Do any other people out there feel selfish if they pray for something they need or want? Yep. They do. Lots of blogs address it in Christianese. Christianese is when you mention a Bible verse, use a lot of soft language and insist that things will get better if you just consider some male in the old testament and how they wore goat hair. Or maybe ponder an obscure verse in the King James which actually sounds fairly frightening if you hadn't been studying the context for 20 years. All that to say. I couldn't find much. I did see that Billy Graham had a blog about the topic and he was the one who actually addressed the real issue. He gets right to the point-- I love that.
Graham says we feel selfish when we pray because we are only coming to get something. But he suggests the true problem: praying is a relationship with your Creator-- that's someone who loves you and thinks you are just about the best thing since sliced bread, because he designed you with so many things in mind. God is thrilled when we ask him for what we need. That's how he designed us: for daily upgrades; daily drinking from a well; daily being connected like a flower to a vine-- chose your metaphor. So if we feel selfish, and I do sometimes, I do-- Then it's not because we think God won't answer our prayers; it's because we think he might want something else instead.
When we pray, it's a relationship. We are growing closer to someone-- a real person. That person has a lot of suggestions, ideas, and purposes for each of our lives. And he might, as we get to know him, have a few demands; things he insist we take notice of. I'm not talking about rules. Those are there, and we each are convicted about rules and ways to be holy-- connected to God by how we live. That's not the only thing. The closer you get to God, the more he might suggest that you need to be on a path, the amazing plan he has for you. The one you don't know about. The one you can't see. The one that may start out by your losing things, getting lost, and coming to the end of yourself. That's a scary journey-- not always fun. Frankly we've already been there. And no, not always the path we wanted to take. But maybe it's like the lady in the blue dress. We don't have to be like her: to give anything not to be alone. We are never alone when we are following God --and he's always putting us into families, even ones we least expect.
It's a relationship. God is like your best friend. Sure he puts up with all your faults and loves you for who you are. Everything you say is just about perfectly hilarious and just too cute for words. He can't get enough of you. But when you become roomies with God, some things have to change. You've invited him into your life because you thought it would make things better and easier. But he's not just a roommate. God asks us to follow him, not just live with him and put up with all his weird ideas about holiness and moderation and his weird affinity for praise music; his insistence on remembering him before meals and on holidays. It gets much more personal that that. It's worse than your mother-in-law moving in, or even getting married. When you ask God to be in your life, he gets in charge of your life. That's cool when you remember he's stronger than Thor and richer than JK Rolling. That's frightening a bit when you remember he is all knowing and has this thing about love that can really make you look like a weird mix of Ghandi and the Care Bears when you'd rather just be She-Ra or He-Man and go to town on the bad guys.
So what to do? Ha. That's easy. Pray anyways. Here's what happens. You talk it out. When you start to tell God you've found your soul mate and you want God to make it all work out. You want to live happily ever after. God, he's going to start to suggest things back. He'll nudge you to consider the other person and what's best for them. He'll nudge your to consider how you've been treating that person. He'll nudge you to consider your family and friends. He'll nudge you to consider your needs and his plans for you. Then what happens is that your prayer starts to change. Right as you are praying for the perfect happy ending image you have in your head, you'll start to pray for that other person. That God will work in their life, and that God's best possible plans for them will come to reality. You'll start to pray for your family and what they need, your neighbors, and you'll come full circle. When you get back around the whole loop looking at how much God loves all those people and thinking about what me might want most for them all you'll see yourself in a different way. You see yourself fitting into a beautiful puzzle that God's been putting together for years. And you'll find yourself praying that God does just what would be best for that person you love because you love them so much. And when that happens, you are undone. The strings are cut, and you have peace for the first time. You still have that dream image in your mind. But now you know God has it handled. You've talked it out. You've given it to God and you know he's got your back and he's got your future. He even wants you to be happy and experience all the good he has planned for you. But now that you've prayed about it, you aren't so worried and you don't feel selfish, you feel energized and you just want to share the joy with someone else. Yeah maybe it only lasts for a few minutes or a few hours. But you can always pray again the next day and see what happens then...