Prayers: Working through Hurt, Pain, Anger, Truth
Hey God, I Want to Talk
“You’re a son of a bitch, you know that? She bought her first new car and You hit her with a drunk driver. What? Was that supposed to be funny? “You can’t conceive, nor can I, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.” says Graham Green. I don’t know whose ass he was kissing there, ‘cause I think you’re just vindictive. What was Josh Lyman, a warning shot? That was my son. What did I ever to yours but praise His glory and praise His name? There’s a tropical storm that’s gaining speed and power. They say we haven’t had a storm this bad since You took out that tender ship of mine in the North Atlantic last year. Sixty-eight crew. You know what a tender ship does? Fixes the other ships. It doesn’t even carry guns. It just goes around, fixes the other ships and delivers the mail. That’s all it can do. Gratias tibi ago, domine. Yes, I lied. It was a sin. I’ve committed many sins. Have I displeased you, you feckless thug? 3.8 million new jobs, that wasn’t good? Bailed out Mexico. Increased foreign trade. Thirty million new acres of land for conservation. Put Mendoza on the bench. We’re fighting a war. I’ve raised three children. That’s not enough to buy me out of the doghouse? Haec credam a deo pio? A deo lusto, deo scito? Cruciatus in cruern. Tuus in terra servus, nuntius fui. Officium perfeci. Cruciatus in crucerm. Eas in crucerm! President Jed Bartlett, West Wing, Season 2, Episode 22: Two Cathedrals
The above is a scene taken from the TV series the West Wing. The Presidents executive secretary, and long-time friend, Delores Landingham, has been killed in a car crash by a drunk driver. The story of the beginning of their friendship is told in flashbacks. She worked for his dad at the college young Jed also attended. The relationship with his father was very strained and it was stated, as well as, implied several times that his father was often very abusive. Bartlett was a devout Catholic which, in itself, did not sit well with his dad. Jed chose the religion of his mother instead of the religion (Protestant) of his father. Though out his life he felt he was never smart enough, good enough, could not do enough, work hard enough, win enough elections, or get enough votes to win his fathers approval. Mrs. Landingham became his friend at a time when he needed someone who would be truthful and not hurtful, someone who would care and not coddle, someone who could listen without judging--she was exactly that and he valued her. Needless to say, he was not taking the death of his friend well. After the funeral of Mrs. Landingham the President ask the Secret Service to get everyone out and to seal the Cathedral. He then stood alone in his grief as he spoke to God out of his pain. He had an honest and angry conversation with God. Because of the nature of the flashbacks one can also see a double meaning. The President--the man, was crying out to God, his heavenly father and to his earthly dad as well.
The Consequences of Our Decisions
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer…you made me trust in you….do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. (Taken from Psalms 22, a Psalm of David, NIV)
Have you ever been at the breaking point in your faith? Where you are physically and emotional drained from all of life’s challenges; where your frustrations have reached a feverish pitch and you feel like you just can’t take it one more second; where you feel like you have fallen into a hole and when you reach out to God and instead of a hand reaching back you feel the ground under you shake; when you are in agony and don’t know where to turn; when everything that could possible go wrong is going terribly wrong; when you cry out to God for a miracle you so desperate want or need and nothing happens; when you think there is no one who is there for you; when the pain of all the hurts through all the years come crashing down on you; when you start to lose your faith; when you begin to wonder if God really love you; you feel helpless, and asking, waiting, and claiming seem just out of reach; you cry out, “God are you there“? I know I have. The silence of unanswered prayers is deafening. `
Each of us who have struggled and have come to God placing before him our pain ripped hearts and souls have far too often felt nothing, solved nothing, and heard nothing. Then there have been times when I have cried out to God through my hurt, pain and struggle and come though feeling that He somehow touched me to let me know everything would be OK. The still small voice, the little whispers allowed me to relax and lay my troubles in front of Him and leave them there. And, I would soon find that He actually never left me. I entered feeling helpless and came out feeling strong. I learned that it was during these times that, if I looked and listened, I had the opportunity to see God’s help and deliverance. It is during these times that I see God’s tender mercies and I witness the strength He can and will provide. Sometimes I am left with the consequences of my decisions. I don’t always recognize it for what it is, or right away, but looking back I almost always see the one set of footprints in the sand.
Bad Things Just Happens
Of course, there is the age old question…why do bad things happen? Then, there are those wonderful age old answers”. Everything happens for a reason”, “God’s plans are not always known to us”, “It’s all part of God’s plan”, “it’s all for the best”. These all sound so reasonable. We say them for many reasons---because we think they are true, because we are trying to be helpful, and sometimes because we don’t know what to say. Most often we say them because we think they are comforting words. Let me assure you, when someone is hurting because they have loss someone dear, these words are not as comforting as one might think. When someone is battling a serious illness these words may not be very comforting. And, when someone has hit bottom for whatever the reason these words are not comforting. My personal pet peeve is “look at the sin in your life”. Now most people will soften it a little, but the message is still the same. True or not, it is not something that someone who is suffering in the worst possible way need to hear. It may cause the pain to go deeper and become unhealthy.
I got the news of my mother’s death while at a work conference. The news was given to my supervisor and then I was asked to come with them outside of the conference room. A dear friend and co-worker was near and followed as well. As the words were delivered to me they sounded like they were being spoken from far away. My friends stood behind me and place her arms around me. She either knew or sensed that my knees were going to become jelly. It was not what she said to me but the fact that she said very little. She was just there with me through everything. She made sure my husband and kids were OK. She offered a touch or a hug. She let me talk and she listened. She was close without hovering. But she never once said those senseless statements that offer little comfort.
Sometimes things happens because they are supposed to, and sometimes things just happen.
Hey God, Can We Talk
I have a coffee mug with Charley Brown saying “Hey God, I can’t sleep can we talk? It is one of my favorite mugs and I use it often. But the one thing that that little saying reminded me is prayer is not a mysterious practice, prayer is simply communicating with God—talking to Him, then taking the time to listen. I believe that some of the most powerful prayers are those spoken from the heart, freely, spontaneously, and in our own words.
“If you bring forth what is within you, that you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” As attributed to Jesus Christ in The Gospel of Thomas
I realize that the example I used at the top of the page may be a little extreme for some but for others it may feel familiar as you, too, may have walked that path. The writer of this episode did, in my opinion, a brilliant job and Martin Sheen did an exception job in his delivery of the lines. Again, President Bartlett had lost more than his secretary. She was a dear friend, one who had been at his side from his college days when she first worked for his dad. She was friend who would tell him the truth and he valued her.
Take Away Points to Ponder
I hope you find some good “take away” points from this, some that I would like to offer are:
- God is not waiting for you to work yourself up to a place of good enough or smart enough just jump right in wherever you are and allow Him to stand close. He is listening to our spirit, to our outcries, to our rants, rave and rumblings and to our anger and ftrustrations.
- If you have been hurt by people, by religion, the church, if your faith has been called into question by well meaning people of God, or if you grew up in in an environment where you were taught to fear and not question you may have landed in an unhealthy place.….I do not believe that is who God is.
- I read something recently about a young woman who was at a place in her life where she felt it was just too hard and she didn’t know how to pray anymore. She asked her friend “will you say my prayers for me?” Don’t you just love that story? Do you have anyone you can ask when you seem to be coming up dry to say your prayers for you? Would you be willing to be that person and say the prayers for someone who ask?
- Here is one I particularly like…. “The great people of the earth today are the people who pray. I do not mean those who talk about prayer; nor those who say they believe in prayer; nor yet those who can explain about prayer; but I mean these people who take time and pray. They have not time. It must be taken from something else….something else that may be more important, but they put prayer first, and group other items in life’s schedule around and after prayer. These are the people today who are doing the most for God; in winning souls; in solving problems….we do not know who these people are but they are out there….” From: Quiet Talks on Prayer by S. D. Gordon.
- I like this because in a way these people are living their faith and beliefs at a level higher than most of us can ever phantom. They do not argue about what they believe or don’t believe; they do not defend their faith, the church they attend, the denomination, their faith; they are not disrespectful of others opinions or thoughts; they are open minded and listening even if they disagree; there hearts are open and they feel it an honor to service without recognition. These people, I believe, pray as the Spirit of God inspires and guides and they do it with love.
- Have you ever known or come in contact with someone that moved you by the intensity of their faith. Not an outward “look at me” kind of faith, but the subtle almost covert kind of living where you see their kindness, love, sharing and strength. They may be physically plain or beautiful, plain spoken or eloquent, well dressed or threadbare, highly educated or barely able to read but there is something about them that you want to know more about. They inspire others just by being. Living close to God makes them who they are.
And remember this…Even Jesus, as he faced crucifixion, cried out….And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, Iama sabachthani?” that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? St. Matthew 27:46
FYI, I almost forgot. This is what Jed Bartlett said in Latin “I give thanks to you, O Lord. Am I really to believe that these are the acts of a loving God? A just God? A wise God? To hell with your punishments, I was your servant here on Earth. I spread your word and I did your work. To hell with your punishments. To hell with you?” (from tv.com)
When I first read the translation I cringed, ever so slightly. Then I thought about the times my own children said things in anger and how it hurt. I hurt more for them than I did for myself. In that moment I knew that there was not much I could do to ease their pain but when they were ready I could offer a hand or a touch, but they had to be ready to receive it.
At that moment, I imagined God as a loving parent hurting, and loving, and patient. It also helped me to see that my anger and my questions are expected because it is one way to learn and experience. I will continue to question and sometimes I will be angry but through it all I know my loving parent will be there…sometimes participating and sometimes standing back. Prayer is a great mystery and I will say this again, as I so often say, “as hard as it is, I sometimes wish it was that easy”.
Every time I see the West Wing episode I references earlier it gives me pause. I really thing about prayer and what it really is to communicated with God. I think about those times when I was angry and why. I think about feeling close enough to Him to really hear that still small voice or the whispers that come to let us know if we are on the right path or not. I think about what it means to surrender the outcomes and release the burdens. I think about how to accept life, to let go of my need to struggle and how to relax into things and situations the way they are. I think about saying “thank you” instead of “why me”? I think about the fact that many times I don’t share the truth with Him knowing that He can see my into my heart and hear my thoughts even before the are spoken.
Love to all,