Imagine believing in the productive outcome of a form of communication that largely resides and is expressed solely in your own mind.
We can pray outloud so others can hear our petitions, but outloud or in your head, prayer is different.
Mainly because the words and thoughts are directed to a being that exists in a realm not measurable by physics or math, or any other experimental tools we have available.
Now don’t get scared.
And don’t be thinking “wow, Janet’s gone over to the dark side” for that wouldn’t be true.
The truth is quite the opposite.
Acknowledging the unusual nature of prayer gives me room to explore it’s realness and just as importantly, how it’s real.
For instance, would you agree with me that we humans, we are the only ones who pray?
I love my dogs with a big chunk of my heart, and mine are very smart, like smarter than anybody else’s dogs, but as certain as I am of the unusual character of prayer, I know they don’t pray. I’m even good with an octopus being my teacher and whales playing around my paddle board, but I am pretty certain they don’t pray either. This acknowledgment holds true even in light of the receding prejudice that compares animal sentience to that of human consciousness.
I say this because I want to tell you there is value in acknowledging something we can’t understand and never will this side of Heaven and yet the lack of understanding doesn’t impact receiving the inherent bounty and benefit.
…the inherent bounty and benefit.
That’s something, isn’t it??!
Let me tell you how I know.
There are mornings, when I am just waking, when the distance from heaven to here collapses. In that ‘thinness’ of place, its easier for me to navigate the strange space that separates the natural from the supernatural and prayers spill out of my heart and mind like God is sitting across from me.
Don’t get me wrong. I pray during the day and when I wake in a scared sweat in the middle of the night. I pray when I can’t figure out what to do and when I get so irritated at Mother I want to walk out the door for a bit. I pray when I am so grateful I don’t know how to do much but just let water leak out of my eyes in gratitude. But those mornings I am trying to tell you about… the praying is different. There is a peace and a comfort that I want to linger in, languish in the fellowship that only prayer provides and that everything to do with the peculiar state of mind that I find myself in.
I would try to describe it.
It’s like everybody I love and have loved and still love share the ‘here’ with me but so do those I no longer hold in my arms but still in my heart and now share heaven. (Which will be my place one day.)
But mostly, its God.
I ‘feel’ close to Him.
I sense his.. well I don’t know what I am sensing. He’s the one talking with me and for me, reassuring me and there is no doubt in that moment I hang on His ever thought, word, answer? He is who I want to talk to and listen to. It is He who shows me new things and renews my mind in ways that if fully awake I don’t have access to.
I have information that I am not the only one who relies on a place of thinness.
My dad was a fisherman. He didn’t care much for sport fishing. I could have guessed that his love for the activity was the comfort of sound as the water gently lapped against his John boat. Or maybe it was the gaining of wisdom of how to fish. I suspected for a while it was the special solitude. He would tell me one day that he hoped that he ‘went on’ while he was on the water, his pole in the water with a minnow on the end. He was detailing his thin place, the one where God surely sat next to him or inside his head and they talked.
So it was yesterday morning, the 16 year anniversary of my Jake’s heart stopping its beating and I was praying. Where Jake is I am not entirely sure. (This is another one of those things that remains rather murky for us Christians. There is talk of Paradise if you follow what Jesus told the thief on the cross (one really needs to understand what Jesus’ actual word choice meant to those listening, because my current understanding is that was NOT precisely the heaven we will all get when Jesus comes back) or maybe we go to the Bosom of Abraham, (which I have NO idea what that means.) What I do know is that I still love Jake just as much, his love is still in my heart, and he is still… well somehow who God made him. We could argue that its the memory of him I am holding on to, the moments of time he left with others, but there is a knowledge that comes from inside me that there’s a whole lot more to each of us than the body we inhabit here. It’s like I know that SB still loves me.
Love, true love is forever and God the author.
So there I was, in my own little thin place, and while I can hardly stand missing ole Jake and the realization how different my life has become since he went on to Paradise or the Bosom, whatever, I realized that God and I were talking about just how grateful I am that Jake was my son. I had pure joy. I was happy. Because of the fact that Jake was and is my son.
You know what I am saying right? I am describing that peace that makes no sense. The reassurance that comes from God, that I don’t really understand, but is undeniable. Don’t get me wrong, I can still call up the purest aches over these last years and it can bring me to my knees. But it’s that very knowledge that makes that moment with God yesterday so… impossible but real. And it serves me well when that state of mind evaporates as a new day starts for me.
I have one thing left to say. If this sounds a bit crazy, I don’t really have explanations that might dispel that opinion. (Unless you stand with me that life here is more than math and predictable chemistry. And you believe in love.) The thing I do have to say is that this relationship with God I am describing, it didn’t happen overnight. There’s been a lot of .. well let’s just call it living and surviving over several decades. God and I have been working together for a very long time. The times when we didn’t, I have to take the responsibility. Turns out He has kept His promise. He’s always there.
Wishing whoever reads this, that you find your own thin place. It will put the joy, joy, joy down in your heart. Impossibly so.
Credits: Brett Borgard, charcoal, for better images of his work go here; Dr. Lisa Dsouza (you know why).