Lately, I haven’t wanted to pray. Not even my five-minute, super-short version.
I haven’t wanted to journal either, which is another way I connect to God. I’ve not wanted to do yoga, which is yet another. Haven’t been doing so much crafting the Bible, or reading my BCP on weekends.
I haven’t wanted to do any of it.
Mostly, I’m trying to just let it be. I try to notice that I don’t want to show up for those things, and do them anyway if it doesn’t feel panicky. Notice if there are other ways I can connect to God. Pay attention to my aversion without judging it too much.
But let’s get real: my disinterest in Spiritual Things makes me a little panicky.
I want to want God. I want to want prayer. He has sustained me through a hard last year, and the communion with him has been a table in the wilderness. I have not needed life to be easy when I was able to feel God right there, so tangible that everything feels holy.
He is enough. He is enough. He is enough.
Except—then suddenly he’s not, or I’m not, or something has shifted, and I am in different terrain altogether, and there is no table.
And I wonder what am I doing wrong?
Mostly, I have learned from amazing writers like Micha Boyett that faith is cyclical. That the natural rhythms of moon and seasons and tides and even PMS have something to teach me. That nothing on earth, not even a rock, stays unchanged forever. That a time where God is a crescent moon, half-hidden from me, does not mean I have dropped the ball.
But it’s one thing to know this, and another to not feel even more aversion from prayer when I don’t get soul candy in exchange for showing up. It’s one thing to tell myself I’m not doing it wrong, and another thing to be content being with God without trying to fix myself.
Managing, controlling, fixing and judging give me something to do with my hands.
Last week I went out on a walk in the dark, and I was woefully aware that I was glad to not be praying and journaling, and sad that my enthusiasm for God has waned, that my practice of faith is even thinner than normal, and I asked God why do I find it so hard to reach out to you?
I was walking down the street near our house, the silouettes of trees black against the dim charcoal of sky. I walked, and I breathed, and then I told God I felt sad to not want to spend time with him.
The admission caught me off guard. In all my worry, I had missed my grief.
I told God I didn’t know what to do, because forcing myself to do things I don’t want to do always brings anxiety and resentment along like a dog running after a car.
I told him I was afraid.
I was afraid I had gone off course somewhere, that I had mired myself, like I did for ten years after college, in a land of dimness and cynicism and bitterness and shame.
I started to cry. I realized I was terrified of going back to a place of bitterness. I was terrified, yet again, that I was doing it wrong. I told him I utterly depended on him to tell me what to do differently if I was doing something wrong.
I breathed a little easier.
Its okay to have ups and downs, I told myself. It’s okay to wax and wane.
Suddenly it struck me that God was not needing me apologize to him for being up-and-down. He didn’t need me to protect his ego when I was honest about how I was feeling. I didn’t need to manage him, or worry about him, just like I didn’t need to force myself to be any particular way to please him.
God is not a dysfunctional boyfriend.
Being was okay.
Being was okay.
Being up and down and sideways was okay.
When I walk in my neighborhood I walk a long circle. The point is not to get somewhere. The point is to take the lay of the land, and then return home.
I am trying to remember my faith works the same way: that regardless of whether I feel all tingly about Jesus, I’m always headed back to Him. Even my sadness about God’s hiddenness is a clue whom it is I seek.
It is an easy yoke to learn how to be with Jesus. That does not mean it does not require courage. It takes bravery to keep walking when you feel like you’re alone.
I will pay attention to the markers on the road and pray I don’t get lost. I will pray for strength on the journey. And I will pray that I will trust God is alongside me even when I don’t feel his presence on demand.
Image credit (with my modifications): Carl Milner