Thursday, August 09, 2007

But Then . . .

On Sunday I went to my pastor's house for lunch. I could say my pastors' house, actually (note apostrophe placement), because his wife is also ordained, although she is not the pastor of our church. I wanted to meet with them because life has suddenly got rather confusing lately, and I felt the need of some guidance. Or at least some wise listening.

Sometimes I know viscerally that something's not quite right, but it takes kind of a lot of talking to get to the heart of the matter, if I ever do. It's like spinning around blindfolded and then trying to hit a target. So I pretty much wasted most of our limited time animatedly talking in circles and not even really realising I wasn't actually addressing what was at the root of some of the issues I was discussing. Just before both of us had to leave for other appointments, Pastor Steve said, with a flash of true brilliance,

"Based on some things you said, I'm wondering if the reason you're feeling like you need to hurry up and make some decisions is because you're 35 and you think you should know what you're supposed to be doing by now?"

There isn't a way to write this without making it sound like he was being brusque and condescending, but actually, in context he wasn't that at all. It was like an offering of grace--he had pierced right to the centre of the pile of stuff I've been confused about lately, and even though he didn't have any answers for me, just having someone see that, and say it with compassion, and not force me to say it myself, was such a relief that I burst into tears.

Then the two of them asked if they could pray with me about this. And so, in the traditional way, we bowed our heads and closed our eyes, and they talked grace with God over me. In this particular case, I didn't feel like our earlier conversation had been particularly prayer-like at all--or at least my part of it hadn't. I had just been blethering. When my pastors took the preceding conversation in their hands and held it up to God in a set-aside moment, that suddenly seemed like the right way to pray.

Basically, I'm saying I still don't know what to do about corporate prayer. Sometimes that's like being blindfolded, too, it seems. I do think there's something to what I said last post, but I guess it isn't all of it. I guess, as Craver commented down there, it's a good thing we don't have to know all about praying before we do it. And what a relief that we don't only have to pray for ourselves--that we can pray for others and they can pray for us. Really, I know I couldn't live without it.

Photo: jennw2ns (or it might have been another Jenn), Blindfolded, 2006.


Christianne said...

First off, I love this story, complete with the flash of brilliance and all the blethering. (Love the way you spelled it here.)

Second, I'm wondering if the awkwardness of praying in groups comes when we "put prayer ON," so to speak. Like, when we're gathered together and everyone decides to pray together, so we do all our getting ready for prayer stuff like going over specific prayer requests so everybody remembers what needs to be prayed for. Maybe this whole process also stirs up our subconscious confusion about how prayer actually works with God and how He decides to answer them -- like, if we word our requests in a certain way, maybe it will make even MORE sense to God and He'll be sure to answer them more speedily and in the way we want.

All this time, we're getting more and more distant from the communion of it all, between us and God and everyone else present, and focused on the ACT of it. Putting it on. (Not intentionally, of course. It's just part of the training of the church to get ourselves in proper order and form.)


And then, when things like this happen, like what happened with your pastors, it was different because it arose spontaneously out of a place of Spirit movement. They were moved to pray for you. They prayed grace -- true grace -- all over you. They communed with God as they had communed with your spirit. It just worked, somehow, the way it was probably meant to.

No idea about all this, but it's one shot at understanding the thing.

The Cubicle Reverend said...

Being 33 I understand what you are talking about. I felt like there was something I should be doing. Just being here (where ever here was) couldn't be right.It started to affect (or is it effect) my work. I was watching people I knew moving on to new towns or new jobs leading incredible lives and I wondered why it wasn't happening that way to me. I kept temping for much longer than I should have because it was easier than committing to any one job and feeling like I was stuck again. Oddly enough it wasn't until I got the job I am at now doing something I never expected to do when I realized it wasn't so bad, that GOd was leading as he felt I was ready to be lead.

Jenn said...

Christianne--I got blethering from GreekGeek, but I didn't want to link to her from that word this time, because the connotation in this post was kind of negative and I didn't want to put that on her!

Furthermore, I like what you had to say about "putting prayer ON." That makes a lot of sense. And you're right--I think it often is a way of trying to manipulate God in the end (not to mention that even if that doesn't work, at least we might impress the people around us). I guess probably sometimes our prayer needs to be intentional (as opposed to spontaneous, in this case) because it's also a discipline, and disciplines are, well, disciplines. But probably sometimes we're not very disciplined in the first place, so then prayer does end up being "put on" and there is little room for spontaneity because we haven't grounded ourselves in the constant communion with God to begin with. Or . . . something. Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts and dialogue here.

CubeRev--That's a good perspective. I think about every five years I have to go through that all over again. I feel like usually it's because God IS moving me on . . . but the very process undermines my sense of self-worth because it makes me feel unstable. But of course at the end of the day, a sense of "self-worth" is itself unstable, because my worth comes from the One who's leading me, and not from what I DO, anyway.

Young Christian Woman said...

I think I have mentioned that sometimes I get a little caught up in the whole how/why/etc. we should pray thing too. And this is all that He has given me:

"This, then, is how you should pray:
" 'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. (MT 6:9-13)

Craver Vii said...

Can I say that I really appreciate you, Jenn? Thank God for pastors, and tears and prayer.

Oh... about the picture... I thought it was a bizarre cross between two unrelated Biblical accounts. Moses strikes the Joash offering.

Jenn said...

YCW--good reminder.

Craver--thanks! I appreciate you, too. And your rather off-beat sense of humour.