Monday, June 15, 2009

On prayer

Alright, I have to tell you- I thought I knew this and perhaps you did too- which is why I'm announcing it like this. Because it hit me like a baseball bat a few weeks back and has radically changed my life, this unparalleled discovery, this unbelievable happening.
Did you know...get ready for this, people. You may want to sit down here...Did you know that
God is Actually REAL?

Wait, wait- don't hang up...this isn't preachy, I promise.
I'm not playing around here, honestly. And I certainly don't want to get 'religious' because as most of you know- that's really not what I'm about. But apparently I'd been going along thus far in my life really thinking that I knew this, when in fact, I did not. Not really. My prayer life sucked, to be frank. I just didn't do it unless I had to. Big investments, big problems, enemies that I wanted God to smite...or is it smote?...whatever, the point is that I approached prayer with the same hopeful, yet doubting regard, that I used to approach my magic eight ball when I was a kid.
Does Bobby like me???? *pleaseohpleaseohplease* shake the fabulous eight and wah lah! Yes, Bobby does like you and you will live happilyeverafter in a condo in Malibu.
Enter religion and the system changes to...
God, please keep the kids safe at school today and protect Ryan as he travels and pleaseohpleaseohplease let us be able to support our family this month... *shake the magic eight translates to 'say the magical phrase 'in Jesus name' at the end* and wah lah! Sometimes yes...sometimes no...sometimes wait. Just like the ball. And your odds are just about as good in prayer as they are with the little floaty triangle that HOLDS YOUR ENTIRE LIFE IN ITS INANIMATE HANDS!
I am reminded of our trip to Reno a few years back and my brief stint on the penny machines. I prayed more on that trip than ever. Put in my crisp one dollar bill and, you guessed it, *ohpleaeohpleaseohplease*...push the button and...darn it. Another dollar, another button push...disappointed again.
My prayers were EXACTLY like this with the same warning going through my head- 'prayers are based on chance and are for entertainment only. They are not intended for investment purposes." And do you know why? Because my belief in God was about as authentic as my belief in the floaty thing in the magic eight ball. I wanted to believe. But I just couldn't. I didn't know how to make myself believe in something that sounded too good to be true. so-
I asked God to introduce himself to me, to prove his reality if He was willing. And I went on with my life as if nothing was different, just waiting for the moment when He'd speak or one of the shrubs in my yard would catch fire...something, anything...that would tell me that he heard me.
In the meantime, I cared for my children, cleaned my house, went on playdates, did the laundry and I spent a week house sitting for my mom. It was during this time that I accidentally spilled a bottle of bubble bath in her jacuzzi tub. Everyone knows what happens when you do that right?

So there I am, bubbles literally over my head thinking it's awesome and laughing so hard I can hardly stand up. Ryan hears the laughter and comes to investigate. Bubbles everywhere...over the bath edge, all over the floor, up to the windows. We had to scoop them up and pile them in the shower to wash them down. Clean up was horrible- but the experience was so FUN, so full of innocent delight.
You think I'm getting off track, don't you? I'm not. Keep reading.

The following week my friend Holly suggests a prayer time with she and her friend Shelly. This particular time would be spent focusing on my 'original design', my internal makeup as God intended it when he created me. Skeptical? I was too. Because how do they know, right? Supposedly they ask God and He tells them. Even more skeptical? Me too. Because they could easily make something up. But I love Holly and I trust her in spite of her weird prayer life in which she actually believes she can hear from God. Shelly I don't know as well, but that worked out in my favor as I was about to conduct a very unprofessional scientific experiment.
I asked myself what I hoped to receive from this process and the answer was simple. Undeniable PROOF that God exists. Didn't have to be real to anyone else, but it needed to be absolutely clear to me. And it had to come from Shelly. I didn't know her as well, she didn't know me or my life- so I reasoned that if something personal, something she had no way of knowing, came about in this prayer meeting and came only from her, then that would be enough for me.

I began the time with my usual humor, cracking jokes, making fun- but trying to be as sincere and humble as I possibly could. This seemed silly to me, but I was willing to listen because who knows, right?

We're in the middle of praying, Shelly and Holly are saying words like jovial, spoken for, ingenious, justice, imperial.... All supposedly from God as He speaks it to them...words that were for me, my design as He intended it...sounds pretty good huh? and then Shelly stops and says "Lord, don't make me say it. Please don't make me say it."
uh oh. What does that mean? I'm getting pretty concerned and Shelly's holding her head in her hands....this is bad, I can feel it.
"ok, Melissa. I don't know what this means. And it sounds totally silly and I really don't want to say it, but I'm going to anyway."
Holly and I are looking at her suspiciously, looking at one another...and Shelly says,
"Bubbles." Long pause and we both ask simultaneously, "Bubbles??"
"yep. That's it. I don't know what it means, but that's it. Bubbles. Oh, and He delights in you."

I'll be honest people. I didn't get it. It wasn't until a day or so later, making a bath for my kids, pouring their bubble bath into our tub at home and watching the bubbles spread over the water, that I remembered that incident when we were housesitting. The spill, the laughter, that delighted, indulgent experience and in that moment I knew....undeniably, without a doubt, that HE had spoken to me. I sat there on the edge of my bathtub and laughed with joy. It caused me to draw all my wondering and exploration and questions into one reasonable conclusion; yes, people, there is a God. And he can see you in the bathtub. He delights in your laughter and finds joy in our play.

There is a God. This is HUGE. This is why they call it the good news. You know that feeling that you get when you're looking at your life and saying, "There's GOT to be more than this." Well, I'm here to tell you, yes, there is. We were designed to search for that, created to wonder if there wasn't more to it than just our own for-the-moment happiness. We were designed to search so that we could find what we ultimately need.

I've begun to pray about EVERYTHING. I prayed for strawberries the other day. I'm not kidding. I don't even know why I did it. I just had a craving for strawberry shortcake and right in the middle of the very brief, random prayer I get a knock on the back door. I was expecting my mom, so no surprise there- what WAS surprising was the giant bowl of garden grown strawberries in her arms. THIS KIND OF THING KEEPS HAPPENING TO ME! It's unnerving and cool at the same time.

So I'm just telling you- that if you have doubts or are just one of those people who says, No way- I'm not buying into the whole organized religion thing...that's ok. But I'd recommend this simple test. As sincerely as you can, ask God to prove his reality to you, to make himself known to you, to make it undeniable (if only for you). Think of it as an experiment. If nothing happens, you've lost nothing. If something happens, you've gained everything. These are much better odds than the penny machines in Reno or the magic eight ball. God is not silent, he is not absent, he is not an uncaring entity removed from humanities suffering and pain. He is real. He is real. I have to keep saying that over and over because it's so amazing, so life changing, so incredibly beautiful; this good news. He is not an inanimate object who's answers to our prayers are at His every dictatorial whim or which are so carelessly random that they have no impact on our lives.

And finally, in light of this, I have found one thing to be absolutely true; there is no trial so great, no pain so disabling, no wound so deep that His great love, his mercy and his ultimate realness are not more powerful and beautiful than those things which we encounter day to day. Why did it take me so long to get this??

"I lift my eyes up to the hills. Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip- He who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you- The Lord is your shade at your right hand;
The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm, He will watch over your life;
The Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forever more."
Psalm 121


Anonymous said...

well, if you're going to find your relationship with god somewhere, it's a much more enjoyable story when it's bubbles and a jacuzzi tub than one involving a sudden conversion to one of those fanatical, depressive 'proverbs 31 women'.

and who could resist, 'He delights in you'? really.

moments of clarity are rare for me, and not playful like this one, but incredibly peaceful and freeing. thanks for sharing yours. it was fun to read. ;D

meliken said...

Yeah- I, too, have resisted the Proverbs 31 thing. I could never picture myself that way. So instead of setting up a religious system to follow- I've condensed my whole belief system into two guidelines; love God and love others. That's it. Can't tell you how much better/clearer/freer/more peaceful I am since understanding that.
Love the 'He delights in you' thing, too, btw- read Zephaniah 3:17, you'll love it. It's my new favorite.Totally goes along with that.

Laura said...

this was a great blog...I've read it three times (so far)

jkroft said...

yah, yah, yah A><>J

rebecca said...

Ditto to Laura's comment, this is one of those blog post that I want to link to my own blog so others can read it as well.
and Hal, it appears you have never read Proberbs 31. It describes a wife of noble character as one who is a:
hard worker, an entreprenuer, compassionate to the poor & needy, plans for emergencies, keeps her home well supplied, is strong, dignified, is joyful, wise, not lazy, respected by her children & husband and fears the Lord.
Melissa, you fit this bill to a "T"! It actually fits quite perfectly with your two guidelines of loving God and loving others, don't you think? :)