Sometimes I Sit Inside the Fog of My Prayer

The morning is gentle. I’ve come at the perfect time to sit and pray near the old living room windows. The black sky imperceptibly begins to glow blue beyond the brick school outside. I’ve found a skillfully crafted wooden chair with arms sanded to sloping curves for my forearms; the back built of slim columns, all bent to support the curvature of its inhabitant’s spine. Even the seat has been shaped and angled, as a gift meant for a body to be kindly held. I’m meant to sit here, now, with the glowing sky, this chair, my morning coffee, and open solitude.

The sign of the cross, coffee on the window sill, closed eyes. I’m opaque inside today. I pray about yesterday. Why was I so anxious about grading those papers? Gratitude for time to rest. Thank you, God, for healing calm for my racing thoughts and fears. But wait – can I let that rest? I remember there was something I worried about. What was it? How bad was it? Maybe I should just let it go. But what if I let it go and it was actually serious, and I’m left with a dark, festering wound on my soul? 

My open attention breaks, eyes open, and stomach twists and tightens. Here we go, maybe, down the rabbit hole of scrupulous rumination. Gratefully, the potentially threatening memory passes quickly this time. My chest and shoulders sigh in relief.

My inner gaze flits here and there. Where do I go? I should stop and step back for some distance, to see how I feel about how I feel and what God might say. How do I know when my own thinking stops and God’s voice starts? What about the silence? Should I make an effort to think about something? What if doing nothing is not making the necessary effort? What does it even mean to “try” in prayer, if it’s all God’s grace anyway? How much should I feel? Does that even matter? I’ve been told not to rely too much on feelings, which are fleeting. But then again, feelings run a spectrum of depths and meaning; some rising certainly from a much richer realm than others. 

Then yesterday again. I almost forgot what occupied so much of that time. I was driven, all day, prompted by one of my high school junior student’s queries in class, to answer the question of how the Church’s sexual teachings are in fact humanly good. I knew I’d critically examined this before, but now I was left troublingly incapable of recollecting my thoughts, unsettled, unwilling or unable to set the question aside. Stuck in this fog myself, how could I responsibly teach?

That fog; that’s me today. I’m wandering, but right now everything hides in the mist. Why, God? 

Suddenly, memory strikes with the feel of that familiar wisdom that has grown roots through my bones, blood, and soul. A reminder that this fog is a gift. It gets me out of the way; ridding my mind of schemes and ideas that move God from the director of God’s cosmic, personal play to simply an actor in mine. 

I fall into the relief of trust. God, with the fog, has taken care of my expectations that might taint a message. There’s purity here, like a hot steam carpet cleaner that gets out those especially stubborn stains. 

***

Accepting foggy uncertainty is out of style. One must take a side and remain quiet about doubts. Admitting “I don’t know”, especially when you are expected to know, is painful. 

Maybe this is okay; I mean, don’t we need answers? Doesn’t conviction stand for something? Regardless, what I do know is that I’ve misjudged enough in the past to know that even my most embedded beliefs can be mistaken. I know that prayer has taught me to be willing to let go of even my most secure moorings that I might begin transforming into what I couldn’t have imagined. 

Maybe a little more acknowledged uncertainty could help us heal. If we allowed ourselves and members of our “groups” to listen, rather than barricade our position with the idea that listening means weakness, and weakness means losing, our empathy could expand. 

Maybe we could see that, sometimes, we find ourselves in small separate caves of false ricocheting reassurances. Maybe we will remember that the great light of the sun is outside, and remember that the initial painful blindness is only a sign that our sight is being returned by the one who really does know the Way.

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Photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash

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