In the Wilderness
Margaret Polly of Salem, OR, USA
Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me…Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ -Matthew 25:34-36, 40
I was taught that if I prayed hard enough, paid my dues, and was kind and generous, my prayers would be answered in a kind of transactional arrangement. However, after a lifetime of wrestling with God over important matters and sensing that my prayers were falling on deaf ears, I have given up the traditional prayers of petition and intercession. My old God has been surrendered to the creative Divine Wild Mystery God who cannot be known, tamed, or manipulated by my actions. My prayers have simply become ones of gratitude and thanksgiving.
I thought I was at peace with this. Then this past summer, I lost my sister. She didn’t die, although it feels like it. Her schizophrenic brain, her paranoia, and her delusions took her away from us. She abandoned her daughter, her apartment, and life as she knew it to live on the streets where she feels safer.
Loving someone with mental illness can be a barren place with dry ravines where cries for help are never answered because there are no answers. Help us, help us, help us. The ill person is not alone in their wilderness. They sweep up those who love them, carrying them along down their own despairing rocky road.
How I yearn for my old God! How I want to pray enough or give enough tithing that God will intervene. I want to guarantee that God will provide an oasis for her in the midst of her troubled life.
I have moments of despair in the unknowingness of this strange, unwelcome terrain. Although I feel alone, I know that many others share this experience of loving and grieving. But I surrender in this desert space. I am dwelling together with the Divine mystery, looking and longing for peace. They say the wilderness can be a place of healing. Is it? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know.
Each morning, before the sun comes up, I slip into my sacred space where I meet God. I hold my sister in the light. I send love to her. I try to be thankful, and I prepare for a day of gratitude.
Let your heart be broken for a world in need. -Bryan Jeffrey Leech, \xc2\xa9 1976 Fred Bock Music Company, Community of Christ Sings 353
Lament is an expression of our grief, sorrow, and sometimes confession to God amid the brokenness, injustice, and suffering of the human family. Lament is a major theme of the psalms and an invitation to “let our hearts be broken” as we humbly pray for awareness of right and restorative action. Spend time each day this month practicing the prayer of Lament.
Loving God, break my heart open to my own and others’ suffering because of injustice. Help me stay with what is real even when it is uncomfortable.
Forgiving God, grow in me an awareness of the ways that I consciously and unconsciously contribute to systems of violence, suffering, and injustice.
Healing God, open my eyes to invitations to relieve the physical and spiritual suffering of others.
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.