A Dangerous Prayer

Photo by wenzday01 via Flickr

At 9:55 a.m. on a Sunday morning, we wrestled one unwilling girl and two boys along for the ride up the mauve-carpeted aisle to the empty front pew beside the music area. Christian put a protesting Julianna at the end by the teen ensemble, where she could have maximum exposure to the music. The community hummed around us as the kids unpacked the church books. Alex shoved The Clown of God into my hand, and even though I hate that book, even though we really don’t read to the kids anymore at church, I obliged, since there were still five minutes before Mass started.

When the guitar began—a very distinct strum pattern—my ears perked up. I knew it, but I couldn’t place it until the teens began singing: Open the eyes of my heart, Lord…

I closed the book, but the music peeled off into silence; they were only checking sound. It was Communion before the song resurfaced, and the arrangement of the pew had shifted; after wrestling Julianna up to Communion, she sat at my end of the row. I closed my eyes and tried to internalize the prayer.

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. I want to see you.

It took all of three seconds to realize that this is a very dangerous prayer. Dangerous, because to be open to God is to see things that force us to rethink our most cherished convictions. Any philosophy, any belief, any certainty—however pure and noble and holy—can become an idol, fixed in stone and incapable of responding to a reality that is in constant motion. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it just means that it’s become self-serving instead of God-centered. The hallmark of spiritual growth is uncertainty, a painful awareness of how much we don’t know, and a longing, a questing, to understand more, to embrace the unknowing.

I’m going through one of those soul-stretching times right now, largely off the radar of this blog, because the subjects are too personal. Insights into the nature of oneself never come singly; they always pile one atop the next until I’m sure the tower must come tumbling down into a pile of rubble, burying me in the collapse.

Of course, it never does. I’m always grateful for soul-stretching…after it’s done. In the middle of it, not so much. It’s more like a scrabble for traction at the edge of a cliff. But, like seeking a fourth pregnancy, even though large parts of my mind cried out, “Enough!”, being open to God is a conscious choice to look big picture, to focus long-term instead of allowing myself to be overwhelmed by the difficulty of the present.

It would be easier to build my beliefs and philosophies around me. But I know that doing so will only trap me inside, until I discover, too late, that God is all around, and I’m on the wrong side of the wall to meet Him. And so I won’t close the door on further stretching. I’ll keep praying that dangerous prayer. I’ll keep questioning, and seeking, and living with uncertainty, in the hopes that as I stumble along, a power greater than me will keep me from hurtling into the abyss to either side.

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