Sometimes the fragrance of a moment just reeks! I can think of so many times when I’ve noticed the stench first—news of death, a life-threatening diagnosis, or painful circumstances that appear to have long term effects in the lives of loved ones. A wrongful accusation setting legal gears in motion with no end in sight. A friendship going down for the third time (and the first two times went unnoticed). That can just be a couple weeks in the life of Jen in a tougher season. Who hasn’t had that instant when things are just so wrong, so incomprehensibly wrong? The news hits hard in the gut like a fist, not a molecule of air left in the lungs—then the gasp.
The lungs ache for the gasp of air desperately needed after the initial shock of the news. Sometimes it’s in the moment, and the cycle plays out immediately. Sometimes it’s not felt for hours, days, or weeks. One thing is pretty certain in my world: reality is going to hit. Sobs may come with uncontrolled tears, or stunned silence might win out for quite some time.
There’s a precious gift I sometimes receive after the fallout: the quiet place. I find the best, freshest perspective on the “reality” that hit in the quiet. Truth is, that’s when I start to grasp the real reality. And what is that?
What I see and experience isn’t all there is.
That’s it. If I can get there, then I’m getting somewhere!
In all those “stinky” moments that threaten to overwhelm me, sap my strength, or knock me to the ground, there is a whole other realm of reality in existence, and I have to remember that. Jacob saw it (Genesis 28:12). Jesus lived with full knowledge and assurance of it (Matthew 3:16-17). Three disciples were immersed in it (Mark 9:1-13). The twelve disciples experienced it after Jesus ascended (Acts 2: 1-12). Stephen saw the reality of it, too (Acts 7).
Dear Abba, let me always remember to walk by faith and not by sight! (2 Corinthians 5:7)
What if I am never given the opportunity to see it with my own eyes like the stories recounted in Scripture? Will my faith fail? Oh, I hope not! So, while the world is what I can see, I have to go where I cannot see. One way I do that is by prayer.
Recently, I heard a message on prayer. (That’s why I’m sitting here working this one out on the page.) The pastor simplified the prayer perspectives to a dichotomy; it was presented as God’s Will and Our Prayer. (See what I did there? I managed to simplify the simplification, and that’s probably not a fabulous idea.) That said, some lean toward prayer being God’s will alone; he has determined all things, and there will be no change. In the extreme, prayers might be forgone altogether with the understanding they are of no effect. Others size up the situation as our prayer alone; we pray, and we get what we pray for. This perspective in extremes has different troubles along the lines of power struggle, success and failure, manipulation of God, serious disappointment, even abuse.
I don’t regurgitate sermons here; suffice it to say I fall in between the two extremes. I am wholeheartedly sure of God’s sovereignty in all things with his wisdom and purposes being his own. That isn’t without sadness and struggle at times when I don’t understand the final decision. I also believe our loving Abba Father wants us to come to him in our need and ask! If I ask for something, as my good, heavenly Father, he’s not going to give me something evil in return (Luke 11:13, which does not promise we get what we ask for, I notice).
So in my quiet moment, after the gut punch and gasp, I sit and talk with my Daddy.
I talk with him about the pains (mine and others’). I ask the questions I so desperately wish to know the answers to. I share my whole heart, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes I tell him I can’t understand. Sometimes I tell him I think he might be wrong in allowing such things. I’m raw with emotion, just like anyone might be. But, I’m honest. I have to be.
Often, the fragrance of grace wafts through soon enough. Sometimes it mingles with saltwater tears. Sometimes it perfumes the air between the notes to the tunes I’m humming or singing. More times than I can count, I barely perceive it.
You see, I pray. I pray for me, my friends and family members, and our nation in fervent words. It’s not in the words, I’m sure. It’s in my hope that God will reveal his will in powerfully loving ways. In death, I’ve never seen a resurrected person, but I’ve seen him do amazing, loving things. In illness, I’ve seen supernatural healing, natural-medicinal healing, and what looks like no healing. Someday I’ll have the talk with him that reveals all of his wisdom, love, grace, and mercy in his will that I didn’t understand at the time. For now, I gather the crumbs that fall my way every so often. It is his will, after all, and it is backed by wisdom I can’t fathom with my limited mind and perspective.
But, I pray. I’m commanded to—without ceasing, for all the saints, for my enemies, for the sick (1 Thessalonians 5:17; Ephesians 6:18; Matthew 5:44; James 5:14)—because, who knows, God just may choose to move when he is asked.
God knows all things (1 John 3:20b). When his people humbly pray, he hears them (2 Chronicles 7:14).
The space for grace in prayer is that it deepens my relationship with my Abba and those in my life. I’m constantly reminded that I and this world desperately need him alone. The answers to my prayers aren’t the goal at that point, are they?
Because, who knows….
God will move, and I cannot begin to know how he will until he does.
Dear God, you are good—all the time. For my friends and family who have deep, heart-felt, desperate needs, for me who seeks your heart and real transformation, hear our pleas that rise to you in golden bowls. In your mercy, grant us grace for the struggles in everyday life. We pray because, who knows…