I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

I was about to start my morning prayers and petitions, when suddenly, I just sighed. What good was all this? I mean, every day, I pray that “all who are hungry are fed” and of course, they aren’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t questioning whether God hears or why God doesn’t answer. I’ve long ago worked through all that “stuff.”

If God grants prayers, such as “cure Robbie’s cancer” but he doesn’t answer a similar prayer for an equally deserving victim, then, well, a lot of twisting has to be done.

We have to fall back on trite phrases such as “God’s ways are mysterious” or “we can’t know God’s plan,” or “God had other plans for ________.” They don’t satisfy. In fact the whole issue of how a loving God can allow such unspeakable pain and suffering in the world needs be addressed.

I believe prayer is efficacious because it brings us into direct, knowing, conscious contact with God, and because it makes us feel better to share our burdens and fears. I believe God does work in the world but not by miraculous cures. Rather he operates through those persons who open themselves to God working within them, as them. We do the miracles by allowing God to use us.

My sigh was in the forgetting of all this, more than anything else, and realizing that prayers can become formulaic and mindlessly offered. As such, they fail to achieve any purpose at all. So my sigh was much more to my own failure to make the moment sacred as anything else.

Life is not easy, not for anyone. There are long stretches perhaps when mostly things go okay, but problems, big or small will always be just around the corner. My family has run into one in the last few days. It will work itself out in time–patience is what is really needed.

As I found myself about to ask God to “work this out, and quickly too!”, I recognized my error. Back up girl, rewind.

God is not going to “work this out” God is going to be there in the messiness of life with me. It is how I decide to handle the “problem” that matters. How I do this will define just how much I trust in God’s presence in this problem.

The question becomes: Where is God in this trouble? How do I choose to respond to pressures to fix it. How to fix it? In what manner to fix it? Other people will be affected, or could be. How I see God, and what I see God to be, determines the choices I will make.

Seeing that God is squarely in the picture changes everything. It becomes the main factor in decisions.

My prayer becomes one of asking God to help me remain open to his transforming work within me. My goal is to do his will in all things.

I am always bemused by those who demand proof that all their faith is not in vain. This usually from ex-fundamentalists. No longer able to cling to a book of Holy Writ to give them specific answers to specific questions, they still demand that through some means of logic or reasoning God be perfectly deduced.

Fool me once, they say. Not again will they fall for faith that is not a sure thing.

Well, don’t count on it happening. Faith is messy. It’s full of sureties tested and found wanting, by insights gained, and lost, by faith soaring and at times pitifully weak and transparent.

I am so thoroughly convinced that it must be this way. Our relationship with God is of little value and is certainly not authentic if handed to us as a fait accompli. It is the mountain we must climb. We are not God, we are not entitled to this perfect unity of creature and Creator by simple virtue of being alive.

This is not some punishment being imposed by God, but rather it is God calling us forth to be really and truly human, something we have but a glimmer of. We sense we are much more than we see ourselves as, yet we don’t know how to become that on our own. God does. Jesus showed us the Way.

Believers by virtue of being such, don’t get a free ride. We don’t get to cut to the head of the line. Our lives are as chaotic and filled with ups and downs as anyone elses. We simply know that deep within us God waits for us, always offering wisdom, solace, and peace. We have a place to turn where we are never turned away.

Amen.

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