It was one of those prayers that come with tears.
It was a while ago, and I was lying in bed before falling asleep—the space and time when I often assess the day with God. Looking back at my successes and failings, hopes and hurts. Asking for forgiveness, for help, for hope in our sometimes—jaded world.
This day I felt vulnerable. There was a new guy on the scene. We'd been out a time or two. And I was intrigued. For me, relational interest doesn't come so much in physical infatuation or we-just-clicked chemistry, but in hearing certain details about a guy and wanting to know more. Wanting to get to the bottom of his story.
Problem is, I had no idea what he was thinking. As my interest piqued, as my feelings grew, so did my chance to get hurt if he wasn't interested or if we weren't a good fit after all. With each e-mail and phone call and dinner out, I was inching farther out on that limb—and looking down made me realize I had a ways to fall.
The "looking down" didn't come from pessimism so much as from experience. It's just that at this point in my tenure as never-married single woman, all my romantic relationships have ended.
But as a child of God, I know I'm not just doomed to grit my teeth and hope for the best. I know I have a Savior and Redeemer looking out for me. So, lying there staring at my ceiling, I asked him to guard my heart. "I'm not saying this has to be ? it's God. But could you please protect me from a crash and burn?"
As soon as the words escaped my lips, I could almost see them bounce off the ceiling above me and land in a little crumpled heap on the floor. As I contemplated this image, I felt a slow rising of doubt and anger inside me. And surprise at these feelings.
I tried to stay in the moment, to see what would surface in this odd jumble of emotions. After a little while, the words came tumbling out: "You know, the last time I prayed this, I did crash and burn. The one heartbreak I asked you to protect me from, that one specific disappointment is exactly what happened. So bringing this prayer again to you feels futile. You didn't guard my heart then; why should I think you will now?" My silent tears communicated the rest of my hurt.
The words hung in the air. I wondered if they alarmed God as much as they did me. I hadn't realized I was still angry over that old relationship's demise. I hadn't realized my anger had turned toward God.
I hadn't realized what I was feeling until the words spilled out: "I know you're trustworthy, but you don't feel very trustworthy right now."
Sure, I know God isn't Santa, granting the wishes of good boys and girls. But it wasn't as if I'd wished for a pony or a winning lottery ticket. I'd humbly asked not to have my heart shredded. Surely that's in line with the wishes of a loving God.
And I know relationships are risky—that many of the best things in life are out on that limb, requiring courage, effort, and trust. And most assuredly I'm not the only Christian who's felt this letdown. Many have prayed for God to save a marriage, heal a child, provide a job—and received seemingly no response in return. "Where were you, God?" we ask in angry or disappointed tones.
Because even when we know that following Christ isn't a free pass from pain, disappointment and loss still sting. Especially when we've specifically asked to be spared from them.
As I lay there with these old wounds and fresh realizations, I also realized that while I lacked trust, I didn't lack faith. In fact, it was my faith in God's ability to have changed things that birthed the disappointment.
So as my anger and doubt spilled out, I couldn't think of anywhere else to take them. Friends, shopping, exercise, copious amounts of chocolate could all provide temporary relief, but none of them held the power to change anything, including me and my attitudes. I decided to lean into my feeble faith.
I thought of Psalm 139:7-10: "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast." Not necessarily protect, but guide and hold fast.
In light of these verses, I took my anger and disappointment and distrust to God, knowing he's big enough to handle them all. "You're all I've got," I spoke aloud. "I know in my bones that there's nothing else but you. So here I am, anger and doubt and all. I know there's no guarantee things will turn out any differently this time. But I ask anyway. Please protect my heart. Please show me what I'm supposed to learn in all this. Please bring your will." And in a prayer inspired by Mark 9:24, I said, "I trust; help my distrust."
These words didn't bounce off the ceiling. I felt them float up, and I felt something like relief for saying them. And peace, like a thin blanket, covered me.
So I dried my eyes, rolled over. And finally went to sleep.
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