Lately I have been feeling dried up spiritually. Its been a hard few years in a lot of ways (its also been a great few years in a lot of ways) but the hardness has taken its toll on me, particularly when it comes to my spiritual life. I have tried all my fool proof methods of the past for kickstarting my spiritual metabolism but this time around they all seem shallow and frankly, require a little too much effort.
Last week was particularly difficult. I found myself catapulted into an emotionally charged and heartbreaking situation that required much of me physically, emotionally and even spiritually. The physical aspect was hard but really, motherhood does nothing if not show you just how little sleep you can thrive on, so that was easily survived. The emotional stress was harder and definitely took its toll but I am so fortunate to have an amazing support system in my life that gave me just the right word at just the right time and rescued me from becoming lost. But the spiritual toll, that is the one I am still stinging from.
I found myself repeatedly in these situations, where it was obvious that the correct and most important answer of the moment was to pray, to simply hit the pause button and seek God’s heart and guidance, and yet I kept feeling this resistance towards that solution. Even in the midst of the people around me in the same crisis hitting their knees, it felt too much like going through the motions for me. It felt like it was too much to ask for in a time when I don’t know which way is up to God or what in the ever loving heck He think He is doing.
Halfway through last week it hit me why I was so resistant to prayer: I had lost the words. In the middle of the night when I would lay awake and turn the day’s events over in my mind, there were no words. I would search the far corners of my mind for the flowery language and promises of my youth to come forward and give me the comfort that can only come from hearing that oh so special and craftily worded prayer. If I am brutally honest with myself, I have come to view prayer as a spell casting practice. Say the right words with the right rhythm and the right Truth to them and all suddenly feels well. Its not actually well but it feels better for a minute. I had lost the cadence. My words felt flat and useless. And honestly, they were stuck somewhere in the back of my throat. It’s as if I could feel the emotion of where they use to reside in my brain. Like someone just falling victim to Alzheimer’s, I could sense the mental filing cabinet where they use to reside, but I couldn’t quite locate the file.
I pushed through this mental gap halfway through last week, knowing and believing that my God cares very little about how I perform and simply wants to engage with me and I found myself with one little prayer on my lips: Please help.
I’ll be honest, the first time that two word sentence (barely a sentence, really) escaped my lips, I was instantly embarrassed. That’s all I’ve got? Please help?! What is that nonsense?! Levi could achieve that prayer. In fact, Levi says that sentence at least a good 20 times a day. I had just beyond my mental fingertips a bevy of spiritual poetry. Heck, the amount of Scripture memorization I have accomplished in my 33 years is “impressive” (King James Version mostly, thank you very much). And I, in a moment of complete and utter crisis and pain, come up with “Please help.”
I allowed this to pass for a few days, knowing that I would be seeing my counselor later that week and she would be able to clear these spiritual cobwebs and make some sense out of this newfound lacking. To my complete surprise and slight dismay, Jules thought it was perfect. In fact, she appeared to be even slightly proud of me for being able to reach for such humble mutterings in a time of great need. She has been walking with me on this path of spiritual confusion and wasteland and she was next to thrilled that I had left my Pharisaical leanings behind and was just asking God for exactly what I needed in the moment. She reminded me of how beautiful it is to hear someone who has just met God try to communicate all that they feel, without knowing any of those flowery words we all to soon begin to rely on. She reminded me of the awkwardness and the simplicity and the innocent earnestness that comes with those first few conversations with God. Its so hard to get back to that, isn’t it? And yet, when we can return to our days of brutally and painfully talking with God, we remember the simplicity we have forgotten in a seemingly complex world.
Its been a week now of me letting those two words permeate every breath in and out that I take. And I have found that as I have rested in them and wrestled through them that other words are coming. They still aren’t complex and pretty but more and more of those mental filing cabinets are opening just a little bit at a time and the basic Truths that I have known my whole life about God are the ones that are escaping through those crevices. And I no longer feel ashamed of my simple and crucial, “Please help.” It might have just saved me.