A son whose mother is sliding into dementia. A woman whose husband died of cancer, leaving her alone with their two children. A woman whose baby granddaughter died. A woman diagnosed with inoperable Stage IV cancer that’s metastasized to her liver. A man whose life partner committed suicide. A man who is losing his vision. A wife whose husband suffers from severe arthritis and non-healing seeping leg wounds. A closeted gay person struggling with self-loathing. A man whose daughter was sexually abused by his brother. A man whose 40-year-old family business is struggling to survive. A woman whose exceptionally rare Stage IV cancer has failed to respond to treatment. A young woman struck down by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. A transgender man worried he will be “ugly and no longer desired for anything.” A woman whose daughter was again arrested for drunk driving. A woman battling profound loneliness. A man far from home battling the same. A woman so struggling with depression she wishes she were dead. A woman struggling with depression and alienation. A woman who simply wants to quit being so terribly harsh on herself. People struggling with anger, bitterness, loneliness.
Lots and lots of loneliness.
If you’re just joining us, the above are prayer requests from our Thanksgiving 2012 Healing Prayer Exchange. If you haven’t already done so, go read through the requests left on that post. Bring tissue. Bring a box of tissue. Better yet, just screw off your nose and leave it in a drawer somewhere. Where you’re going it will only get in the way.
Man oh man alive.
Here is my prayer around all the beauty, sadness, courage, and love evidenced in the 250-plus comments to that post.
As deeply as it pains me to say it, I am afraid that I have no choice but to send you the bill for the Thanksgiving dinner of mine that you totally ruined.
Hello?! Trying to enjoy a little turkey over here! Pretty sure the special secret ingredient for really delicious gravy isn’t tears.
And you also owe me for the plate I broke when I let my head crash down on our kitchen table while I was reading the prayere requests. It wasn’t one of our best plates or anything. But I liked it. It had sunflowers on it. And now it’s useless. Plus now my whole forehead is one giant lump. I look like a Klingon.
I feel like a Klingon.
Only there’s no one to fight. There’s no enemy I can attack.
There’s just us. There’s just us and this overwhelming amount of pain.
Lord, with every last fiber of my being I want to thank you. Thank you for the infinite power of the human spirit. You didn’t give us some of the key things that we at least feel that we should have, Lord. Mainly, you didn’t give us full knowledge of you. I understand why that is. I know that if we knew you the way we know ourselves, Lord, we’d have nothing to hope for, nothing to aspire toward. And without hope we’d have no purpose. I get that. I get the system we’re in.
But in times of real pain and suffering, Lord, we are hard pressed against all that we don’t know of you. And that hurts. That’s when we most want answers. That’s when we most need surety. That’s when your silence leaves us feeling most alone, frightened, vulnerable. When we most need your help is when we feel most helpless.
So what then do we do? We do the only thing we can do: we look back to ourselves.
And then there we are. And some of us will have around us family, friends, spouses, children to love and love us back. Others of us will be surrounded by nothing but cold dark air.
But each of us will have the one thing that cannot be taken from any of us. That cannot be conquered. That cannot be compromised. That cannot be extinguished.
Each of us, no matter what, will remain in possession of the one thing that always wins. That always endures. That always survives. That is always capable of delivering us back into the light, back to wisdom, back to peace, back to love.
And that is the core–the essence, the irreducible fact—of our spirit.
We don’t know shit. We can’t see the future. The past is a phantasm of fleeting images. The present disappears before it’s arrived. We don’t know where we were before we were born, and we don’t know where we’ll be after we die.
We. Know. Nothing.
And yet at the same time we know everything we need to know.
We know that we can survive. We know that we can carry on. We know that we—not you, not someone else, not anyone but we ourselves—get to decide how we process our pain, how we deal with our struggles, what we make of the circumstances given us. We know the only thing any of us most desire to know—the most precious thing any of us can know—which is that we have the inalienable, inviolate, ineradicable, sacrosanct right to claim for ourselves dignity. Grace. Balance. Respect. Compassion. Wisdom. Love. Humor.
Everything that is best and most noble about the human spirit and experience is ours for the claiming.
And you did that. You gave us that light. And you made sure that it was ours, and ours alone, to control: to fan, to nurture, to rekindle, to keep alive no matter what.
Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for that light.
Please, Lord, be with everyone suffering today. Be with anyone feeling frightened and alone, overwhelmed by their challenges, weakened by despair, crushed by defeat. Let all who are in pain feel relief.
Point us again—inexorably, inevitably—toward that flame. Hold us as we hold our hands toward it.