Lord God, protector of all who trust in you,
Without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy;
Support us always by your love.
Guide us to use the good things of this world,
That even now, we may hold fast to what endures forever…
This is the prayer laid out for me this morning in my Benedictine Handbook. It’s not a prayer for Lent or a prayer for a certain holy day. It’s simply a prayer for a Wednesday, which is perhaps the most difficult kind of prayer to pray—to recognize on an ordinary day, a day of simple work and encounters and vague remainders of thoughts and struggles and joys in my head—that the good things I experience are a picture of who God actually is, a picture of what endures beyond the ordinary.
This morning I sat down with God, coffee in hand, and my first words of prayer were not, as Benedict would have it, “Oh Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise.” My words were, “I wish you weren’t so mysterious and I didn’t have to doubt you so much.”
I have no reason to be feeling that way this morning, other than the fact that my mind is running through my unsatisfied God-problems on a regular basis. Sometimes my frustrations with the God I don’t understand are louder than other times. They shouldn’t be today. Yesterday I had wonderfully encouraging news from my dear friend, Cat, who shared the ministry in Young Life with me for four years and is faithfully building up the work I left behind there. On the phone last night, she relayed story after story of beautiful things God is doing in kids’ lives, answers to requests that are written on my kitchen dry-erase board, names of kids I’ve been praying for. How is it that I can so clearly experience God’s healing of broken lives and still be ungrateful, still find every other reason I shouldn’t believe?That’s why I’m loving this prayer today: “With out you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.” Yesterday I wrote about a holy moment with August on the top of a mountain we’d hiked. My mom’s cousin sent me an email about that post, saying that she sees those moments as “real” moments. I love that. The truth is that in deep joy we are seeing ourselves and those around us as we were really meant to be apart from the brokenness of our lives. When God gives us beauty it’s the closest thing we know to what is actually real in this world. What we usually experience in our everyday fear and stress and monotony is a world that is out of order, not the reality God intended.
And so, today, my prayer is that we see what is strong around us, what is true: the good things. I pray that we would not walk into our offices or schools or lunch dates in fear but in joy, knowing that the real things are what endure forever. And while the mysteries and my God-problems and my moments of deep anxiety may push me into joylessness, even now, sitting on the couch, or in the car, or picking toys off the floor, or disciplining August, or kissing my husband, I can hold fast to what endures forever…