I had a birthday party on Friday night. Dean invited a few people over and we made food and talked and played games and even walked around the carnival set up at the local mall parking lot just before it closed. Pretty fun! Well, in theory, yes. As it happens, I just had one of the busiest weeks of the year with classes, assignments, meetings, and just a lot of stuff going on which meant I was over-tired from running from one happening to the next and trying to keep my list of things to do from falling behind and in the midst of it all, not getting a whole lot of sleep. I don't know about you, but I am not at my best when I am overtired.
As the evening progressed, I felt less and less like I was part of the festivities and more and more like the party was going on without me. I had the urge to leave the room and lie down somewhere so that I didn't have to be happy and sanguine and sociable and the perfect hostess and seen to be having the best time of my life which was really the furthest thing from the truth. We sat down to play a video trivia game and the cloud of isolation intensified. I didn't know what to do, but I was dying inside, so I did the unthinkable. I stopped the party. I got up, stood in front of the TV which brought the trivia game to a screeching halt, and said, "I'm sorry, I'm having a hard time. I feel really isolated and I just can't do this anymore." Silence in the room. One kind person offered to have me join his team, but it wasn't about being on a team. It was that I felt so very alone, even among some of my best friends.
They gathered around and prayed for me. It was what they knew to do. I just wept and blew my nose and remarked on what bad quality tissues I had purchased and didn't feel all that much better. On the inside, I was crying out to God, "What is going on? I don't want to feel like this! Why can't I enjoy this gathering? What do I do?" The words of reassurance kept going through my mind...You are not alone, you are not alone, you are not alone. I knew it was true, even though I was not feeling it at the moment.
More silence. My friends really didn't know what to do now. They cared, they appreciated my honesty; a few of them wondered what was going on while others had some empathy. We all sat there and looked at each other. And I wanted to change this from the worst birthday party ever to something that we could all remember with a smile. I was empty, I was tired, I was spent and lonely and whiny, but as I looked around at the faces of these people who would give up their Friday night to be with some pathetic emotional wreck, I wanted to give them a gift.
Earlier that evening I had come up with the idea to make my version of the fortune cookie which was an envelope with a blessing in it, a simple prayer for some particular aspect of life along with an every day item that symbolised the blessing. I handed these out after dinner and everyone seemed to be sincerely touched by the generosity of the words and how they uniquely applied to their lives. And I wanted to touch my friends more, to connect more, to go beyond hey that was a fun evening, we drank some wine, we ate some food, we played silly games and enjoyed each other's company. But I felt totally unable to connect with them in my current deflated state, and so I asked God what I could do. He told me that the only way I could really connect with them was to connect to him first.
And so I began with the person closest to me. I laid my hand on them and brought them before God and asked him for something big and special on their behalf. In a way, I simply let them hear how I prayed for them day after day. Out came my deepest longings for their completeness and wholeness, for their fullness of life experience and strength of character built on the consistency of right choices, for them to be continuously surrounded by a sweet bath of contentment in realising their belovedness, to know the constant care of a benevolent creator, a Father whose thoughts are always on them. And I asked for their lives to be blown forward by the wind of the spirit, for this time in their lives to be marked by significance and growth and success. I did not choose my words as carefully as I usually do, I did not keep my eyes on them to watch for a reaction, I just reached out to my God and asked him for dear and precious gifts for my dear and precious friends.
Connecting with people is a hard thing for me to do sometimes, especially when I am tired. But connecting with God is easier sometimes when I am in a vulnerable state. He is close, he is attentive, he is attracted and drawn to my weakness. He loves it when my guard is down and I see just how much I need him. He loves my honesty, he loves my humility, he loves the fingers of my soul reaching out for help when I am drowning in my pitiful alone-ness. I am a witness to this mystery that the place where you run out of your own resources, this place where you find yourself flat on your ass with nothing to cushion your fall is the place where you will find something stronger than a little help. You will find transformation.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. James 1:2-4 from The Message
One of my friends remarked at the close of the evening...best prayer ever!
This is a one of those wonders, a leaf which changes colour, on the sidewalk on the way to my French class last week.