Today I got the news that my paper proposal was accepted at the Theatrical Theology conference being hosted by the University of St. Andrews in Scotland in August. This means that I get to present my thoughts on divine drama to a group of esteemed scholars and fellow researchers. Very good news. I hope that Dean joins me for a working vacation to a beautiful and intriguing part of the world.
Two days ago we attended the funeral of the man who first gave Dean a job when we moved to Montreal. He died of brain cancer. Very sad. The man's father wept openly as he gave tribute to a kind and generous son.
Life seems to be an uncomfortable mixture of joy and heartache these days. While my life appears to be on an upward trajectory both professionally and personally, many of my friends and acquaintances are battling some form of cancer or health crisis. I get updates and prayer requests several times a week; sometimes things are going well, other times there are disappointing setbacks. Honestly, I don't know how to pray. I sense their powerlessness and I feel mine as well.
I don't want to live in false hope where I expect Jesus to drop everything he is doing, immediately respond to my requests, walk into every situation I present him with, and miraculously heal everyone I know and love, ensuring that we all live happily ever after, free from pain and sorrow. That seems counter to the way I see God interacting with people in the scriptures. In those writings, there is a mixture of suffering and healing, and no discernible pattern, at least not one that I have figured out. It is not as simple as praying prayer A and then person B gets healed! And it is not like pain is ever totally absent from our lives.
I know God loves wholeness. I know he can heal. I know he wants to rescue us all from our brokenness. I know the good news is that we are not alone, abandoned to our own devices. And yet, I don't seem to pray with much conviction these days. I do ask for God to intervene. I do ask for healing. I always ask for people in horrible circumstances to know that God is with them and that his goodness surrounds them. I ask for God's will to be done. I ask for mercy. I say, "Come, Jesus." And then I throw up my hands, my words sounding so inadequate and droopy, and admit that I don't know, I just don't know.
At one point this week, I asked God if I was losing my faith. The fact that I'm still talking to him regularly probably means the answer is No. However, there seems to be a change in how I pray lately. Lots of silence. Meditating on simple truths. Lots of sighing. More silence. A few questions or requests. More silence. Adopting a position/attitude of surrender as best I can. Silence again. Saying more words, then stopping mid-sentence, leaving many prayers incomplete. Though my prayers don't feel very significant, they at least seem to be honest.
Where is my hope? My hope is in you, God. Not in miracles or reversals of fortune or comfortable circumstances or things turning out well. My hope is that your love is big enough and long and thick enough to cover everything. And everyone. My hope is that nothing is stronger than this love and that it will have its way, both now and in the times to come.
One of the words translated "hope" in the Hebrew bible is qavah. It is also translated as "wait" or "trust" in different versions. It comes from a root that means to bind together. And this is how I would describe my experience of hope and prayer right now: all I know how to do is bind myself to the Strong One.
the photo: some flowers in my neighbourhood. They remind me of Matthew 6 where Jesus talks about the careful attention God gives to flowers. "If my father cares this much for flowers which have a very short lifespan," Jesus asks, "how much more will he care for you?" And then he says: "oh you of little faith." Yes, me of little faith.