When I was in college, I fell in pretty hard to the church scene. I would go to these gatherings at 9 pm every Tuesday (a time slot that my current 9:30 pm bedtime cannot even fathom), and see loads of friends and sing our little baby hearts out to worship songs and listen to a sermon and generally feel connected and valued. It was a great place, a great community, and a story for another time. But when I would spend time alone, not raging until 11 pm on a Tuesday, I would take some "quality time with God", which ended up being me writing down prayers in a leather bound journal that I bought at the Barnes and Noble in U-Village. As with all of my journals, I still have it, and the other day I cracked it open, half wincing for my 20 year-old self and her woes, half so curious to remember all that was so true then, that thankfully passes with time eventually. True to memory, most of my writings were prayers, mostly for friendships and crushes. I wrote about the same boy for about 2 years, many friendships, papers that were due, internships and career dreams realized and lost, general next steps. I haven't been as diligent about writing or praying since, and even though so much of me feels different now, I love that I have these records of what I believed and what I wanted, because you can tell an awful lot about someone from what they believe and what they want.
Back then, I had this notion of God and of prayer that I will lovingly call transactional, not un-ATM-esque. At the heart of my worship fervency laid a fundamental view that my prayers (ie, longings, desires, general anything's) would be answered and fulfilled if I was emphatic or disciplined enough. This would be a highly convenient system if it was true, mostly because of its ease, but also because that is how a lot of us have set up our lives; we are always seconds away from getting anything we could ever want or need, and if you have the capital and are able-bodied, there are very few obstacles.
The last (few months, but especially) week or so has been a trying one for my family. This is not the place to go into details, but it's not an unfamiliar story for any of us. Bodies break down in this imperfect and frustrating way and people you love aren't invincible, and even though we know that, and it's how life is, so on and so forth, it's not so casual or distant when it happens-- it can't be; it shouldn't be.
Way back in the journal days, when there was something that I wanted badly enough I would decide that that prayer deemed a different sort of reverence, so instead of writing it down or just saying it out loud, I would get on my knees, because at some point someone said that that was the way to do it, and I would beg. It was raw and connected, a far cry from the way I would conduct myself in front of people, and long before I had any beliefs one way or another about how our bodies are connected to every other part of us, it felt special and real.
I've never been great at figuring out what I want, if we're being honest. My best friend and I growing up would have sleepovers on Friday nights and ask each other "what do you want to do?", and she'd say that she didn't care, and I said that I didn't care, and we'd go back and forth like that until some blessed opinion would surface, probably from one of our siblings roaming the house while we sat in our 9-year-old complacency. Maybe it's that I've always been more externally focused than the average bird, taking my cues wherever I could find them, or maybe girls and women aren't typically encouraged to be opinionated; we're taught that flexibility and accommodation is the mark of feminity, and so we float.
There's another view, I think a truer view, which leaves us where we are. It's where I currently am when I think or talk about my family, or career and the questions therein or anything else that feels unfinished, maybe even fragile. It's not active movement from point a to point b, it's been difficult to articulate or share, but I wonder if most of life and of prayer is learning to deal with the tension of where we want to be and where we are, what we want and what is not yet, and that the most we can so often hope for is to not have to deal with it alone.