I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last few weeks. I caught the flu, which then turned into pneumonia, and I’ve had *way* too much time alone with my thoughts. Which is always dangerous. I can think myself into a vortex in a matter of minutes. I’ll spare you the ugliest of what I’ve seen in the looking glass lately and just write about one of the less-incriminating lessons I’m trying to learn.
Someone asked me yesterday how one could ever possibly pray without ceasing, as the Bible says. I’m not sure how others would answer that question, but I tried to explain to her how I pray. I said that I try to look at every interaction and every circumstance I find myself in as an opportunity for prayer. She wanted examples, so I tried to list some:
I prayed for the anonymous person who blessed me yesterday as I read his/her note, and I asked God to bless him/her tenfold. I pray for the girls on campus as I walk the halls every day. When I hear sirens, I pray for the people whose lives may be in danger. As a waiter or waitress serves me, I pray for them to be blessed. I pray for my friend’s dog with cancer to be healed every time I pet her. I prayed for the woman interviewing me yesterday, because she had sadness in her eyes. I pray for my friends’ children as I watch them play, that they would grow up to be healthy and strong and to have a heart like Jesus. I prayed for my friend as I watched her write, that God would bless the work of her hands and give her the desires of her heart. I pray for my co-workers as I eat dinner with them. I prayed for the nurse who called me this morning, and I thanked God for her caring heart. I pray for people I pass on the street to know that they are loved. I pray for the calories to be stricken from my body every time I eat a bowl of ice cream.
Okay, God may not hear that last one, but the point is this: I pray about everything and for everyone. All day long. Every day.
But then my friend asked, “Okay, so, how do you pray for yourself?”
I, uh, … I don’t know.
I had to think about it. And I didn’t like the realization I had.
It’s really, really difficult for me to pray for myself. And it’s not because I’m so humble and selfless and just want to spend all of my time praying for others (ha! although I do genuinely like to pray for others). It’s because of pride. And fear. I don’t know how to ask for things for myself, and I’m also terrified of what the answers to some of my questions might be.
I don’t mean to be prideful. I definitely don’t think I’m too good to accept help from others–I’m just so accustomed to being alone and having to do things independently, that I don’t know how to ask for help. I so don’t want to put anyone out or be a burden. In those rare moments when I do find a voice to tell someone what I need, I feel insecure and embarrassed and want to apologize for asking before they even have a chance to respond. I say that I want to live in a true community more than anything else, and I do (a post about community will be coming sometime in the near future)–but when it comes down to it, I don’t do very well with letting people into my world. I know what’s happened in my life to shape me that way. But it is still a form of pride. And one that comes out in my prayer life with God too, because I don’t know how to express my own needs to Him and to trust that He not only will meet them, but He wants to meet them.
And then there’s the fear…God knows I’ve got plenty of questions to ask! But I don’t know if I’m prepared to hear most of the answers, so I just don’t go there. Oh, I pray before making decisions and I ask God to increase my faith and I seek Him for guidance…on some things. On things like jobs and living arrangements and which church to go to. But on matters of the heart and my hopes and dreams (and fears and doubts), I often tuck them away because I’m not sure I want to hear the response.
I think I used to be a lot braver than I am now. I used to ask the tough questions under my covers by flashlight at night, long after everyone else in the house was asleep. I used to lay my heart bare before God, and I used to dream a lot bigger than I dare to dream now. I wasn’t scared of the answers, and I was willing to take enormous risks. But something happened as I grew older…life can be cruel and defenses are easy to build. I fell into pride and fear somewhere along the way, and I started focusing on everyone else so that I didn’t have to face myself.
In short, I am a prideful coward.
So I’m going to work on that. And the many other lessons that God is trying to teach me. I might need an extra dispensation of grace, God. Thanks for being patient with me.