Boy, did I get schooled this week!

I used to like to tell people in my religiousy circles about how I prayed daily on the way to work. I explained to them how I felt the need to pray, had been told to pray every day and doing so on the way to work was the best alone time I had come up with. I would expound on how I couldn’t pray at night (too tired) and during the day I was too preoccupied with work and adulty stuff. I would encourage them to give it a try. “It starts my day off right” I’d say and puts things in perspective. “I just feel better” after having talked to God for 10-15 minutes on my commute. I used to tell them that. I’m afraid I can’t do that anymore.

For the past six weeks I haven’t worked. I had back surgery and due to some complications I was on disability, stuck at home, in a chair or in bed. The first couple of weeks were pretty rough pain-wise but slowly the pain would let up due to healing or good drugs (I’m not sure which) and give me some hours of relief. Those gradually increased and with some physical therapy and good luck I went back to work this past Monday. What does all this have to do with my prayer life? I guess a good Christian should never be guilty of this but I probably don’t fit that description as well as I once thought I did. The honest truth is, other than a few times when the pain got really intense and I talked to God about helping me out; I didn’t pray once.

I didn’t pray at my appointed, habitual time. I didn’t thank God for all the efforts my wife made to take care of me, even when I was anything but pleasant to care for. I didn’t thank Him for all the work my kids did in my place as we fixed up, cleaned up and spiffed up our house to sell. I didn’t praise him for the help of our friends who put in hard, hard work to help us toward getting the yard back in shape (a duty that should have been mine last fall) and I didn’t thank Him for the graciousness of other family members that let us hang out at their houses while ours was shown for sale. To be fair I thanked the people over and over again. I even blogged about the meaning of a sincere thank you. I did this all the while missing giving thanks to the One that put that giving on the hearts of so many that helped me out when I needed it. When I think about it I’m stunned at my density and I’m ashamed at the lack of care for my relationship with God.

True to form, He didn’t point this out to me when I was so far-off in my relationship with Him. He didn’t send some lightning bolt down or give me some epiphanic moment of wisdom. Nope, like any good father he pointed this out to me when I came back to Him. He showed this to me as I prayed on my way to work today. In a whisper, not a thunderclap, (I think there’s something biblical there) he showed me subtly, timely and directly just how jacked up I had this whole relationship thing. It’s said that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. I don’t know if that’s exactly how it goes but this time I hope I’m ready. I hope I get it right. I hope I’ve learned my lesson and my relationship with God has less to do with geography and convenience and more to do with connecting and depth. I know too well how the former type of association shakes out.

When our kids were younger we had the opportunity to hang out on a regular basis with the “baseball” parents or the “soccer” parents or even the “dance” parents. It was nice to get to know new people, good people, people we sat next to in bleachers, on benches and in auditoriums. We ate together, traveled together, sometimes partied together and of course we had a common interest, the accomplishment of our team’s goals. But a funny thing happened when the season was over. With the exception of a holiday party one of the families had every year and the occasional season-ending potluck; we never saw them again. Once the commonality and coincidence of our geography no longer existed, our relationship ended. True, if we were lucky we might pick it back up when the season rolled around again next year but for a few months it was as if we didn’t know these people. They just disappeared. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but I think God wants a bit more than that. Furthermore, I think any person would want more than that in their relationships.

So, is my praying on the way to work wrong? Should I only pray at home when I can go into a room and lock the door and be alone? (Another bible reference there, I’m pretty sure) No, I don’t think so. Where I think I went wrong was I made this a habit. Like brushing my teeth or using deodorant or tying my shoes I made praying and talking to God, who I should have an intimate relationship with, something I did between Rolling Ridge Road and 120th Street. It wasn’t that I wasn’t purposeful or sincere in my prayers, I was. I prayed prayers of thanks and concern and joy. I prayed for my family and my friends and people I barely knew. There wasn’t really anything wrong with my prayers but it turns out, there was something wrong with me. Maybe not right away but over time I lost the intimacy that God wants, just like any father wants. I lost the connection to His will in my life, like I want with my kids. I lost the relationship that every parent hopes and prays for with his children. So today, I started over.

I introduced myself to God. I told him I needed some help, some guidance and I spent some time just shutting up so he could talk to me. And during that drive, during rush hour traffic He said, “Hey, I’ve missed you. Where’ve you been” and then as it does now, it brought tears to my eyes. I don’t quite know how to begin again. I don’t quite know how to avoid the habit pitfall. And I don’t think that I can make it all better by an all-out praying blitz for the next six weeks to make up for lost time. What I do know is that the God I hope I know has a ton of grace. With His help all things are possible. And finally, He forgives a moron like me even when it takes him 40+ days to figure things out. At least, I’m praying that he does and meaning it for sure.

There’s nothing quite as humbling as coming to the realization just how clueless you are. You may not be in this position spiritually but I think what’s needed in any relationship is universal. If you know someone that might get something out of this I hope you’ll share it.

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