And it is that I start totally worrying and fretting over the thing I am praying about, as I am praying about it.
It makes me a nervous wreck.
It doesn't make for a very good prayer life.
And I should really know better.
HOW DID THIS HAPPEN???
I am a 52-year-old Catholic lady. I have been praying for a long, long time. But, it suddenly dawned on me, a couple of months ago, that over the past 10 years, I have turned my prayer life into a source of constant stress.
I guess it kind of all started when something bad -- very, very bad -- happened to my family. I will not get into all that here, but the stress associated with that event started to affect my prayer life. I didn't really notice it, but as I look back, I can see where it started. And over the past few years, my parents both passed away after long struggles with illness. My dad died of cancer and my mom died of complications associated with congestive heart failure and subsequent heart surgery. None of it was pretty. But, through everything I prayed and -- somehow -- prayer stopped being a source of peace for me and became, instead, a source of stress. I didn't really see all of this clearly, until rather recently.
This is now what I do when I pray: I sit quietly, I place myself in the presence of God, I thank Him for the many blessings I have received, and I begin to speak to Him about my concerns and intentions. And then my mind begins to wander down all the possible and terrible paths the situations I am concerned with might take. And I wonder if God will stop these situations from taking on these awful forms. I begin to get all upset with all the suffering people in the world and I wonder if God will send something good my way when He obviously didn't send something good the way of the Doctors Without Borders hospital. And then I start envisioning the carnage at the Doctors Without Borders hospital. And then I start thinking about the insanity of so many "Christians" these days, who are so mean. And then I get rather annoyed with God. And then I realize that it's really not God's fault, because God gives us our freedom, including the freedom to do horrible things to each other. And then I wonder why I am even praying, at all. And I become convinced that the worst possible thing is going to happen to the person I had been meaning to pray for at the beginning of my prayer. And then I'm like, "Stop this nonsense, Marla!" And I get up and fold laundry.
Now, before all you theologians start telling me all the faults in my reasoning here, I will just say one thing to you. STOP. Do not say anything to me. Because I am freaking good at theology, even though you might not know it from some of the things I write about. I know how to logically argue everything about God and free will and sin and suffering in the world. I know about the Economy Of Salvation. I sent my kids to three of the most conservative Catholic colleges IN THE ENTIRE WORLD. I am a damn good armchair theologian, damnit. I know how DESTROY the reasoning I used in the above paragraph. Somehow, though, logic is not enough. I have to look at God and myself and just sigh. And maybe that's okay. Everything is not clear-cut and clean. Even in the Christian life, there is a lot of murk and crap to wade through. If there wasn't murk and crap to wade through, there wouldn't have to be any "faith," would there? Sometimes shitty things happen. And sometimes they don't resolve well and you really don't know the why of it all.
So, this is what I have decided to do. This coming liturgical year is the year of mercy, as declared by Pope Francis. And I think I am just going to immerse myself and all the people and situations I care about into God's mercy and try to be merciful. Instead of sitting and explaining to God all of my problems and concerns -- thus causing my imagination to travel to the worst of the worst places -- I will just try to release things into His mercy.
Because when it comes down to it, I do believe in God. I do believe we are fallen.
Because -- to me -- it is the best explanation of why we all do the shit we do to each other and to our world. The shit we do is not really explainable on a purely evolutionary level. Now, I am not a Creationist. I have a biology degree and I respect the theory of evolution and believe it makes a lot of sense. But, it truly does not explain the shit we do. And The Fall does. Very well. And if The Fall is real, it affects me. It affects all of us. And this is why Jesus said, "Do not judge, lest you be judged." He was basically telling us that none of us has anything to brag about. We are all capable of enormous shit. Including me. And so the answer is mercy. At least for me.
And that is how I am going to attempt to rectify my prayer life.
Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner. Lord, have mercy on us. Amen.