I admire those writers who seem to have a deep and abiding relationship with God, where they regularly hear Him speak to them through prayer, or the Bible, or through others. Their faith is unswerving and reinforced by these regular communications. My relationship with God has been more complicated, often hallmarked by God's silence and my petulant rants. The most common manifestation of this being my nightly talks with God late at night when I walk outside and stare up at the stars and ask God why I haven't heard or seen an answer to my latest pressing prayer. This dialogue has gone on for years and yet the result remains the same.
There have been moments of greatest frustration that have caused me to turn my back on God, as a child folds its arms over its chest and says to its parent, "I'm not talking to you anymore!" and then looks over its shoulder just to be sure the parent is still paying attention. That's me. I'm pouting, I'm stamping my foot, I'm shouting that I've had enough and not ever going to say another stupid prayer again in my life, because obviously no one's listening. And then I peek over my shoulder and repeat my threat again, just for good measure.
And this is when I'm sure that God laughs.
Because God knows me all too well. That I find my one sided dialogue with Him too irresistible to ever stop. Too hopeful, to ever stop hoping. Too lonely, to ever consider the silence that would grow larger without those prayers.
I have seen the hand of God in small ways and in large. I have watched my needs provided for when I was willing to be guided, to act sensibly, to take action. I have seen my mother healed when her doctors made grave prognosis. I have seen myself mature over the years, to 'put away childish things' and accept responsibility for my actions and to understand that over night sensations and miracles are usually built on a foundation of hard work. Still, I feel as if I have prayed the same prayer for a career to call my own and a place to call home for fourteen years without an answer and I have cried in frustration, 'why not this prayer, the one that means so much to me, why can't you answer this one?'
Parker J. Palmer writes in Let Your Life Speak, that during his own search for meaning and silence from God, he turned to a life-long Quaker for advice:
"Ruth," I said, "people keep telling me that 'way will open' Well I sit in the silence, I pray, I listen for my calling, but way is not opening. I've been trying to find my vocation for a long time, and I still don't have the foggiest idea of what I'm meant to do. Way may open for other people, but it's sure not opening for me."
Ruth's reply was a model of Quaker plain-speaking. "...in sixty-plus years of living, way has never opened in front of me...But a lot of way has closed behind me, and that's had the same guiding effect."
When I think of all the doors that have been closed, sometimes in the most painful ways, I wonder if that is another way that God speaks to us. And that as Parker J. Palmer goes on to say, that when we encounter those closed doors we need to turn around and look at all the doors that remain open for us to try, rather than getting stuck in a dead end. I like that perspective, to turn around and focus on all the possibilities that remain open to try, new paths that we would not have considered if we'd received our first choice.
My hope is that my prayers are being answered. Perhaps in small incremental steps that I take each day and which are so small that I cannot see my progress, but which someday I will look back on and see that I have found the answer and see God's hand guiding me all along.
And God laughing. At. Me.