Back one sunny morning this past June, I went with two roommates to get a little ink. I had the word HOPE tattooed on my wrist. Brenna put FAITH on her ankle and Linda put LOVE on her arm. It was as important for me to share that experience with those two amazing women, as it was important for me to toss a little scripture on my person, as it was important to mark the theme of my year permanently. I debated over where to put that word and how to write it. I ended up placing HOPE inside my left wrist, facing me, in my own handwriting because I needed to be a constant reminder. I needed to be able to see it all the time. And in my handwriting, I hoped (good pun) it would remind me to have hope in myself.
Well, since putting that on my arm in permanent, black ink, I've been seeing hope everywhere, and nowhere, all the time. I have great hope in the church teams that come down here and change lives- those lives of the people they help, and their own lives as they experience a new kind of service and community. I see hope in home dedication ceremonies, church re-dedications, new business openings, bridge openings, and increased tourism. I see hope in the commitment and continued efforts of folks who've long past burn-out, but keep working and moving, powered by the grace of God.
But I lose hope every day too. Hope fades in the knowledge that funds are running out and agencies are shutting down while there are still so many homes to rebuild. Hope fades in volunteer villages sitting empty for weeks at a time. Hope fades as homeowners become more and more frustrated with the process that's gone on for far too long. Hope fades in another twister in Alabama, flooding in the Northwest, fires in California, and disaster upon disaster. Hope fades in the smog of agency and church turmoil. Hope fades in my own failures and limitations and feelings of burnt-out-edness.
For the past year and a half I've attempted to manage the ups and downs of my journey in hope with prayer. I've never been a good pray-er and it was something I decided to focus on upon accepting life as a churchy-worker-type two Augusts ago.
The thing is, I desperately want to be a prayer warrior. And not just for the awesome costume I imagine I'd get to wear. I admire the women in my life who will stop and pray any time any where. A man here once prayed with me over the phone and it blew me away. Folks that I've befriended on this journey really, really believe in this prayer stuff. For me, it's something I've always done because I am supposed to do it- like making my bed. I don't really believe in that either. I mean, you're just going to mess it up again later in the day, so what's the point! But I say my prayers at night, before meals, in church, when an ambulance passes, and whenever someone else asks me to pray for them or their family. And I mean it. I think. Kinda.
I tried prayer journaling last fall. It lasted about a month and a half. Wasn't for me. Then I tried prayer walking. I was just a freak talking to myself and almost getting hit by cars all the time. I attended Handsboro's weekly prayer meetings. I let Linda talk me into praying with her whenever she wanted. I sought guidance from my favorite religious leaders. I started doing morning devotions. I tried it all, but remained unconvinced.
Recently, I survived another rough fall. Another season that challenged me- professionally and emotionally, but more importantly, spiritually. Lately, I've been feeling that I'm failing that challenge. This prayer problem has been kicking my butt.
I called Lauren this week, because she's that church friend that I can ask anything- no matter how ridiculous or blasphemous or vulgar or ignorant- without freaking her out. I asked her if I don't really believe in prayer, if that meant that I don't really believe in God. She told me a hippie story about prayer as molecules of energy that made a lot of sense, but in that warm-fuzzy hippie way that you really can't argue with, since there might be a flake of truth to it and anyway you want it to be true because it would be so beautiful. But I'm still not convinced. Then Linda wrote a blog about people who don't believe in prayer. Then I started reading Eat, Pray, Love where Elizabeth Gilbert talks and talks and talks about prayer.
So the whole prayer thing is being thrown in my face big time. And I still don't have an answer. But I've decided to have hope. Hope in prayer. Hope in my prayer. I don't know if my prayers are really appropriate. I don't know if it makes sense for me to ask for specific or general guidance in prayer. I don't know if my prayers are silly. I don't know if my prayers are truly genuine. And I really don't know if my prayers are really heard....
I really, really hope so.