How do I respond?
The words handwritten by a friend on her annual Christmas letter surprised me and continue to puzzle me. I have not had face to face contact with this friend for a long time, but I am grateful we have this once a year peek into each other's lives, and perhaps there will be a time when we can have more than that. I wonder what we will discover about each other.
In my printed Christmas letter I wrote:
What has been your prayer this past year? Have you
prayed for healing for a loved one? Have you prayed
for nations in strife, for cultures in conflict with one
another, here and in other parts of the world? Have
you prayed for healing of the earth? How often have
you fallen on your knees in prayer this past year in
agony for those known and unknown to you, who
suffer or have caused great suffering? How often
have you said, "My prayers are with you," or "I am
praying for you." When your heart vibrates in prayer,
do you wonder if that is enough?
I think prayer is only the beginning. Prayer has the
power to awaken us to a more open way of life. If
prayer becomes our ongoing practice, we begin to
be aware of where we are closed, where we feel hurt
and when we hurt others, and where there are
opportunities to offer compassion and to be present
to others in their losses and needs.
I received so many thoughtful, pensive responses to my thoughts about the power of prayer and experiences of answered prayers--and sometimes answers that were unexpected and surprising.
But this particular letter weighs on me. Along with sharing that she feels the need for prayer and the need to live her faith, she expressed concern that Christian churches have become "watered down" and people have "turned God into some vague concept of love."
I am not a theologian. I am a seeker, a woman who remains on a long and rigorous path to a deeper relationship with God, but every fiber of my being says, "God is love." And I don't think there is much else I need to know. Really need to know and then live that love.
God is love and those who abide in love
abide in God, and God abides in them.
1 John 4: 16
If I were sitting in spiritual direction with my friend, I hope she would be willing to tell me her story and to share her vision of God and her experience of love in her life. I hope I would do that without judgment. I hope I would listen with an open and loving heart.
What is most basic to your understanding about God? I would love to know.