Yesterday I woke up, turned on the radio, as usual, to hear to the news as I dressed, and was thrown into a pit of despair: the President wants to put guns into schools to prevent gun shootings; our statesmen are incapable of banning semi-automatic military weapons designed to slaughter as many people as possible in the fastest time; the truce in Syria fails; climate change, young Dreamers (DACA) without a country or home; diplomats absent or pushed aside in favor of threatened war with North Korea. . . .
It’s always been this way: arrogance, stupidity, greed, fear, violence, vengeance, loneliness– entire populations living on the brink of lost. I felt the energy sucked out of my body as I tried to remind myself that others held different points of view about guns, war, suffering – I could be wrong – my heart breaking for the children of Parkland Florida, or the shootings in Las Vegas, or Columbine, or Sandy Hook, or—or– or– because only the most dramatic shootings are reported, not the 96 living breathing people killed every day by a gun. The horror! Horror!
And then I began to pray. “ Oh God, help us, help this little world. Show us what to do.” (Write my Congressman? I don’t even HAVE one, living as I do unfranchised in the District of Columbia.) And then the doubts flew like bats beating at my brain: IS there a God? Where? Where is HE/SHE? Because my mind can doubt even in the face of what I’ve personally experienced–and still I doubt, lose faith, and flail helplessly in the face the suffering of this pretty little world.
In the end I fled to ride my horse. There is something healing about horse energy— horses know only love and grass and happiness in their herd, at seeing the people who care for them. And I thought again: Oh, to be a horse! (Or cat, aor dog!) To be cared for, stabled, fed good grain. . . .
And then this morning, everything changed.
This morning ,as I lay luxuriating in not having to get up yet and with no radio spouting its despairing news, my hand by accident pulled down a bedside book. I spent an hour reading Letters of a Modern Mystic by Frank C. Laubach (don’t you love the formality of the middle initial?) Laubach (1884-1970) was a Christian missionary in the Philippines who developed a system to teach adult Moro tribe illiterates to read in only a few hours and then teach others. But it is in his efforts to hold God fast that affected me. We’re all familiar with Brother Lawrence’s 17th century tract, “Practicing the Presence of God.” I used to do all that, meditate an hour every day, pray. But I have become lazy. Now here came God’s reminder of what I need to do if I want unfathomable happiness –even in the face of suffering. Say what you will, I felt the book came as God’s answer to my prayer of the day before.
When I pull out a sentence from this luminous book, the words dissolve, the sparkle dissipates. It all goes flat. So, think I with some amusement– here’s God answering my prayer of yesterday by bringing alive this story of one man’s struggle to push down doubt and fear — to be, that is to say, true to the pursuit of the love that abides beneath the surface.
“All I have said is mere words,” writes Frank Laubach, “until one sets out helping God right wrongs, helping God help the helpless, loving and talking it over with God. Then there comes a great sense of the close-up, warm, intimate heart of reality. God simply creeps in and you know He is here in your heart. He has become your friend by working along with you.”
Spirit is walking beside us. Sometimes you feel it as a Presence sitting with you in the car. Sometimes you sense it in a field of up-thrusting new Spring daffodils (who was it who said Beauty is God’s song of love?) And sometimes you find yourself led by invisible hands to brush and groom the mud off your horse and be healed by the simple act of loving another thing.
Laubach reminds us to pray for every person we meet, every person we pass on the street, those we know and those we don’t, to live, in other words, in a state of prayerful love. It takes less than a nanosecond to do. But to do it every minute of every day? Oh, how can I? I forget so fast! I keep forgetting that love lies right inside of me, that it surrounds me even in the face of the stupidity, cupidity, greed, lust, fear and angry violence of this world. All I have to do is LOOK.
Now I discover that Dicks Sporting Goods will no longer sell semi-automatic military assault weapons, that Delta and various credit car companies are cancelling their discounts to NRA members. I’m not alone! God is working through those beautiful teenagers who dared to travel to Tallahassee and somehow we’ll make things different. (Later in the day even the President calls for a comprehensive gun bill. YES!)
I don’t know if the world is better today than yesterday, but I today I am filled with hope. My prayer was answered, not the way I expected (they rarely are), or on my time-line (never), but even the idea of going to groom and ride my horse, I feel, was inspired by God in answer to the anguish in my heart, and to have this book come to my hand. . . why, I could laugh out loud with joy.
Now if only I can try to remember to turn to Spirit every minute of every day, while I’m writing, while I’m doing taxes, while I’m scared, while my heart leaps up at the beauty of the river, while I’m talking to you.