Updated: Aug 17
Sometimes in the middle of a video call I have an urge to turn the computer away from the wall and share the mess that I’m looking at. I want to say, “Hey, just so everyone knows, this is what my house really looks like. Is this what yours looks like too?”
Neither my house nor my life are anywhere close to perfect. They really never were, but I feel more self-compassion and less shame about admitting that now. I feel like we can all be open about the fact that this is really hard because it is really hard for everyone. No one has been spared. Even if we still have jobs and our health and even if we aren’t involved in the craziness of back-to-school, it is okay to say, still, this is really hard.
Last week, I shared about a prayer practice that we have been trying to do as a family. Here’s the truth: that hasn’t been perfect either. We have mostly done it most days. We mostly just say things out loud and have mostly given up on papers and tidy boxes.
And sometimes, Xavi says in response to each of the three questions, “Blippity bloppity blippity bloppity.”
To which I reply, feeling deeply my parenting failure, “Okay, God understands.”
Yet, every day, we try again.
A few months ago, my accident-prone little girl crashed on her bicycle and needed stitches in her chin. While we were waiting at the hospital, the nurse gave her a small drawing book and we sat and chatted while she colored. At some point, there was a lull in our conversation and we realized that there had been a background sound for some time of a baby crying.
Clara asked why the baby was crying. I explained that in an emergency department there are people who are really sick or really hurt and maybe the baby was feeling bad. I asked her if she wanted to pray and so she climbed into my lap, we closed our eyes, and I said a prayer for the baby.
Then we opened our eyes. Clara looked up at me, shrugged her shoulders, clicked her tongue and said, “Still crying. I guess it didn't work.”
Then she climbed back on to the bed to color some more. I wanted to have some clever response. I wanted to explain that wasn't necessarily how prayer goes. I didn't quite know how to say that.
I've spent a lot of time since then wondering. Why do we pray? Why do we keep praying even when it seems like nothing happens? Or even when it feels impossible? Or like life is actually getting harder?
The way I understand it now is that prayer brings us into God’s presence. Prayer helps us see ourselves and our reality more clearly. Prayer helps center us in what is important and helps us hear the voice of God above the voices of the liars. Prayer helps us rest away from the anxiety and stress and shame and guilt that surround us every day. Prayer helps us focus on sharing God’s love. Prayer helps us be more aware of how the Spirit is moving in us and through us.
We can’t understand why some things change and some don’t, but we can choose to live whole and present lives, focused on God.
I remind myself of this truth when my kids don’t feel like sharing or when I feel too exhausted to make everyone sit down together. Lately, I am also sometimes reminded by my kids.
Since we have started trying to pray together everyday, I have noticed my kids talking more about helping others and noticing more when something good happens so that they can remember it later when we share gratitudes.
And yesterday, Clara, who is going through a superhero phase, said, “Pop, I just really want to have a special power like super-speed or super-strength!”
Before my partner could reply, Xavi said, “You always have power, Clara. You have the power to love!”
I am not making that up. Did I immediately run to my journal to write that conversation down? Yes, I did.
And so we keep trying each day to be thankful and ask for help and think about how we can share love. Because trying imperfectly is a lot better than not trying. Because it gives us a light to guide us through this interminable darkness. Because it helps us to listen better to ourselves, to each other, and to God.
Prayer helps us to be more whole and to know that, while we can’t change the world and while our lives are definitely messy and while we are so not perfect, we can experience the love that God has for us and that we can be vessels of that love.
This week at La Casa we spent some time prayerfully coloring pieces of a mandala.
Dianne Garcia, Pastor of Family Ministry