Thursday, May 8, 2008

RS: Unanswered Prayers

I am not a do-gooder. I want to be the kind of person who cares, but I don’t always have the wherewithal to appropriately care for myself. I watch others with awe. I have friends who volunteer their time, others give money to charities, some help friends in need, one has made a career of changing the world, many care for animals more than people but they care and do. I do not.

I was talking to a terrific guy on my birthday weekend about the fact that I share a birthday with Audrey Hepburn. He said he could see the resemblance in my long skinny neck. I said sarcastically that the similarities ended there—I don’t care to swat flies off starving kids in Africa. Then, it occurred to me. I don’t care. It isn’t possible that I care because I don’t do anything. Certainly, you can’t participate in every cause. You can only do what you can do. I do not.

If someone in my family or one of my friends was suffering, I would help. I would do something. I would care. On my worst day, I haven’t suffered, at least objectively, as much as many people in the world on their best day. I’m not talking about happiness and being lucky, I’m talking actual suffering—the human condition crushed by inhumane conditions. And they aren’t friends or family, just strangers, faceless, nameless others. Some have enough generosity for others. I do not.

I go to church because I want to be better, but I often feel worse. There are religious zealots who are among the most uncaring people I have ever encountered—mostly faceless and nameless, but they have a voice (and inexplicable television access) so they are on my radar. I happen, in my church, to be surrounded by people who care a great deal, and they do. They get that being a Christian is about following the example of Christ. Some of them actually pull it off. I do not.

I sat in the sanctuary this Sunday, happy with my life, grateful for what I’ve been given, most especially the love and kindness that envelopes me. I also prayed for a few things, trivial in the grand scheme of things, but important to me. The sermon, from the book of John, recounts Jesus’s final prayer with the disciples before that whole betrayal/crucifixion/resurrection business. In Cliff’s Notes format he prayed that we all be as one. Eliminate the otherness. So, the minister asked, what if we answered that prayer. What if, instead of asking God to answer our prayers, we answered his? It is so easy to feel powerless in the world, especially compared to an omnipotent being. Is there a power greater than to answer the prayer of God? Perhaps, some people know the power of answering the prayers of others. I do not.

So, after years of asking (and sometimes receiving), I was overwhelmed with the possibility that I might be able to give back, answer God’s prayer, be connected to the faceless, nameless, understand that I do know their name—it is me. All I have to do is figure out how to help me. Again, I’ve never been good at that. It doesn’t take much. All you have to do is do something. I do want to do something, anything. I am hopeful that I can find my way toward something, anything. Do some good. It was a powerful experience. I wonder if I might be changed by it. . . I do not.

No comments: