I have been locked in my room and forced to finish this blog post I started weeks ago. Amber said she would slide some bread under the door.
There was this study I heard about a while back. Some scientist thought it might be a good idea to see if prayer might have a causative relationship to healing in certain terminally ill patients. After their double blind, controlled study they saw no such relationship. But they did prove that God doesn't respond to double-dog dares. You can't blame the scientists for wanting to check it out though. I don't know which is more peculiar, the scientists or the people who cast their wishes up to heaven to snag the hem of a robe. This odd group of people, of whom I am a member, has various reasons and intentions for their castings, ranging from saintly to the ignoble. I have played a hole or two at prayer and here are some of mine.
Some I call the "scratch ticket" prayers. "Please, baby Jesus, just one more Ace and I promise I'll get a vasectomy." These are usually pretty straight forward, phrased in a simple quid pro quo manner. But there is nothing REALLY at stake because it costs you nothing and has nothing to do with God, only a winning Ace.
Another type is the "Beuller" prayer. "God, we just thank you, God, for your blessings, God, and your faithfulness, Lord, and ...God, we want, Father, for you, Lord, to be our God, God." Beuller...Beuller... I don't know why I do this, but it works when my kids do it to me from the back seat. In my experience these are offered to be able to check the Pray box, but tend to be a bit vacuous; usually requests that will have a redeemable solution whether God "comes through" or not.
Other prayers are expensive, high wager and take a slice of heart to ante in.
As we were making plans for California I was talking to my mom about all the obstacles we faced in getting out there; there was licensing and housing and getting on with the right agency and the right hospital in the right place... She cordially invited me to remember I was doing this to myself, no one was forcing this situation on me and my family. You know that irritating rash that always seems to flare up when your mom says something? That rash is called truth. We were putting ourselves through this, none of it was necessary. We weren't entering a witness protection program, we had a nice set up in Fort Collins.
There has sat an old doubt rocking on my porch. I can't name him, though I have tried, but there he rocks and fans himself and reminds me what I fear.
I fear Default. The Default means gathering the best I can by my own means, on my own savvy and microwaved wisdom. I default when I can't foresee a Divine plan for my circumstance, when there is no miracle; only the entropic evolution of my own choices. But the default is sensible. The default is the practical young accountant wearing Dockers who contributes to his IRA. He will pacify colic with a warm, sobering bottle of prudence and judiciousness. But doubt is gnawing, not that God is absent from my circumstances, but that He hasn't invited me into His. Instead of facing what it might mean if he doesn't come through, I default and fold my hand. I reel in prayers and desires because the sensible default convinces me they weren't really all that realistic in the first place and probably pretty stupid and naive to ask for and, after all, there is no promise in the Bible God gives you for a specific house or location or job and besides God said he loved you once already in the Bible so just live with that etc. The default wants to abort my hope and faith with sensible plan B.
When we arrived in LA we had several days to find a house before I started work. We shacked up with Jason, Amber's brother, who kindly opened his apartment to us. My contract is only for 4 months so we tried to find temporary housing. Which brings me to my first word of advice for all those looking to move to LA: don't try to find temporary housing. Only if you are willing to be propositioned by an eccentric millionaire cougar or live in Dr Dre's childhood home, will you find temporary housing in LA.
We had been praying specifically for an apartment within walking distance to the hospital, in a safe neighborhood, and at an affordable rent. Which brings me to my next word of advice, affordable rent: If you are from the midwest like us, take what you would assume to be reasonable rent for a two bedroom, add on the cost of a black market kidney, divide by 12 and there is your monthly cost. Have I crystallized this for you? But all these prayers, they weren't weren't about the things. It was a rebellion against doubt and my need for God to be a Father to me.
It's difficult to depict adequately how frustrating and discouraging that month was. Our family unit was suffering, kids were being neglected, school was not getting done. Exciting new behavior issues cropped up. We were in a new city, a new job, no place to retreat to. At one point Amber straight up lost it. It reminded me of that scene in Stephen King's Carrie where she destroys everyone at the prom (see here). Two or three times these perfect places came up but we were denied. I walked down the street after being rejected, angry, cursing, questioning, impugning. Just like all the other times, You are going to let me figure it out on my own, an I'll make excuses for you and find some reason why this default is really God's provision after all while never being convinced.
Then we got our apartment. I probably could have said that in a more climactic way, but there you go. It was a relief. But it was only a relief at first. It wasn't until the other day, when things had settled, that I realized how specifically God had answered us. No, that's not what I want to say. God "answers" Beuller and scratch ticket prayers. He heard me. But more than that, even, He knew me; he saw my piece of heart and raised me. I wept the other night when it had settled on me there was a name tag on that present. It was no default. It had fingerprints; strange clues that circumstances had been tampered with.
That incumbent, rocking doubt, he hums a dissonant tune under his breath; that I really don't matter to Father; that I am not worth saving.
I know people have different world views, some more thought through than others. I read this verse the other day in Corinthians 8, "Those who think they know something do not yet know it as they ought. But he who loves God is known by God". I think I would paraphrase it as, "Look, I don't care who you are, you don't know crap. But you are known". I'd rather be known than know anything. I wonder how many would give up all their "knowledge" to hear someone calling their name.