These days it seems my prayer list is just too long. Ever have a season like that? Too many friends are aching, ailing, alienated. Young moms are lonely, longing, looking for affirmation. Family of friends, friends of family, I hear the calls to pray for this one and that one, for this situation and that. I know these asks are offered up out of a deep conviction or even deeper desperation, a trust that prayers will be lifted and further, they will be heard. Remembering this keeps the list in perspective. I am not asked to carry the weight of the list, only to shoulder it for a moment, to then send it on, send it up to the One who can manage all the parts. Right? That is the call, the job of being that connected to others, to hearing their hurts and heartbreaks. Except something happens between the hearing and the lifting. A piece of the burden stays with each of us, just a crumb, maybe, a sliver, as the load is ever so lighter to those who suffer. How can I be sure? I have been the teller oh so many times.
I wrote about slaying my monster, about a hard talk I needed to have. Update, monster destroyed. The slaying required incredible vulnerability in a safe place, necessitated releasing my truth and allowing it to be heard. What I discovered is a new truth that came as swiftly as if I had been in darkness and the light was turned on, which in fact is what happened. I was able to see my own answer when the dust cleared, when was all laid out and my eyes were no longer clouded by all the junk and debris. I could see what was so simple. My wound began healing, I felt like I was in the presence of God Himself, I could feel it so. And yet, as I walked away, I knew I left some of my hurt behind, not all of it rose with the Spirit. Some stayed with the one who heard me, a bit of damage dust now covering his shoulders. My eyes that now shone with the Light could see that his were lined just a bit more, evidence of feeling so deeply what is brought to him. We prayed together, surely God heard my concerns. But some stayed right there in that room. I know this now.
Hearing that a friend has a sudden horrible diagnosis and is asking for prayers means also that I absolutely will begin to make food to deliver to the family. This family has been more than faithful in praying alongside us, praying when I couldn’t for our son and then when Chef was suddenly was pitched into his own pit of despair. They came into my home with food and compassion even when we couldn’t eat. I will try to put some dinner on the table on a regular basis. I will pray to the Great Healer. I know it works. Hopefully she will feel me carry her burden, an itty bitty crumble, along side her. that is how it works.
Other words are not so easy to carry, so simple to lift up. Words that are close to our own traumas and worries, the things that cause our pillows to be tearstained, those, those, we get more than a bit of dust on our shoulders, those require more than a dinner. I sometimes want to avoid those. I try to shield myself from prayer requests from friends or family who are suffering from addiction issues. I circle those like the candy aisle, I can’t even smell the chocolate without putting it in my own cart, without purchasing it, without even knowing it has all happened. Isn’t it wiser to just avoid altogether? It is with M&M’s but just because my shoulders get heavier with the burden of a friend who is aching over a son who is using and the family is being destroyed one puff at a time, can I really be that choosy with my prayer list? My list currently carries the family of several families who are aching in just this way and my prayers are especially fervent. Most are in the battle, some have lost it. The stuff that breaks your soul into pieces, that is where we need to show up and offer no words, merely a hug and our presence. Allow some of the dust to settle onto us, allow the weight to shift even for a moment, onto our backs.
God I think says we just have to show up, I have learned this over and over. We don’t have to say the best words or bake the best casserole. We are only asked to drop one off and pick up a little crumb of concern. We are asked to let our unlined eyes become riddled with crows feet because we have cried and laughed and loved our neighbors through soul storms. We pick up a tiny bit of their worries, they share ours as we allow the Spirit to work out the details. I live beside a gravel road, I fight a dusty home all the time. I learned long ago that you sweep first, dust last. Otherwise you kick up motes that settles back down onto all the surfaces, leaving a light coating and nothing is really cleaned. Swirling dust shining in the sun light catches my eye, can never be all contained. Those, those are the worry and wound pieces that God asks us to carry for each other. A long prayer list is evidence we are doing our part, catching crumbs, wearing some dust. Showing up with what we have and raising up all the rest to the One who does the real sweeping. We dust first, God will step last. Pray over the list that grows and grows.
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18