Over the last week I’ve confronted some stuff and wobbled, and felt better, and worried about that, etc…
C.S.Lewis talked about the “Law of Undulation”* by which he meant that human beings just don’t notice that their feelings about everything go up and down no matter what they do. I’ve had a bit of that this week.
* in his book, “The Screwtape Letters” which I would recommend to everyone everywhere.
About a week ago I was talking to my wife (Pia) about how we felt about things and about our relationships with God and so on. We realised that in many ways we were feeling very far from him and afraid to go near.
I’ve always had to force myself to go to church – sometimes I enjoy it when I get there (sometimes not) – but the thought of it always makes me negative. Often too I don’t like the thought of praying.
We tend to pray together just before we go to sleep, and we realised that we had become quite slack at this, still doing it but not putting in any effort and just getting it over with.
Meanwhile, I’d pretty much stopped doing any other praying or Bible reading on my own and we hadn’t read the Bible together for ages.
We thought about why this had happened, and I really felt that for me it was because the thought of praying or spending time with God (i.e. remembering he exists) made me terrified. So I’d been squeezing it out because it was unpleasant.
Now, we could spend ages talking about why I feel like this, and perhaps we should, but anyway I’m going to tell you what we did about it instead.
So, in a monumental effort, we admitted all this to each other, and decided we should do something about it, so we agreed to read the Bible and pray together every day when we got back from work, and also to spend time apart doing this, and prepare stuff to say when we were together.
The next day, we sat down on the sofa and tried to do this. To be honest, I was expecting it to be a lot easier than I expected (as it were) because God often does stuff like that. But it wasn’t. It was just as bad as I thought. We didn’t know what to read (so we started with Revelation in the Bible), we didn’t get anything out of what we read, we didn’t have anything to say to each other and we didn’t want to pray. I asked for forgiveness for our neglect of God, and nothing happened. We tried, and I thought God would surely reward us for all this effort by making it easier next time.
But the next day was just as bad, and by the end I felt pretty despairing. I sat there and said to God, “Look we’re really trying – you know how hard we’ve found it to confront this, and how hard it has been to act on it, and now we need your help to make it work.” But nothing happened.
After this we had a conversation about what to do and we decided that the next day Pia would choose a Psalm she liked (she’s got into Psalms recently) and we’d read that. I thought I’d choose a song out of a Christian song book (aaaaaaargh!) and use that as a prayer to help us pray.
So we had something to do the next day; we weren’t completely lost, and actually it felt like God was there. because I had this crutch of reading out something someone else had written I felt freer to pray myself, and I was able to thank God for stuff and ask him for forgiveness and help. The song even allowed me to “worship” a bit I think.
Since then we’ve missed more days than we’ve done, but through forgetfulness and busy-ness rather than fear I think. I’ve found that when we pray I’ve just got more words to say and I don’t feel so terrible. Basically I’m more comfortable with the concept of being “in God’s presence,” whatever that means.
So what’s the moral of the story? Well really it’s that I was a bit silly to be in despair. I was dead right that God would want to take 10 steps towards us when we took half of one faltering step, but it actually took 3 days for me to be able to feel I had made progress, but 2 days for me to give up on him.
Never forget how short-sighted you are.
(Unless you’re not me and therefore not so short-sighted.)
Another moral of the story is that it could be helpful to use “crutches” like reading from a book if you’re finding praying difficult. Check out the wiki – there’s a discussion there on how to get closer to God that is about that kind of idea.