I am wondering today if there is not an essential contradiction between prayer and humility. Doesn’t making a request imply a confidence that one’s request might be attended to? That whoever we pray to might be paying attention to us at that moment, might be influenced by the worthiness, cleverness or presentation of that request? Or worse, that because we repeat a prayer someone else has written that God will snap to attention as if a favorite song from medieval times came up on the playlist of an oldies station and God would stop what s/he was doing to dance around the firmament a bit.
Humility would imply no such certainty.
Humility is not the same as considering oneself unworthy. It is more that humility means that you don’t think of yourself as important one way or the other in the larger scheme of things.
So how do we reconcile this thing called prayer with humility?
I mean, really, who are we to presume that God needs reminding of what we need/want/wish for? Do we consider God so easily distracted? In need of a copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Deities?
I poked holes in some plastic yogurt bins, filled them with potting soil and sowed herb seeds. I never fail to be amazed by the speed with which sturdy green sprouts unfurl from those tiny black beads. They seem to know exactly what to do, these seedings. They reach for the sunlight with both leaves. They reach for the water and soil with translucent surprisingly strong roots. And in between those new green leaves and those slender roots, they stretch and stretch.
Dinner is in the oven, almost ready. Fairy lights twinkle on the neighbors’ bushes in the blue light of dusk. From where I sit I see sewing supplies from my most recent project taking up one end of the dining room table and opened mail and papers on the other end and piles of books in the living room, unread as yet. It is warm and light here, messy and cozy.
I would like also to be like this, a little messy but cozy and in my essence warm and light.
When the Puritans celebrated the first Thanksgiving they had far less than many of us do. They had traveled over the wide sea, had survived their first harsh winter in this land and had managed with the help of the Native Americans to have a successful harvest. Fifty three of the original band of one hundred two Puritans had survived the year since leaving Europe.
Each member of that fifty three must have grieved the loss of family and friends. Their diet was generally poor and unpredictable, their houses were one room dark drafty cabins in which fire was the only source of warmth and light. That same fire could easily burn down a cabin destroying months of labor with one spark. Packs of wolves picked off sheep and enjoyed an occasional colonist for dessert. Serious illness was a death sentence; pregnancy was often tantamount to a death sentence as well. Because there was no communally accepted established system of laws English colonists, Native Americans, adventurers and fortune seekers from Spain, France and Holland had no protection from each other.
In a dark world, good things are precious few and are prized all the more for their rarity. Perhaps what the Pilgrims were giving thanks for most of all was the resilience of spirit that allowed them to recognize what was good and to trust that life would get better.
Today I smelled the onset of winter, a crisp, damp, cool breeze not patting but slipping its fingers around my bare ankles. Trees have closed for business. Only their last fragments of finery skitter away in the dusk. Car tires whoosh by waiting for the different sound of snow crunch beneath them, the crunch that happens when the snow is crusted or the whispered squeakier crunch of a fluffy snow. Darkness comes early these days, but soon, soon a night will come when the sky is lightened by reflected moonshine on new fallen white.
Winter is not barren but stark.
Not every action that springs from envy is bad. For instance, I envied my friend Susan’s easy generosity and sweetness. I didn’t just admire it, I wished I was that kind of person.
Sometimes envy is the spur we need to work hard, to build something new and in the process to create not the image of what we envied to begin with but a new paradigm.
What is it with trust, anyway? If you type it into Google you get an entry on trust law which is of course a system designed to address a situation when trust has been broken. Under that, you find a Wikipedia entry which first defines trust as “reliance on another person or entity” and then immediately thereafter defines misplaced trust. Third is a reference to a movie called Trust which is clearly about someone who does not deserve trust.
How sad that the concept of trust is so ephemeral that it is defined more by its absence or betrayal than by its nature.