When life's not going as expected (and let's face it - when is it ever?), it's easy to catch yourself praying for something better. Praying for life to get better. Praying for a better life.
I've done it. I'm sure I'm not the only one. But when I caught myself praying for better recently, I realized that's not at all what I wanted. And I'm willing to bet it's not really what you want, either.
What I wanted was for life to be fuller.
There is a huge difference. Praying for things to be better is a prayer for circumstance. It's praying, "Lord, I don't want to do this. I don't want to be here. This SUCKS." And indeed, at times, it does. But let's be honest, there's not a whole lot that a change in circumstance has ever solved for anyone. It just drags your problems into a new realm where you find yourself still praying, "Lord, I don't want to do this, either. I don't want to be here, either. This. also. SUCKS." And indeed, it usually does.
I had kind of gotten to where my prayers for 'better' were a little more righteous-sounding. Instead of this - whatever this is - being a horrible bane to my existence, I was able to pray with a yearning and a longing, "Lord, this is not what I was created for!" But then you get this little nagging voice in your head that says, what do you know? Maybe it is. And then a stronger conviction that actually, this is precisely it.
Well, isn't that just disappointing.
The truth is that our problems are rarely our circumstances anyway. If we didn't have the worries we have now, we'd have different worries and we'd still be looking for ways to deal with them. Unfortunately, it's too easy these days to either obstinately refuse to deal with life as it is or to simply run away, both of which reactions stem from a place of self-righteousness - that we're too good for this or that we're not meant to be here.
As long as we're stuck refusing or running, praying for nothing more than 'better,' we stand little chance of ever finding the life we think we're looking for or the life we think we deserve. Worse yet, we're also refusing and running away from the God we're simultaneously demanding better from.
I've long stopped longing for a life worthy of me. I want to be worthy of this life. I don't want it to be better; I want it to be fuller. I don't need a change in circumstance; I need a change in attitude and experience. I don't want to run away; I want to throw myself into whatever this is, wherever this place is, and see what kind of mess I can dig up here and what kind of grace I can pour out and what little part of God He's trying to give of Himself in this place, in this time, in this life.
I want to live every second surrendered to this second, whether that's a high or a low, a mountaintop or the valley of death. Whether it's crushing my heart or cushioning my fall. Whether it's heartthrob or heartache. I want to be here.
Now, when I find myself praying for something better, I stop. I don't want something better; I just want to be engaged. When I'm wanting better, what I'm really wanting is something. Anything. I know I'm empty, I'm far-off, I'm removed, I'm alone, I'm disengaged, I'm not here...whatever this is, I'm not experiencing it. And it's not life's fault that I'm bored or missing something. It's mine. Because that means I'm not engaging.
It's easier at times than others. Certainly, the mountains are easier to climb than the valleys are to descend, but there is God in both and there is a part of me that understands that every moment - this moment - is something I was created for if I'll let myself dive in and be present.
These past few days, this has been necessary. This has been a difficult grief for me, losing my little girl (of the canine variety, if you aren't following along) and one where it would have been easy to shut down. There were times I've started to pray that Lord, I don't want to do this...but the truth is, I want to do every bit of this. It's how this moment has to be, and I don't want to live my life holding onto this moment and knowing I never did anything with it, then dragging that burden with me in ungrieved loss because I self-righteously thought I shouldn't have to do this. Grief has been this moment, and I have begged my God to let me be in every second of it. It hasn't been easy. I have been exhausted, sick to my stomach, physically pained, wrung out, unable to stop crying, and silenced by a world for which I don't seem to have to answer. But I have found myself comforted by a God who has strengthened me to grieve, who has allowed me to have this moment and also the next one just as purely and fully as they were meant to be. Who has allowed me to have this grief and torment with the mercy of love behind it, reinforcing everything I know in that grief is love...and I wouldn't want a moment without love. That wouldn't make it better.