Like a Child

Last September, Sarah Bessey shared an incredibly touching post about the prayer of a two-year-old girl when she didn’t know how to express hurt over her parents’ failing marriage. The little girl simply prayed through her tears, “Jesus. Mommy. Daddy.” and trusted that he would understand.

Perhaps that post touched such a deep chord with me because I don’t know how to put words to prayers either. In the religious culture of my childhood, prayer was a minefield requiring spiritually PC language and doctrinal gymnastics while we conjured up select interpretations of scripture like robed genies to our aid. Talking to God required as much ceremony and flattery as approaching a volatile dictator; it was more strategic groveling than anything, and it wounded me all the more for being labeled as love.

I knew the right words, but they came to represent a complicated and soul-mangling kind of subservience to me. Even now, if someone puts me on the spot to pray aloud, I can feel the old scripts grind into my heart with muddy boot heels. (Hopefully, no one notices me tripping flat over the initial “Dear God…”) For all my belief in a rule-breaking, boundlessly loving God and in miracle answers, I still can’t bring myself to frame requests with words. I won’t go back to groveling for scraps of divine favor.

So I feel prayer, and I soak it in through my headphones, and I breathe it on the open air, and I feel our connection the way I sense light through my eyelids. However, none of it quite replaces the intentionality of conversation… and so I turn to this.

Jesus. Dan.

Jesus. Natalie.

Jesus. Sophie.

Jesus. The friend being torn slowly apart by divorce proceedings.

Jesus. The friend heartbroken by infertility.

Jesus. The loved ones facing major life decisions.

Jesus. Our own major life decisions.

Jesus. Our finances.

Jesus. Our marriage.

Jesus. This complicated soul-life I wrestle and grow and wake with.

And I trust him to understand.

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  1. As always, simply put and simply beautiful.

  2. <3
    when i grow up i want to be like you.

  3. Tears in my eyes. You touch my heart.

  4. Thank you for this, Bethany. I too have struggled so much with prayer, especially in a public setting. I finally just started saying, “Dear Love” though I don’t what to say beyond that. I’m so glad you found a way to express your heart without plunging into the darkness of your past.

  5. I stink at prayers, I can honestly say I hate it. And last night I woke myself up in the middle of the night begging for healing on my shoulder, because I cannot provide for my family if I am broken, and He did. I have walked through the whole day with tears in my eyes, this post pushed me over the edge. I have only shared that crazy experience with my husband, but I so resonate with your growth, the way that it is organic, not contrived.

  6. Believing that He understands with you.

  7. Thank you, each one of you.

    Rain – Do you know how many times I think that about you? I think I’ve probably said it to your face (/inbox?) at least 300,000 times or so. 🙂

    Krista – Oh my sweet friend, “Dear Love” is perfect.

    Kelly – “Organic, not contrived…” You said it. So much of religion as I see it is contrived, so anything authentic and truly life-giving is a treasure to find.

  8. ohhh my. i love this beyond words.

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