How do you leave spaces in your looking to perceive what you never expected to find? This is the question posed by my morning prayer. This is the question that reveals every last one of the things eating at my soul right now.
I have been settling into life in a new town, trying to get to know the people I serve, avoiding another adventure in being lost in this place that clearly wasn’t planned out and making friends. These are things that I knew would be hard. I knew that this transition on the opposite coast would provide lots and lots of challenges. I knew that it would take two years before I felt normal again simply because that’s how long it takes to feel settled in a new place. I was more than ready for that part of the adventure. I was not prepared for what it would do to my prayer life.
Before I left Maine, I worked hard on building aspects of a spiritual practice that included daily morning prayer, weekly Taize worship at the local Episcopal church and monthly meetings with my beloved spiritual director. I knew that this transition was coming. I knew there would be a wilderness-type experience in my future and I wanted my prayer life to be intact. Best of intentions, right? It didn’t work. It’s not working. I’m still using the same guide for my prayers which frequently asks really wonderful questions like the one that began this post, but something has changed. It’s not just the physical space though that’s certainly part of it. There is something else that has altered my needs.
I noticed it most yesterday as I stood in the chancel attempting to pray for the people. I offered choppy, awkward words that felt so disconnected from my own heart and the beautiful faces of these wonderful people. In fact, in the middle of the prayer, I swear I heard God say: This prayer sucks. And while I know that no prayer is that awful, that it is the attempt to open ourselves to God that truly is the art of praying, there is something that has been sucked out of my own practice — some energy, some comfort, some grace — that makes it so difficult to pray with others.
This morning, with this question eating at my soul, I know that God isn’t critiquing my prayer life. God isn’t telling me that I suck at this — but that I need to take some time to listen. I need to leave some space for God to do her thing. It’s work that I need to do because this is a part of my calling as pastor. I need to leave space to feed my soul — to quench my thirst and satisfy my hunger — so that I can nourish those with whom I minister. So, there’s no more procrastinating. I need to find a spiritual director.