No Strings

I thought it was a magic incantation.  I’ve prayed the same words almost every morning for the last twenty years.  It’s always the same simple sentences, said in a whisper while the warmth of the shower muscles against my mind, limp from sleep, dragging it into the day like a mom drags her two year-old out of the toy store and into the bright parking lot against his will. 

I love sleep.  I loathe mornings.  The words help me make the transition.

God, I say, I’m giving you my thoughts and actions today.  Speak to me and through me.  Please help me. I can’t do today without you.  Amen.

Some speaker guy at a youth camp eons ago told us to do this every morning and God would move.  Being the compliant kid I was, I started praying this way the next day.  And I never stopped.

I don’t understand prayer.  At all.  I don’t understand why I do it or how it works. But I confess that for most of my life I’ve prayed as if God won’t move unless I give him the go-ahead. It’s as if, at some level, I’ve viewed God as a puppet and my words as strings. God, I’ve behaved as if I believed, is all-powerful, yes, but also choosing to be tethered, dangling powerlessly and moved from here to there only when I recite my magic sentences.  Then – tug, tug – a friend is healed.  Tug, tug – a bill is paid. Tug, tug – the right words find me at the right time.

Then what about this morning?

This morning I was up at 6:10.  No shower.  No whispers to God.  Yet, on the first flight of the day, the right words found me at the right time and I was healed – or at least heavily medicated.

Wally’s daughter Quinley is my daughter Penelope’s best friend.  Two three-year-olds with matching pink boots, ponytails and sassiness.  Wally and I exchange handshakes from time to time as we pass in the halls. “Hey! Good to see ya.” We might have even hugged once or twice – with the requisite three pats on the back. But we’ve never really talked at length.

This morning Wally sat across the aisle from me on my first flight.  Turns out he manages independent artists, knows a lot about the music business.  And he knew an uncomfortable amount about my career – enough to know how long it’s been since I recorded a full record.  He asked me when I’ll be recording again.

Wally’s a big bear of a guy with the unexpected gift of putting you at ease, drawing the real you out.  He makes trusting him irresistible, so I told the truth, the whole truth, what I haven’t told the many people who’ve asked me this same question at church or in the grocery store or via Facebook: I’m scared.  I’m struggling.  I’m stalled.  I’m uninspired. I’m embarrassed. I’m unsure and consequently very unproductive.

Wally listened, asked questions, agreed, disagreed, encouraged and after a very short time I felt newly directed.  And peace.  Blessed. The right words at the right time.  Healing.  With no tugging.

Today I did nothing to deserve Wally’s words.  I didn’t ask for them.  I didn’t look for them.  I wasn’t even aware that I needed them.  They just arrived out of nowhere like an e-mail from a Nigerian millionaire, only more honest.  Or, better, like a hug and a sack lunch from a loving father I forgot to say “good morning” to before heading out the door.

God moved today.  No strings attached.

God, thank you for changing my thoughts and actions this morning. Please continue to speak to me and through me.  Please help me. I can’t do today without you.  And thank you for sitting me beside Wally. Amen.