So you might have heard of that guy, Nik Wallenda, who traversed the Grand Canyon yesterday on a tightrope wire with no harness or safety net. He comes from a family that has done outrageous stunts for generations.
According to this article, he prefaced his stunt with prayer, prayed throughout, and praised God afterwards for his success and safety. He asked God to “calm these winds in the name of Jesus” as winds gusted up to 48 mph during his crossing.
Meanwhile, I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. Usually summer is great for me as far as my general mood goes, what with all the sunshine and time outside and fun things to do with the kids. But this summer I just feel tired a lot. I feel like I’m dragging and gravity is targeting me unfairly. You know how when you’re done taking a bath, you drain all the water out and slowly feel the buoyancy of the water fall away and the force of gravity retake you? I feel like I’m walking around with the emotional equivalent of not enough water and too much gravity.
I started taking vitamin b12, trying to go to bed earlier, trying to drink more water, watching comedies (I highly recommend Silver Linings Playbook and Pitch Perfect). And I thought about praying about it. I believe in God and I believe that he cares about me, but I have a hard time bringing myself to believe that my gravity problem is significant enough to pray about. I would find myself starting to pray, and then I would start thinking about so-and-so who has cancer, and about my friend living in another country where girls in her neighborhood are being kidnapped for the sex trade, and about Syrians in the midst of war and refugee camps, and on and on….
And I end up saying something like “Um, well, God, if you have any time left after dealing with all of that…I mean, I know you’re not bound by time, but I guess what I mean is, if you wouldn’t mind doing something a little extra and superfluous, could you…oh, I don’t think I really have enough faith for this prayer to make any difference anyway…nevermind.” And then I feel ridiculous.
I feel like my mind chides me to a place of gratitude and glass half-full, even though I feel glass half-empty right now. And while I know cognitively that God has grace to spare even for my gravity problem, my heart has trouble believing that or being courageous enough to ask for a drop of grace.
And then Nik Wallenda pulls his stunt, and I can’t help but feel like his prayers are a bit presumptuous. Really, Nik? (Doing my own SNL “Really” segment here.) Really? You think that God should be concerned about your safety when you voluntarily put yourself in grave danger for what reason, exactly? Really? You think that your act of walking the tightrope can be some kind of act of worship that helps people to know God better or believe in him more? Really, Nik? Really? Do you think God might possibly have more important things to deal with than known wind gusts across a 1,500 foot canyon that you subjected yourself to on purpose? Really?
But then…I remember my favorite image of Jesus from the Bible, book of Hebrews. Jesus is described as the curtain. Not just any window curtain, but the curtain in the Jewish Temple that separated the presence of God from the people. The presence of God resided in the Most Holy Place, and only one person was allowed to go inside the curtain, and only on one day of the year. God’s presence was so powerful and so dangerously perfect that we fallen humans couldn’t survive it. The curtain offered protection to the people and a reminder of who was dwelling among them.
This curtain was still around when Jesus walked the earth. It still covered the Most Holy Place, protecting the people from the perilous presence of God. This was the curtain that was torn in two when Jesus died. In the book of Mark it is noted that the curtain was torn from top to bottom, signifying who it was that did the tearing.
In Hebrews, the author says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings….”
Not only did Jesus’ death cause the physical curtain in the temple to be torn, thus allowing free access to anyone who wanted to approach the presence of God, but Jesus’ body is actually the spiritual, metaphorical, immaterial curtain through which anyone who wants to can pass into God’s presence. It’s like what used to be a force field is now turned into a portal, for any of you sci-fi geeks.
We have a new and living way opened for us. And it’s not some scolding, you should be quivering with fear way; it’s a bold, confident way. We don’t have to wait for the one day of the year that God can be approached, and we don’t have to send our messages in to his presence with someone else. We can go, ourselves, into his presence, whenever, for whatever reason.
The way is open. The invitation has been sent. All I have to do is grasp the confidence I am allowed to have, and go in. That’s what prayer is. Just go in and have a talk. There are no guarantees as to what the outcomes of my prayer will be. In fact, the only guarantee is that I can always go in.
There is no line. The imaginary line of who should have first access to God’s grace and attention is all in my head. He’s capable of hearing all of us at once and he’s the one in charge of distributing good things and there is enough to go around. If he wants to quiet the wind for Nik Wallenda, so be it. If he wants to lessen the force of gravity on my heart, that’d be freaking awesome. And I know the suffering and poor and exploited are always, always near the heart of God. My prayers aren’t going to encroach on that.
I can pray. That I can do. For others, and for myself and my gravity problem. We can all go in.
There’s room for Nik and I and you, and the curtain is open.
|Eden made this in Sunday School last Sunday. Aside from the fact that glitter should be banned from the earth, I thought it was kind of cool that God told her to make this craft specially for me. (kidding ;) )|