I was raised in the Episcopal Church but went a wanderin’, as teenagers do, into the interesting realms of Wicca and Buddhism and even Judaism. I was looking for answers and for some sense that I had control over my life and my surroundings. In my early twenties I felt lost and alone spiritually, having put my alternative and conventional religious practices aside to accomplish the everyday tedium that is living. Eventually I found myself back in the Episcopal church, and my husband and I were confirmed together a few years before we got married.
It wasn’t until recently that I put the following together: prayer and meditation can be one in the same. Mind you, they aren’t always. Meditation can be used in many ways, but communing with the divine is certainly one of them. One would think that with nine years as a Wiccan and a lifetime of Anglican practice I would have done the math long before reaching my thirty-third year of life, but to be honest it really never occurred to me. Here’s why- I was raised in such a way that allowed me to believe that prayer could only be a way of thanking God for the blessings already bestowed upon me and asking for guidance. God wasn’t there to hear me bitch or moan, and God wasn’t there to be my personal genie. In my Wiccan practice I learned all about visualizing the things that I wanted and putting that vision out into the world so that it could come to fruition. Heck, I even prayed to Gods and Goddesses to bless my efforts… but none of that ever translated into my life as a Christian.
It’s confusing to people when I discuss my pagan years and then refer to myself as a Christian, so I should say now that I have always been a Christian… of the variety that still stirs the rune for love into her cooking and still recites spells out of habit over belongings she’d rather not have stolen. A friend of mine describes herself as something of an Episcopagan, and that is probably closer to my amalgam of beliefs than strict Anglican/Episcopal observance.
But back to prayer and meditation.
I’m angry. I have been living with pain for over a year. Money is a constant worry. My mother died. I lost my job. I’m rightfully pissed off. Specifically, I’m pissed at God. I’m a nice person and I worked really hard to have a certain kind of life and piece by piece that has been stripped away from me. My family is strained. We have done nothing to deserve what has befallen us. Why would a benevolent God let my mother die? Why would a benevolent God cause me such suffering?
Until recently I hadn’t prayed. It had been about a year. Oh, of course, I prayed in the beginning of my Monster Migraine. I prayed for God to help the doctors help me. And when my mother was first diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in March I prayed for God to help her doctors help her. But I hadn’t actually dug deep and prayed. I wasn’t thankful for what was happening in my life, and because what was happening was something that was not at all my fault I didn’t see a way to pray for any sort of guidance. I got stuck. I was angry and stopped up by my inability to talk to God in any way that I deemed productive based on how I knew how to pray.
My husband heard about a book by Ian Punnet called How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God; Or Anyone Else for That Matter. Punnet, an Episcopal priest, is also a late night radio DJ and uses anecdotes to spread his message about learning how to have a conversation with God. He talks about places in the Bible where people were just fucking enraged at God and how they talked to God about how upset they were. The book discusses how people think their prayers have to be neat and tidy and polite, but that life isn’t neat and tidy and polite all the time so we should feel free to talk to God about those times too. He even offers a collection of angry prayers for anything from road rage to being mad about a chronic illness.
It was as if the book was written to me. There I was in all of my bottled up rage and sorrow and depression feeling utterly abandoned by a God I was too mad to even attempt to talk to… and Ian Punnet said, “Hey, it’s cool. God will listen. Tell God how you really feel.” I started telling God how I really felt. I started telling God how much it sucks that my mother is dead and how stressed out I am about planning her funeral reception. I started telling God how ticked I am that my head hurts constantly and how much I hate taking all of this medication. I don’t worry about praising God and sometimes I use choice language. I ask for help and for money and I ask for God to make me feel better… not just my doctors… I ask God to heal me. I ask God to bring people into my life who have positive energy and who will understand me. I ask God to make my husband feel happier and my son feel more relaxed. I even ask God to keep my dog from peeing in the house. In addition to all of this I ask for the strength to endure my pain until I am healed, and the patience to deal with people at my mother’s reception. I ask for God to restore peace and joy to my household. Yesterday, I asked God to help my son hate his braces less, and I told my son it was okay to be upset about having braces. I told him that he could be upset when he prayed too.
And so I say unto you… God is with you in whatever form God takes for you, and God hears you when you weep and wail just as well as when you say, “thank you.”
A side note: My Episcopagan friend suggested a book to me called Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith by Marcus J. Borg which I am enjoying thoroughly. If you’re an Anthropology or History nerd, or even if you’re a Christian who’s feeling a little un-Christ-like these days… check it out.