Last night I went to a meeting of the Church Secretaries Union.  Melissa and I shared a big plate of crudites with artichoke dip.  It was delicious.  We talked about whether the whole menopause and the pastor thing was worth bringing up.   She thinks it is, which surprises me.    We also, as always, talked about boys.

The church that was so awful to us both has gone through a lot of changes over the past two months.   The creepy pastor’s gone off to Iowa.  The woman who called my turtleneck sweater slutty and her racist husband have become Baptists and, no surprise, tea party activists.  The new pastor found out what happened with Melissa and Ian and invited them back, which I thought was quite decent of him.  He offered to do a formal “marriage blessing” ceremony for them some Sunday to make the church’s position clear on their relationship.  Ian’s getting sicker all the time, though.  She had a friend come over and stay with him while we went out, in case someone needed to drive him to the hospital.

Melissa’s been praying for me to find a husband, she says.  I always find it awkward when people say that.   Yes, “always.”   I can think of at least three–make that four, five, six–other people who are praying for me to get married ay-sap.    Being a sort of evangelically Christian is kind of weird sometimes.    And by kind of weird, I mean extremely weird.

I wanted to tell Melissa that I would prefer her to pray I find a better job, preferably with relocation benefits and in a cool city, or to pray for Pakistani flood victims or to pray for my chapstick addiction and ragged cuticles.   Or something not quite so unseemly is, you know, a husband.  I’m not opposed to husbands.  I am certainly not opposed to boys.  I like them tremendously, and I am extremely fond in sleeping in beds with other people in them.  So I would likely enjoy marrying one or another of them sometime.   Provided I could keep my name.  My name is awesome.   You have no idea.  It’s one of my favorite things about myself.  I digress.  In fact, this whole paragraph is a bit digress-y.  I just feel uncomfortable with people praying for me to get married.  I apparently also feel uncomfortable discussing why I am uncomfortable.  Whatever.

Things moved quickly from uncomfortable to hilarious.  Melissa’s picked me out a husband and has been praying for things to work out with us.  I don’t want to tell God His business, but I would like to gently suggest God go another direction than Jim the East Coast Agnostic who is Married to My Friend Lily and whose Feet Make Me Throw Up Just a Little in My Mouth for Some Reason.  I can think of at least five things wrong with just that sentence.   Jim and I talk periodically–and, I should add, unflirtatiously–on Facebook.   I assured Melissa, with alacrity that Jim may’ve found hurtful and that Lily could only have appreciated, that her prayers were somewhat misguided.  She apologized.  I told her not to worry about it, that God would certainly sort things out.

Along time ago, I used to like watching Bill Mahr’s talk show.  You know, the one that aired late on weeknights on network television.  Once they had the guy from POD on.  Remember?  Christian rap rock?   Bill was scoffing that Christians were praying for him, praying that he not be such a godless heathen bastard and maybe lose his tv show in the bargain, and he asked the Christian rap-rocker what he thought of that.  The fellow sighed and considered and said that maybe it could be comforting that people were praying for him.   If God’s there at all, he’s certainly not the mean crank that some Christians are.   The Spirit, he said, intercedes for us and makes our prayers more than what we mean.   I was a teenager and sitting in my parents’ living room in my pajamas, and his words struck me like a hammer on a bell.

There are things that are hard for me to believe.  And there are beliefs that come easily to me.  Prayer is one.  I believe that God somehow got what Melissa was going for with her prayers, that maybe Jim and Lily and I are all blessed somehow by her attentions.  She knows me and loves me as her daytime drinking mean friend.   That’s a thing, a positive one, if you recall.  She doesn’t know Jim, but there’s some thing or another that she saw him say and that won her affections.   Once I read that prayer, at its best, is taking someone you love and putting them into God’s hands.  I’ll take that.  That’s a good place to be, it seems to me.

And I’ll take, too, all the prayers of the people I’ve offended or scandalized, the people who think I’m dressed like a satanist or a slut, the people who fold up their tight protestant mouths to squeeze out the words “I’ll pray for you” in a tone that sounds more like a curse than a blessing.

I can’t help but believe that your prayers for me and mine for you change us both a little, that there is something at work beyond our misinformation or our spite or even our own good intentions.   The words I can think of for God are silly ones, trite notions stitched on sofa pillows and screen printed onto tee shirts.  Here’s a poem I didn’t write, instead.

“Prayer”

by C.S. Lewis

Master, they say that when I seem
To be in speech with you,
Since you make no replies, it’s all a dream
–One talker aping two.

They are half right, but not as they
Imagine; rather, I
Seek in myself the things I meant to say,
And lo! The wells are dry.

Then, seeing me empty, you forsake
The Listener’s role, and through
My dead lips breathe and into utterance wake
The thoughts I never knew.

And thus you neither need reply
Nor can; thus, while we seem
Two talking, thou are One forever, and I
No dreamer, but thy dream.

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