Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mamma, Don't Pray

“Mamma, don't pray,” the anguished plea slipped across the lips of my battle scarred son.

I fought back tears, “Why, Buddy?”

“Because every time you pray, things only get worse. Not a little bit ...a lot . Mamma, please don't pray.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations
The plea hung in the air between us. I considered how desperately sad he must have felt to make that request. I considered more carefully how to respond. Seven years earlier, he had posed another question that was just as pivotal. “Mamma, am I sick?”

We had just left the office of a Neurodevelopmental Pediatrician. It was the first time we'd ever heard the words “Asperger's Syndrome”. Most of the patients were profoundly affected by disorders like Cerebral Palsy. He had noticed enough to wonder if he was like the other kids seeing Dr. Aeillo that day.

It was a sunny day in February. The gulls were screaming as they sailed over wind tossed white caps on the Chesapeake Bay. Sun rays bouncing on the water blinded me for a moment. Icy wind cut my body in half bringing tears to my eyes and an ache to my bones. My heart ached in tandem with my body. Wind driven tears mingled with tears of shock and fear. I knew whatever I said next had the power to bring great gain or great loss in the years to come. I took a deep breath laden with a prayer, “Lord, help me get this right. If I don't ever get another thing right in my life, let this be the one thing I get right...”

Another deep breath froze my lungs as we scurried to get out of the wind. “Mamma?” The plea had become more plaintive. Time had run out. I couldn't stall anymore.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations
“No, Buddy. You are not sick. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God's word promises us that he made you for a unique and special purpose. He has promised us that he will see his plan thru to the end and that it will be a good thing. We already knew what the doctor told us. He gave us a name for why we know what we know. Now we have information that will help us know how to pick and choose things for school. After today, school should get a lot less frustrating. We will know more about how to choose your curriculum. We will have some helpers now too. Folks that can help us make sense out of what has been so confusing this last 2 years.”

“Oh.....ok, “ he responded with relief. Any news that school was going to be less frustrating was good news to a 7-year-old. That was enough for him that day.

Now I pondered his dismal request and knew my response was just as pivotal as it had been back then. I heard the unspoken question imbedded in the request that I refrain from praying. No. There was more than one question. Where is this God of whom you speak? Why hasn't he helped us? What is he doing to us and why? There were legions of questions. My heart was too broken to break anymore. I knew he spoke the truth. It was predictable in those days. If I prayed, within hours a new crisis would compound all that we were dealing with in navigating the world of the invisible homeless. There were times that even I was loathe to utter the words, “Why don't we pray?”

“I'm sorry. I know it seems that way. It's just can I put this into words so that you can understand. I have so little left of who I thought I was and what I thought our life would be like. I have you and your brother and your dad. We have the clothes on our back and the things we put in storage. Other than those things and our extended family, prayer is about all I have left. I have to keep holding on to a God that makes no sense because, in the end, nothing will make sense without his help. God still sees us. We are alive. None of us are dying of some horrible disease. Amma is sick, but even she is doing better than the doctors think she should be doing. You have your Nanna and Poppy and Aunt Pabby, Uncle Guy, and Uncle Lloyd. What we are going thru will be over. It gets harder because it has gone on for so long and because we don't know how much longer it will last. Death is the only thing on Earth, besides God's love for us, that is permanent. We aren't dead yet. I can't not pray, Buddy, I'm sorry.”
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations

I let the quiet settle in around us as we rode down the highway. I knew nothing I had said or could say would cancel out his valid point. Still, once I knew we could both handle it, I stretched my battered soul as high as it would go and once again asked God to remember us and to restore us as a family.

I could not have imagined that in a few short years, prayer would have abandoned me and I prayer. I could not have imagined that my bookcase full of beloved books pointing me to my good God would be more than I could stand to look at. I could not imagine how close I would come to boxing them up and hauling them to the dumpster. I could not imagine that, while attending a writer's conference for Christian writers, I would slip an anonymous prayer request under the water bottle of a designated prayer warrior. The note would contain these words: “I am a fraud. I do not belong here. I am just a mess.” As the days of homelessness faded and hope returned to our family, it was even more improbable that I would yet again feel abandoned by the good God that I had never doubted from 1997-2008.

There have been days when I have told friends that Son #1 has always made us look like better parents than we are. I have been sure he should have technicolored hair, tattoos, and pierces in body parts I don't know the technical names for. Why, I wonder, given all he has been required to accept is he not on drugs or a drop out from school and life. Instead, he has poured himself into music and photography. He has served on worship teams as keyboardist for a number of churches in our area. He has just auditioned for and earned placement on yet another one. When my faith wavered and I could no longer pray or enter a church, his faith remained resolute. The good God I promised him was on our team continues to prove that he was no mistake. That good God that I am writing my way back to continues to prove that Son #1 is fearfully and wonderfully made and that he was made with a plan and purpose in mind.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations
Long ago as our other life was coming to an end, the church secretary challenged my ongoing decision to homeschool. I wondered if she could see the future and Son #1 as an adult, would she understand? I wonder where she is tonight. I wonder what she would say if she had a chance to talk to him about his trip to China and his work with international aid teams serving the Leprosy affected populations. If I could tell her that, tonight, he made an international phone call half way around the world to discuss a business deal, what would she think? If I told her that the opportunity might require his living in Australia for several months, would his present reality cancel out our past? If I reminded her that he won't be 21 until October...what would she say?

My good God and I wrestle even now. I wonder as these events unfold in Son #1's life, what is the good plan he has set in motion? As I continue my quest to write my way back to him, I wonder. Will my good God one day enable me to trace his presence in our lives during all the days I could not find my way to him?

Tonight, I am scared stiff. Are you? I am afraid that I will have to overcome my aversion to passports and once again put my son on a plane half way around the world. I am just as afraid that a last minute glitch will cancel all the effort he has put forth into this project and leave him stranded amid all our hopes, plans, and dreams. I wonder what the God I do not understand is doing in us and for us.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creations
You have honored me with your visit today. Never think I take that visit for granted. What are you afraid of? I know your fraidy cat has a different name, but that's ok. If you are like me, your fraidy cat today may be different than the one that rubbed up against your legs and tried to make itself at home yesterday. It takes a fraidy cat to know one. I get you without a word of explanation. So, come back again tomorrow and bring a friend?

Proverbs 2: 7, 8 (NIV) He holds victory in store for he upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.


  1. WOW Carol, just WOW!!! What a gift the Lord has given you!!

  2. Beautiful, beautiful post. Well-written, with your thoughts eloquently expressed. Thank you for baring your soul and the wrestling with God for us to read. You are amazing. I am honored to have spent a few days in your presence. Know that He is with you still, even when we can't feel Him and don't know how or when He'll respond. I am praying for you and your husband as you start yet another unwanted adventure tomorrow.

  3. I am so thankful for my 2:1 buddies not the least of which is you. Who knew we'd bond over something like gammaglobulin infusions! So thankful for the oppty to be iron sharpening iron in each other's lives. I am continually humbled by God's gracious goodness to me as he provides folks like you to encourage me!

    1. I am thankful for you too! You never know who God will bring into your life to help you walk another leg of the journey, and you never know how He'll get them there! Who knew that both of us fighting our fears and getting on those planes would lead to a friendship where we can encourage and pray for one another? He is good!