Some thoughts on prayer and identity

As I press prayer deeper, I find that there are more than enough distractions to try and keep me from pressing prayer deeper. I’ve read quite a bit about the experiences of others who have plumbed the depths of contemplative prayer. They all speak about these annoying, mosquito-like distractions. And, they agree that we must hold these things in the light of God’s presence so that a conversation with God can shed light on them.
One such ‘distraction’ is the recurring memory of certain sins in my life. These were dealt with through confession and repentance long ago. But, as I begin to pray, some of these memories just show up. As I have brought these before Yahweh, have rehearsed events in my life that may have some connection to these things. They seem to end with the fact that I was adopted as an infant. I have learned a bit about my birth parents. Enough to know that I was pretty much an unplanned for accident. But, this alone does not explain the continued interruptions of my time with God.
Then, I began to realize that who I am is strongly connected to the communities that I have been a part of. These groups and systems have shaped my life, perhaps more than I realized. Family, school, friends, co-workers, and others have created environments in which I have both flourished and foundered. I think, however, that God wants me to consider the larger group: the Human family.
I have known for many years the depths I am capable of sinking to. There is no sense in trying to fool myself. Jesus articulated some of these, “out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness” (Mark 7:21-22). In a word…‘me.’ Henri Nouwen wrote in The Wounded Healer, “Through compassion it is possible to recognize that the craving for love that people feel resides also in our own hearts, that the cruelty the world knows all too well is also rooted in our own impulses. Through compassion we also sense our hop for forgiveness in our friends’ eyes and our hatred in their bitter mouths. When they kill, we know that we could have done it; when they give life, we know that we can do the same. For a compassionate person nothing human is alien: no joy and no sorrow, no way of living and no way of dying.”[1]
Perhaps, some of what I am experiencing is for my own healing. Maybe merciful Yahweh has seen fit to dust me off and polish me up a bit. No, lousy metaphor. Elohim has decided to crush me into dust in order to melt me and refashion me. Maybe other folks get dusted and polished, not me. But, I don’t think I’m alone. I am human! I stand in solidarity with humanity! I don’t know for sure where God is leading. But, what I do know is that God is completely trustworthy and faithful. Where ever this is going, I can trust Yahweh.


[1]Nouwen Henri J. M., The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society, (New York: Doubleday, 1972), 45.
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