I grew up in a small Methodist church where we learned, among other things, that God is good, Jesus loves us, and prayers are always answered. As I've gotten older my beliefs may not be exactly the same as what we were taught in that tiny little church, but those basic premises have always remained the same.
Prayer itself has always interested me. So many people have so many different interpretations of what prayer is, and how it works, and how you have to do it...
And of course I've always had my own interpretation, too. Mine may be a little over-simplified compared to some, but in my life I've found the simplest answer is often the best.
I don't believe that we have to start our prayers with "Heavenly Father" or end it with "Amen." I don't believe we have to ask for forgiveness in the beginning or ask for our prayers to be answered in Jesus' name. I don't believe we have to repeat a prayer 50 times for Him to listen, or use eloquent words...
Maybe I'm wrong, and I most likely am, but I have never seen God as someone I have to sit down and have a conversation with for Him to hear me. I don't have to bow my head. I don't have to say it out loud. Don't get me wrong, I think there is a time and a place for that, but I don't think we have to do those things for God to listen. To me, God is the Voice in our heads, the Laughter and Tears in our eyes, the Dance in our feet. He just Is. He hears us when we're lost and when we're found; He hears us when we're alone and when we're in a crowded street; He hears us when we hit our knees, and when we're standing in line at the grocery store.
Again, I'm probably wrong, and maybe therein lies the problem. I never really thought that much about it until we found ourselves in the hospital.
Through Aubrie's life and passing, and through Dax's many, many illnesses and ups and downs, I found myself very interested in how people pray. Some would pray for health for Daxton, others would pray for strength, acceptance, and peace for us. Others would pray for God's will to be done, and still others would pray for Him to guide the doctors and nurses. There were prayers for medicines and procedures and surgeries to work, and for better days tomorrow. Many of you remember praying for pee when Dax's kidneys failed...
All in all, I found most people prayed for A.) something to happen, or not to happen, B.) something to happen or not to happen, if, of course, it was God's will, or C.) God's will to be done.
I'll be completely honest with you, in the beginning my prayers were probably a combination of the three, depending on my mood and what kind of day we were having. Over time, when my nerves got so raw from having my entire life tossed around like God's hot potato, there were days when my prayers sounded less like pleas and more like angry tirades. There were times my prayers started with "Listen here you big fat bully..." and I can even remember praying once that if He was going to take Daxton with Him, to go ahead and do it already and quit yanking us around. I don't think I said it that nicely, though, if I remember.
No prayers are more honest than those you utter when your child is suffering. And maybe they're not all so pretty.
There came a point when Daxton was in one of his "trying-to-die" phases when I told God I would no longer be praying for better days tomorrow, or for medicines to work, or for a better chest x-ray or blood gas... From that point on I would be praying for perfect lungs, a perfect heart, a perfect baby. He, and only He, could do those things. I knew He could, but didn't know if He would. I accepted that, but I was not happy about it.
I remember the day that Daxton was moved into the crib for the first time. Our nurse that day is one of the most wonderful, amazing Christian women that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and she did a lot towards helping pull me from my God-funks that I got into from time to time. After Daxton was moved to his crib we prayed together that God would keep Daxton's body temperature up so he could stay in his crib.Dax was not able to keep up his body temp, but thankfully God sent lots of blankets and a heat lamp. (Okay, that was a little sarcastic, but that's how it felt at the time.)
I was a believer, and I laid my and my son's life in His hands. I would tell Him that we knew He was in control, and that we accepted that and would live the life He laid out for us. But I still felt His plan really stunk.
You watch children die. Innocent children, with good families. Innocent children with drug-addicts for parents. Children who are very much wanted, and children who are not. Sometimes it's hard to see God's plan. Other times it is even harder.
You begin to wonder what the difference is. Why one child lives and another dies. Why one child survives with no long-term issues, and the next child will forever require the help of others. Did one child have more people praying for him? Were the prayers from more righteous mouths? Were the parents of one child "better" Christians?
No. It doesn't work that way. It would at least make sense if it did. At least we could look at that scientifically and make some rhyme or reason of it. But you can't. It's just all so... Random.
And it is absolutely impossible to go to a funeral for a baby who fought and fought and fought to live and walk away feeling that there's any beauty or justice in that. You just can't.
But everyone around you knows exactly how you should feel. They tell you on good days that God is great and He answers prayers. Then you hear on bad days not to blame God, because it's not Him. They tell you to put your faith in God and not to worry because He will protect your child. And then when you catch a medical professional in an error, others will tell you that God allows free will, and He allows us to make mistakes.
(It's a bit like watching a gameshow or a ball game... Everyone in the crowd knows what to do. It's much harder when it's your life on the line...)
We had heard "God has a plan" so many times before Aubrie's memorial that I told the preacher if he spoke about how Aubrie's passing was all part of God's plan that I would personally throw a hymnal at him. I wasn't the biggest fan of God's plan a that point in time, and told Him as much.
I guess the gist of what I'm trying to say is that, when you go through an extremely difficult situation, your faith gets tested. You wonder, what happened to the God I learned about as a child... The One who was all-powerful. The One who raised the dead and caused the blind to see? Where are my miracles?
I've met people along the way who have lost a child, or two, or three, and tell me they never questioned God. They understood He has a plan bigger than us, and they will succumb to His will without batting an eyelash.
I myself am guilty of questioning. Over and over. And batting lots of eyelashes. And kicking and yelling and screaming. A self-righteous Christian at her best.
(I told God on several occasions that He made me that way, so now He has to deal with it. Isn't that what all good, mature Christians say?)And here I am a year-and-a-half later, and I still don't understand. The pain and the heartache and the stress have lessened, but I still don't understand. There are so many Bible verses on prayer... And none of them that I can look at and say, "Aha! I get it now."
Maybe that's how it's supposed to be? Maybe it really isn't about ultimate understanding, or knowledge, or wisdom. Maybe life is just one long car ride with God, and we're the restless kids complaining "Are we there yet?" and "He's touching me! Make him stop touching me!" while God steers us to the final destination. And then when we get there we can finally understand what the journey was all about.
Or maybe He gives us the keys, a phone, and the map and sends us on our way, knowing that the road is long but that we'll get there in our own time and we can call Him when we get lost.
I just don't know...
But here's what I do know:
I realize now that I knew how to be a good wife... until I got married. I knew how to be a good mother... until I had kids. I knew how to rely on God... until I really needed to rely on God.
I know that, in reality, I know less now that I have ever known. But despite it all, I still have these three things:
God is good, Jesus loves us, and prayers are always answered.
I don't know how, or when, or why.
And I can really accept that now...
Even if I don't always like it.