Prayer is an expression of who we are…We are a living incompleteness. We are a gap, an emptiness that calls for fulfilment. Thomas Merton
The last mistake I made in 2013 was to read “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller. I was eager to complete my reading goals for the year, it looked like an easy 270 page read, the first page read well and the reviews were compelling. So I nestled in my hammock and drank it in. All went well until the 29th Chapter when Miller told of a summer when praying through his goals for the following year He felt God say: I don’t want you to have any goals this year. I’m going to work on your character.
Interesting, I thought. No goals. Imagine that!
But I did not want to imagine. Ever since that summer of 2009 I have not wanted to enter a new year unprepared. It would seem irresponsible to do so. Every year I make time for goal setting. I cover all the bases: diet, exercise, education, spirituality, and socialising. For the first few weeks of January I go about setting up a habit, hoping that by the time I return to school things will fall into place.
I started the year well with an early night on New Year’s Eve and another ocean swim at 7am on New Year’s Day. It was glorious being in the water after conquering the fear. Over coffee afterwards however my vision blurred and the ache I’ve had in my neck since an accident at work seemed to tighten. By the end of the day it felt like my brain was pulsating in the back of my head. Later that week an MRI showed further complications, things that can be fixed, nothing terminal but for January I cannot swim. So much for that goal, I thought to myself suddenly remembering Miller’s words. What if God doesn’t want me to set goals either, I thought. What if he wants to work on my character as well?
When Emma arrived for our weekly catch up she posed the question she usually asks.
“So what’s God been saying to you mum?”
I explained my predicament with Miller, the goals and letting go. She leans in with understanding.
“I think maybe God is talking to you about the idol of achievement,” she responds.
Harsh though it sounds, the proposition is plausible and I nod in acquiescence.
”It’s tricky being me,” I confide. “I have so many incredible, high achieving friends.”
“You have nothing to prove,” she smiles, sounding just like they do.
Her words ring true. When she leaves to head home I find myself in Miller again. I had planned to spend the afternoon finishing novel number one of my 50 books in 2014 challenge but as I cleaned up our dishes from lunch the conversation rolls in my head and I abandon an afternoon with Ian McEwan to return to my book about prayer.
When you stop trying to control your life and instead allow your anxieties and problems to bring you to God in prayer, you shift from worry to watching. You watch God weave his patterns in the story of your life. Instead of trying to be out front, designing your life, you realize you are inside God’s drama. As you wait, you begin to see him work, and your life begins to sparkle with wonder. You are learning to trust again. Paul E. Miller
Though in my mind I hadn’t thought I had stopped trusting any more than I had stopped praying one thing feels certain, this year I give him permission to shape my character and while I keep moving forward I surrender my goals to Him.