I don’t often pray in the traditional sense. I don’t find myself with hands pressed neatly at heart center, head bowed. I don’t imagine God as an old wise man who lives in the clouds who may or may not respond to my ‘pleas’ and thanks.
But I do recall three specific incidents in my childhood when I prayed in some approximation of these expressions. The first time I was 4 or 5 and prayed on a twinkling star that I would marry Tommy Fisher. He was a strawberry haired, freckled-faced kid in my kindergarden class and I was happiest in his presence.* The second prayer was delivered at age 6, when I asked God to help my single mom find a husband so I could have a dad.** The third prayer is one I still think back on with a degree of shocked incomprehension.
I was 8 years old, smart and gregarious. I was the kind of kid always picked first in PE. It’s no lie that the boys liked me and the girls wanted to be my friend. While lying in bed one night I stared out the window searching for the portal to the Creator of the Universe where I could direct my message. It was a half-hearted gesture, I knew there was no portal but the message that night was extra-important. I figured God, omniscient as ‘he’ is, would get the point anyway. My prayer began earnestly. It’s too easy, I said. Life’s too easy. I don’t want to know how great I am anymore. I want to believe I’m less pretty, less smart... It went on, trying to convince God that I would be ok if I forgot how good I was. Thinking harder I added, I’ll still take the A grades though. I was serious.
In truth, I didn’t want to sail through life (and still don’t). I didn’t want to carry on with all the answers (despite my tendency to try). I didn’t want to please everyone all the time (impossible anyway). I wanted drama! Romance! Juicy life experience! And I realized, even at 8, that there was so much to gain from living with the questions and choosing to seek out a path to my own answers. What fun is a maze if you never take a wrong turn? What fun is a crossword if you never get stumped by 43 down?
Truth is, I got my wish. There are times that I forget that I am more powerful than I think, more beautiful than I know. I forget that I set my own limits and that a life of uncertainty is a life in balance. Sometimes, I go many months before remembering that I wanted to work out the puzzle myself. I wanted to go about exploring the maze of life to find my own way. Sometimes, I hate the path because it feels lonely and long. Sometimes, I want to find a shooting star and wish myself back to that childhood bedroom so I can stop myself from shedding the easy life. But of course it wasn’t the wish that got me here. It’s just the way life goes. I think most of us have forgotten that we came to earth for this. In one way or another, we are here to explore and experience and express. The ease comes from giving in, going with the flow, and understanding that not knowing is a compelling place to stand.
* Weeks later I vehemently wished on a shooting star to take back my first wish. The change of heart was born either from my realization that no body marries their kindgergarden crush, or my eye had wandered to his best friend Alex. I think the truth is mixed of both.
**And lo, my prayer was answered!