There is something unique to struggle that it can be at once a great bridge between people when solidarity is found in relating through similar hardships, but on the other extreme can make you feel terribly alone despite being surrounded and loved. There is such an individual nature to each of our particular sufferings, that we ourselves often struggle to understand and express them. And it is a frustrating venture for us and for those who love us, with what to do with that, and how to cross those expanses. Often, there is little anyone can do to ease that ache of loneliness.
I have been blessed with a bunch of loving people who do their best to support me. But much of the time there is so little they can actually, practically do to feel helpful -either on my end or on theirs. Which is where an act we often see as passive stands out instead as a dynamic force of advocacy and action: prayer.
Last weekend, my church family did a 24-hour prayer vigil specifically for me. Which initially sounded like an awful idea, in the sense that I don’t want that much attention ever, and there is a weird feeling of neediness and vulnerability in so obviously necessitating that kind of intervention. But once I was able to get over the hesitation, it was easy to see that event as a huge act of love.
In prayer -and in this event, the act of prayer as solidarity and care magnified- my brothers and sisters can join in the urgency of struggle I feel on a daily basis. They can join me in the sleeplessness of night, and the ceaselessness of wrestling with want for healing and understanding. And in so many ways, they take on that burden when I am too tired to continue myself. The act of praying for me and with me, allows those I love to step alongside me and take the weight of my struggles seriously and urgently, in a way I don’t otherwise know how to ask them to do.
The image of people I love waking at 1am and 3am and 5am just to pray for me, cuts away some of the loneliness. There may always be a gap in understanding the full extent of one another’s burdens. There will remain the weight of hurt that we simply cannot bear for each other. But we can find ways to stand alongside each other, and make the weight of loneliness less.
There is much more to say on the purpose and gift of prayer than that, but even if this were the only slice of grace I gleaned from the experience, that would be enough.
And I will leave you with a poem reflection I started writing around Easter-time a year ago, but did not finally finish writing until this last week.
It’s Holy Week and I
am mouthing words to prayers at supper,
I can’t see resurrection these days?
Where I stand, the walls are still bleeding,
and my mop bucket
is full of tears.
Holiness is tattered,
and the edges are too frayed
One of my residents asked me if
I talked to the Devil today.
I said no but thought “maybe.”
Because I have a parade
of angry voices in my head
that sound like demons.
Fingernails on a chalkboard
up my spine.
What do you think the voices
when Christ descended to the grave?
Or was it the helpless silence
that made him cry out?
A Christian poet once wrote to
As if it is something we could learn
and somehow forget.
But if I am practiced at anything,
it is forgetting.
And while the realities of redemption
the hope of wholeness
Perhaps, it was no small thing when
Jesus appeared first
to Mary Magdalene,
from whom he had cast
If anyone could understand conquering Hell,
it would be someone
who had been there herself.
So it is Holy Week and I
am mouthing words to prayers
that echo cries:
“My God, My God,”
because I still feel
if an empty tomb
can point to hope,
maybe there are answers
in the emptiness.
the desolate places
where I most often find myself.
Where I feel most keenly the distance
from here to Eternity.
I can’t unfeel the sorrow
of a broken heart in a broken world,
and I don’t think that I’m supposed to.
But the thought of ever crossing that expanse
leaves me breathless;
I want clearer signs of overcoming.
More tangible victories of life
I want to press my fingers into scars,
to see a power vanquish this
I am wrestling for answers
to questions so painful
I can’t even say them out loud.
It’s a super-human strength we need
to bear the weight of gravity. And
we find it
on our knees.
*Photo by Sankarshansen