Praying with Your Legs
I remember praying the first time I was unemployed for things to change. That is right. The first time. I have been unemployed three times in my life. Once I quit. Another time I was laid off due to a shrinking budget and the last time I was basically fired. Not a stellar track record. My poor wife and kids… I am talking about the first time. Obviously, I prayed for a job. I prayed for a good job that would provide us financial, emotional and mental comfort. In a word “peace” – peace from what I was feeling like at that point. None of us are immune to the pain that causes our faith to feel like spreading rocks beneath us eroding into frustration, anger, and dark despondency. Why? Where is God? What good is God if he does not even help in times like these? That whole “Footprints in the Sand” poem does not help me. Maybe I am too cynical.
Hope emerged and faded so often and quickly that it seemed to hurt more than it helped. I remember looking out a window unsure of what to do with myself after getting lost again in the rabbit hole of searching for jobs on the internet. My inner dialogue seemed to blur the line between thinking and praying. Suddenly, the phone rang, as if a phone rings with any other timing than suddenly, and I was pulled out of the tangled mess of my mind. It was a friend, a business owner, and he had a job offer. Hallelujah. Jehovah Jireh.
Joke. It did not happen that way. Nobody called, This whole thing did not end abruptly, easily or gloriously. It kind of just faded out of view in the background over way too many miles as we drove away going up and down hills.
My struggle with God then was not just about him answering or not answering me. I wondered if I even deserved to be answered. I was asking for something a lot of people do not have. Why what makes me so special that he would just magically make it happen? I was unemployed, but I lived in a nice house with a good family and a lot of “things.” What I wanted was to be able to pay for it all without stress while loving my work. On one hand, I felt like a Christian sitting at slot machine wondering why the infidel next you is winning when you at least try to serve God and would probably at least do a little good with it. That guy will just blow it on himself. (Yes, I did that.) On the other hand, I knew as I sat there wanting a blessing, there were kids starving to death who would not get an answer and who would eventually completely die from a lack of food. There I sat stuck between “Is this too much to ask? A little help here!” and “Nevermind God. You should go help someone with bigger problems.”
This is the problem with believing in miracles. Because, if they can happen, why do they not happen to me? For every one person healed, a million others still die. He healed the physically sick, the physically deformed, the mentally ill. He brought people back to life. He made a bunch of wine out of water which is really less serious than all of the other miracles but seems fun.
John calls them signs. These were points in time where the entire wavelength of our faith was condensed into one moment. For that person, at that time, everything was made new. That in a phrase is the Christian hope. Everything will be made new.
Yet, we are not to sit by the pool and wait for someone to push us into the miraculous water.
“I prayed for freedom for twenty years but received no answer until I prayed with my legs.” – Frederick Douglas (From a speech in 2011 after the Bowling Green Massacre. Just kidding my politically informed friends.)
Praying with your legs is what we know as walking by faith and not by site. We do not walk because of what we see around us. We walk because of what we do not see. Right now, we sigh and make muffled growling noises of frustration. We feel burdened and are exhausted from the chemical reactions taking place in these bodies we now live in caused by stress and worry. We long for a different existence.1 The only way to survive this is to walk by faith and not by the results, or lack of, that we witness. This is what people of faith have always been commended for.2
“When Jesus speaks about the world he is very realistic. He speaks about wars and revolutions, earthquakes, plagues and famines, persecution and imprisonment, betrayal, hatred, and assassinations. There is no suggestion at all that these signs of the world’s darkness will ever be absent. But still, God’s joy can be ours in the midst of it all. It is the joy of belonging to the household of God whose love is stronger than death and who empowers us to be in the world already belonging to the kingdom of joy.” Henri Nouwen
So, we do not move forward hoping for the miraculous to take place in order to make today or tomorrow better. We move forward with hope because of the miraculous that has already taken place and is promised to take place again once and for all.
What this means is that your struggle is not due to a lack of faith. Your existence in that struggle is a testimony of your faith. Today, do not take heart in what you see around you. If you are waiting for things to start looking up in order to find the strength to get up and walk, you will be laying there a long time. Take heart in the faith that moves beyond simply promising tomorrow will better and promises that eventually, it will be better forever.
1 2 Corinthians 5:1-7
2 Hebrews 11:1-2