I prayed this morning.
That is, I prayed earnestly this morning, which I have not done for long enough that I don’t remember how long it’s been. Sometimes when I say “Oh God” under my breath I follow it up with a “please help me to [insert challenging task of the day].” And then I move on. I used to like to think I worked more out of my own volition than out of God’s; that I was self-sufficient. I have been stupid as far as that goes.
Last night I was listening to an audio dramatization of a C. S. Lewis book called The Screwtape Letters, which is a powerful, frightening book. It is a series of letters and lessons from one demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, Wormwood, training him in the eventual damnation of a human “patient.” Like guardian angels, only from hell.
The Screwtape Letters are heavy, and I don’t mean that in the Back to the Future sense. I mean it in the sense that they are hard to saturate oneself with. I have only listened to them completely once before. I remember very little, except hearing echoes of my own philosophy in Screwtape’s demonic voice (Andy Serkis’ voice, actually, for anyone to whom that might be of interest) and being slightly unsettled by the fact that I think like a fictional demon, and the end, which I am going to spoil by telling you that Wormwood fails to keep his “patient” from following wholeheartedly after God, and because this is evidently how hell works, he is then tortured. In Screwtape’s final speech, the uncanny emptiness his words fall on is purely frightening. Hell is probably much more real than we like to believe.
Anyway, I was thinking about God after listening to Screwtape last night. I don’t remember what, unfortunately.
Then I was getting ready to take a shower this morning and I was thinking about the Possible-Which-Is-Almost-Definite Ex-Boyfriend Outreach Project, which is probably going to happen tomorrow, in fact. And I realized that though I’ve talked to numerous people about this – e.g., my parents, my sister Kristen, Derek and Hannah (the “friends of my right hand,” as Madeleine L’Engle writes in A Circle of Quiet), I had not asked God.
And so, right there in the bathroom, sitting on the edge of the bathtub, I said aloud, “God, what do You think about my doing this?”
And I tried to listen. Not much. I think praying is about listening – perhaps not unlike the scene in L’Engle’s Many Waters where Yalith and Dennys listen to the stars. And then I remembered something I heard while listening to Screwtape last night. He said that one of the things a demon can do to make Christianity a less threatening part of the patient’s emotional consciousness is to make prayer less holy. Even making the posture of prayer seem unimportant will work, according to Screwtape. So I bowed my head and put my elbows on my knees and lifted my palms up. And I said again, “God, what do You think about my doing this?” and I tried to silence the noise in my brain and listen. And as I listened – I feel awfully mystic trying to explain how I understood all this, but it did happen – I began to understand that it was good, that if I trusted God I could forgive Matt and even tell him so, and I could also give Matt a chance to tell me anything he wants to say. It’s funny, but as I was listening it felt oddly like I was talking to myself, except I was also listening. It was not an out-of-body experience. It was just like listening to advice from anyone, but it seemed to be something I would say to myself, even; though I suppose I must remove myself from God’s level. Maybe what I mean is that the comfort level involved in that conversation was similar to the one I often feel when talking to myself. Perhaps that was it.
Anyway, that made me think about God. And that put me in mind of the phrase from the book Christy by Catherine Marshall where Christy asks, “God – where was God?”
And that made me wonder – God – who is God? Has God a personality, quirks or preferences, a favorite anything? I sincerely doubt favorites matter to God much – He created everything anyway. I am reminded of Madeleine L’Engle (again) likening God to an artist; an artist loves his creations, each in a different way. Everything, from my favorite color red to my sister’s favorite color lime green, is God’s favorite.
So that was cool.