[NOTE FROM JESSICA: Go here for the archive of emails from the 9-Day Prayer Challenge: June 25-July 3, 2018].
We begin our prayer today with a verse submitted by one of you, a reminder for all of us and for all the children and families we gather today to pray for:
Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me.Psalm 139:5
It was 3 days, 3 yoga practices, 4 meditations and 1 honking brownie before I could even read the stories of kids separated from their parents at the border. I couldn’t talk about it. I couldn’t think about it. I couldn’t read about it and I definitely couldn’t hear the audio.
Everything in me felt like it was shutting down like that moment before you faint… The darkness comes on the edges of your vision, spots distort what’s left of your view and you scramble to find something to hold on to, something to brace against because you know the fall is coming and the ground will be ever so hard. It’s terrifying. I have found that it’s in fear, not hate where evil lies. Like everyone else, I’ve walked through my fair share of fear.
I have been a child and remember my fears as a child. I think I was in fourth grade when my class got the assignment to pick out and read a book from the school library, dress up as the main character, and give a report in front of the class. There were too many of us − or too few biographies− and all of us girls were a bit too concerned with the type of costume we’d be wearing to pay much attention to the content of the books. I picked a book about a saint because dressing up like a nun, like she had been, did not sound so bad.
Then I was terrified in a way that you can only be as a child. The book talked about a nun who was called to serve the lepers, who eventually contracted leprosy, and died alone. I remember this made me terrified of the act of being called by God.
I pictured a calling as an unavoidable (apparently unpleasant) life sentence. I remember fearing what my calling could be. What if had to be a nun? What if I died of some disease I didn’t understand, in a place I imagined as being dank and dark and desolate? Of course I kept those fears to myself so there were (what I remember as) months of tears at night.
Being a Catholic school kid I was familiar with the story of Jesus calling the children to Him. I would have seen images at school of children surrounding Him gathered in a garden.
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’ When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.Matthew 19:13-15
That vision of Jesus calling the children calmed my heart and saved my faith. I remember going to bed picturing that scene. Finally, I was calm and sure that God would never call me toward something that would hurt me, He would never ask what I couldn’t give, He would always give me choice. To this day, when life feels big and I feel small, that’s the image I go to bed with to quiet my heart. It’s the image that drives out the darkness and focuses my vision: my head on His lap, a beautiful garden all around. I don’t have to grasp for anything else. I know I will not fall.
I can’t even begin to understand the terror the separated children and parents must be feeling. The darkness may feel like it’s closing in. They may be holding their breath and waiting to hit the ground.
God, while they sit in fear, grant them the peace of knowing that You will catch them when they fall, that with You they are never alone, that the darkness that feels like it’s closing in can be overcome, the vision You have can never be blotted with spots because You will deliver them.
God, grant those with hard hearts the power to feel. Remind them that you have promised your kingdom to children such as these. Remind them that you instructed us that the path to Heaven is to give our possessions to the poor (Matthew 19:21).
We are all your children; give us the courage to follow your path.