“I’ll pray for you.”
This interaction happens countless times each day among people of faith, and it is always good. But for years, I had some wrong ideas about prayer. For one, I thought they had to be done in a prescribed way in order to matter. For another, I thought that I had to be someone different for them to matter. And again – and trust me, this is only the beginning of a list of things I’ve gotten wrong – I thought I had to say something for prayer to matter.
One of the hard-won lessons I have learned in ten years of helping my communication-challenged children talk and communicate clearly is that the love of God is not hindered at all by our ability or inability to speak or behave the “right” way or to fit a mold. I thank God when my children speak clearly and behave well, but I have also thanked God through years of hours-long screaming meltdowns and prolonged silences that lasted into months or years.
Look, not all of us will talk well. But that has very little to do with holiness or even eloquence. Think of Moses! Think of the many saints with speech troubles! Think of the quiet bishop commended by St. Ignatius as an example! Think of Hannah, seemingly drunk as she prayed so fervently!
God is with each of us no matter what. No Matter What. Hold that truth along with the hands of your sleeping child. God is with you and the child. Love is in the room.
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that the mystical Cloud of Unknowing is far removed from the uncertainties of parenting children with extra needs. That could only be true if God were far away. But here God is, with you now. You don’t know everything. You don’t even know how to pray beyond a few words, an outline of faith, that shapes your longing and directs your uncertainties back to the heart of God. Inquire of Lord — of course! Ask God for help — of course! Pray the prayers of the Church — of course! And then hush and let the quiet remind you of Who is near.
Today I want to unburden you temporarily of the obligation to speak. Just for a minute, or five minutes, or twenty, if you have it, be still and let yourself know that God is with you and loves you. Even if you cannot have quiet in your household, you can have silence. You can remember, for a moment, that you are held.
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