Grief, Presence, Absence, Prayer

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in the bleachers at my nieces' gymnastics meet in Montgomery, Alabama. In between events, I checked my email. The subject of the email, sent by my senior colleague: A Great Sadness. And A Great Sadness it was and is and ever shall be - a very young and very beloved member of my church died suddenly, leaving a family and community positively shattered by grief.

It was hard to be so far away from my church community when this happened. There are no words to speak in the face of such tragedy; at times like these it is all about togetherness, the ministry of presence, the bear hug. And I was in an exile of sorts, miles away and surrounded by a family deeply happy to be all together for the first time in years - the first time ever, really, since the most of the children hadn't yet been born the last time we were all in the same place at the same time.

I was grateful, obviously, to be with my family, but for several days I toggled back and forth between the conviviality of cousins playing and the sanctuary of my bedroom, where I did a good amount of weeping and praying. I found myself unusually able to pray. Prayer has rarely come easy to me, but this time around I prayed the way one might gasp for breath. I didn't have many words, but I experienced, keenly, the Spirit interceding with sighs too deep for words. 

In the midst of this I recalled a retreat I went on in high school. At the end of the weekend you found out that there had actually been a handful of kids there, cloistered in another part of camp, and their whole purpose in being there was to pray for the kids on retreat. I didn't get it at the time, not really. It seemed a little bit silly to me. Quaint. Questionably effective.

I think I get it now. Maybe it is quaint and questionably effective, but it was the only thing I could do, so I did it.

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