Morning Prayer: It's Better Than Coffee
- Tuesday, August 10, 2004
He’s still blind, he’s still old, he’s probably alone. Maybe his wife is dead, his kids far away. Does he have anything to look forward to except heaven? Is that supposed to be enough? And what if he doesn’t know you? Are you going to let him live a few more miserable years and then send him to hell?
I closed my eyes. I wanted to sleep, to make it all go away. But my mind wouldn’t shut down. I remembered an article I had forgotten is due tomorrow. And those radio spots. Plus I’m scheduled for live television today. Well, I can do it. Get some coffee in me, read the funnies, sports, and editorials in that order, then push ahead. I can pull it off.
Is that what I’m doing? Just pulling it off? I feel no passion. Only pressure. What am I after? Survival? Happiness? Fulfillment? Joy? Everything I want seems out of reach. If I tell anybody what I’m feeling, they’ll say they’re concerned about me. Or offer advice.
I want to cry, but the well is dry. There’s no water, even for tears. I prayed again, this time in agony: God, are you there? What can I count on you for? What do I want? What do you provide? It all seems so futile. So pointless. And telling you isn’t helping. It isn’t making any difference at all.
Peter Kreeft calls what I was going through the Ecclesiastes Experience. One big, colossal “So what?”
It wasn’t the first time. The feelings are familiar. The experience recurs like a bad headache. I’ve entered the Ecclesiastes Experience often, and fully enough to know what anhedonia means—no pleasure anywhere, no relief available, no meaning to anything, nothing that’s enjoyable.
But I’m realizing something. For me, the Ecclesiastes Experience has become the beginning of real prayer, the kind that erupts out of dependence. I felt hope this morning. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds.
Then just as quickly, it disappeared. The rains came. In torrents. Still lying in bed, I thought again of all I have to do, how disorganized my life feels. Old worries flooded my mind. New worries felt like a tidal wave. I panicked. Where’s the peace I’ve been promised?
I sat up in bed, angry, desperate. “I hate my life!” I silently shouted. Then I fell back on my pillow and writhed and moaned.
Was I trying to wake my wife? Was I hoping she wouldn’t hear me? Who knows? I’ve begged God a thousand times to search my heart, to show me my wicked ways so I could repent and move on to joy and adventure and passion. It’s happened, but never on cue and never as a long-term adjustment.
Now the clock said 5:35 a.m. I felt limp, detached from everything. Hopeful about nothing. But, and this caught my attention, I felt more frustrated than numb. I was getting in touch with what C.S. Lewis described as those longings that nothing in the world can satisfy. Maybe I really was made for what is not now available. That felt strangely hopeful, transcendent.
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