My belief in a higher power runs somewhere between certainty and a nagging fear that it’s all just wishful thinking on a daily basis. Doubt is human. Faith is too.
Faith and doubt aren’t opposites. To doubt requires faith and to have faith requires doubt. It’s a marriage of perspective really and in today’s world, it doesn’t hurt to have both. I mean, religious or not, who hasn’t gotten down on their hands and knees and prayed for something even when they weren’t sure they were actually praying to anything at all? It’s human to want to believe in something. And that shared humanity makes me curious, curious because I realize how powerful prayer is and how intrinsic it is to our nature.
Prayer doesn’t require stringent formalities or even perfection. Prayer only requires two things: 1) Realizing how little control we have 2) A belief that hope and change are possible.
It’s hard to pray sometimes, not because of the act itself, but because of how counterintuitive it is to our way of life. We love doing things. We’re always doing something. And if we’re not doing something, we feel inadequate. Now I’m not saying that we should just sit around and pray and do nothing about the things we want to see changed, that’s silly. But I am saying that at some point, when there’s nothing else we can do, we have to release control and have faith that it’ll happen.
Prayer is something we have total control over all of the time, and to me that’s pretty nice. Why not pray ? There’s literally no harm in doing it. Pray for the world, for friends and family, for personal or seemingly silly things. Pray for it because you can.
I’m always shocked when crazy prayers are answered mostly because I know I never could have controlled the outcome on my own. Crazy prayers always renew my faith. In fact, when I look back on every crazy prayer I’ve ever written down, the only constant is my praying for it. That’s not to say that every one of my prayers has been answered, but my unanswered prayers are often matched with a certain kind of seeking for which I find an answer.
Here’s what I mean by a certain kind of seeking. Let’s say for instance, you’ve prayed for your health to change and for a new job. You’ve been praying for months, but there’s been no sign or glimmer of hope. Constant rejections and continued sickness plague you with doubt that things will ever change. You’re used to being that person on the go, running marathons, hiking, jumping out of airplanes, moving cities every year, but lately, it’s all you can do to get up, go to work, and cook something. You get pretty great at cooking though because it’s the only time you feel good and it makes you happy to stay put. You get so good at it, in fact, that friends start asking you to make things for them. One even asks if you would consider starting a catering company. And that’s when your health improves tenfold. You decide to take a chance on your catering business. It’s tough at first, but you find that owning a business brings the same excitement that jumping out of airplanes did. You realize that what you really wanted from life was adventure mixed with stability, both of which you got when you finally decided to put down roots and start your own catering company. You have a lot more friends, you get your health back, a new job, and a new lease on life. Seek and you shall find.
Life is funny that way. It’s always interesting to see how much you grow while waiting for your prayers to be answered. Sometimes doubts and frustrations arise to get us to pause long enough to ask ourselves what we really want from life. Perhaps that’s all doubt is, a refining tool. I often find I love what I get a whole lot more when I’ve had to wait for it and there’s always tremendous payback for the adversity.
I’ll end this entry with a story and a reflection.
I was at Barnes and Noble a few weeks ago buying a journal. I’ve been keeping a journal since 2014, which coincidentally is the year I started getting really into the topic happiness. My journals have seen the rise and fall of many things, but I never stopped journaling.
Fast forward three years, and I’m at Barnes and Noble perusing the journal section for a new buy. I usually buy EcoJot journals because I like the metal spiral and the motivational quotes on the cover, but the ones they had were pretty lame (sans inspiration) so I decided to keep looking.
I had my eye on a pink one with gold, glittery lines and a quote that said “I did my best.” It was very Dane Cook and funny, but super thin and I wasn’t sure it would last me very long, so I decided to keep looking. I see a few dumb ones before I spot a thicker spiral one on the shelf above, so I pull it out and smile before feeling uneasy. I feel uneasy because it’s a Jesus journal.
Now, I’m a Christian, but even I cringe at the Jesus journals. They’re usually really hokey and boring. So when I saw this one I was surprised by its prettiness. It had a pink flower on the cover, a nice font, and an inspirational quote. I judged myself for liking it though, so I put it back at first.
I picked up another journal instead, same thickness with a spiral, but it was solid and boring like an ordinary notebook and I wasn’t totally sold on it. It has a little color on the pages, but nothing special, so I was torn. I went back and forth for a bit, but ultimately decided to suck it up and get the better Jesus journal with the caveat that I would buy something else to draw less attention to it at the register. Ironically, I end up finding two additional books, both semi-related to faith, and like the Jesus journal, too hard to put down.
So here I am standing in line with not one, but three semi-religious books, and I’m thinking to myself, you’ve gotta put all of these back. You just started a business a few months ago, you should be saving money, and the cashier is totally going to judge you.
Now at this point, I already feel ridiculous, so I decide to say a quick prayer for good measure. I say, “God, I like these books, but I’m embarrassed to buy them which I know sounds terrible considering my supposed faith. I know I should be saving more money too since I’m just starting to make headway with the business. Anyway, if you could make it so that the guy at the counter doesn’t judge me and if you could help me not worry too much about the money, I would really appreciate it. Thanks for your continued patience.”
I headed to the counter with the three books expecting the worse, especially when an older gentleman showed up to manage an additional register. He looked super serious and I kinda groaned internally as I put my books on the counter. He asked if I had a Barnes and Noble card to which I replied, “No I usually shop on Amazon.” Great, now you’re that religious freak AND an Amazon shopper, I thought to myself after I said it. I smiled and tried to be friendly to offset my embarrassment and he chuckled a little. “Well we hope you’ll come back and shop at Barnes and Noble,” he says, putting the receipt in the bag. “Thanks,” I said before heading out, still mortified by my blunder. I was so embarrassed, I didn’t even stop to notice how little the total turned out to be.
I got home and pulled out the receipt along with the books and glanced at it quickly. That’s when I realized the cashier gave me the member discount on each of the books, making the total less than a book and a half. I smiled and shook my head. “The power of prayer,” I laughed, thankful for the discount.
A silly prayer in a bookstore line taught me something funny about faith. No matter how insignificant our prayers are and despite how fickle we are in our relationship with a higher power, God is persistent. It may not look like it sometimes, what with all of the craziness in this world, but perhaps all we’re asked to do is take a chance and believe in something beyond ourselves, to feel confident that despite evidence to the contrary everything is actually under control. Doubt it human. Faith is too.