during my time praying lauds yesterday, i was remembering some folks who have asked for prayer for various reasons, & i stopped to dwell for a moment on a man named George.
periodically over the last few weeks he has been on my mind both during my prayers and at odd moments outside of them, popping up while i fold some laundry or stir the soup. yesterday, i let my mind wander just a bit more beyond my general begging for God to bless and assist George~~ turning to some very serious gratitude for him being in my life. you see, he is the one who really taught me to pray.
prior to meeting George almost 10 years ago, if someone asked me to remember them in my prayers, i would happily agree to do so and then go my merry way. what followed was some variation of this: run into person who requested the prayer or someone who knows them to find out that a) the circumstances had improved, b) the circumstances has worsened, or c) things were basically the same. i would nod politely (& embarrassingly if the person thanked me for my prayers), then shuffle away feeling awful that i had not honored such a simple & IMPORTANT request. Why? & yet, i continued, as if paralyzed, in this same pathetic mode.
enter George. i met him one of the very first times i was at the sunday homeless dinner in the nearby city. he was an outgoing gentleman with a ready smile and a twinkle in his eye. always. our first conversation was full of laughter, sharing some of our stories as people do when they first meet. it goes without saying that not every part of his life was sparkly, as he was living on the street, but those tough parts of his life did not remotely dampen the joy that he carried & shared. for many weeks & years after that first encounter, every sunday that it was our family's turn at the dinner, George was always front & center to share a hug, some good news & encouragement. one of those many sundays in the mix of years, as we were ready to leave for the day, he grabbed my hand & looked me square in the eye, requesting, "will you pray for me? i will pray for you everyday."
something about his look & the urgency of his words made my soul sit up & pay attention. it was as if it said to me, ... look, you failed in this before, but this is serious business. it is necessary. & you must do it. no more dragging of the feet.
i could not, under any circumstances in that moment do anything but say "yes" & mean it. my drive home was spent pondering how to make this real. every. day. i scanned my brain for something that would help me remember to take this request seriously, to integrate it into my daily life. i realized that my prayer life in general was quite haphazard; it lacked any sort of structure that would be the skeleton that held it together. considering my daily activities, i remembered the journal that i used nearly everyday for poetry & nonsense, thinking...hey, why not write notes to God. & along the way, write George's name in the margin to jog the lazy memory. this urgency for my friend's request opened up a whole new beautiful world to me as i realized that God is not something far off & He loves to chat over coffee, or to receive my tears poured out for a friend who is hurting, or to hear me moan over some silly perplexing thing of mine while i vacuum, or maybe best of all, to have me just sit with Him in the Adoration chapel quietly & gratefully just. just...
through the years George has also taught me more about the Body of Christ than all of my intellectual theological pursuits combined. what it really means to be members of His Body, to sorrow when when part hurts, to take joy with another. a few years ago George stopped coming to sunday dinners. not one of the regular crowd knew where he was or why he wasn't coming. i missed him very much. of course, he remained firmly in my prayers.
at first it was strange for me to intercede for someone with whom there was no follow up. i no longer knew of his needs, his struggles, his triumphs. but in my praying for him i discovered that we were still connected somehow. & it didn't matter that i didn't know. God certainly knows. i am not to worry. not a bit. but i am to keep that promise to George. i do. & in this doing, i've learned to trust. that He cares more for George (& for all of us) than i could possibly imagine. that faith means doing things for something which i may never know the outcome. that my very small sacrifice of intercession for George matters very much to God because He created George as a unique individual out of His infinite love....something true for each and every of us.
it no longer matters where George is...what matters is love.