A sort of prayer

OK, God, I need a break here.

I know that there is so much that should cause me to express my gratitude to you. I am blessed in so many ways that it is impossible for me to count them. I have a wonderful family. I have been loved all of my life. I have a meaningful career and work that has purpose. I have a beautiful home in a beautiful part of the world with magnificent animals for neighbors. I live win a community that is caring and compassionate. And that is just the start of the list.

And I know, God, that there are so many people whose lives are filled with so much more tragedy and pain and loss and despair than mine.

I know I don’t have much to complain about at all.

But yesterday left me feeling like I need a break.This week has been harder than I expected. Harder than other weeks. And when I add it to last week, I’ve spent too much time at the hospital, too much time with those who are grieving, planned too many funerals, It seems like a long stretch.

Is it too much to pray for a break?

Yesterday afternoon, for the second time in as many weeks, the Custer County Search and Rescue folks had a search that ended up with a body bag. These volunteers train and organize and give hours and hours of their time because they want to help those in need. They train to rescue those who have wandered off the trails and become lost, or who have attempted a climb and need a bit more technical skill than they possess. The point is that they do what they do because they want to preserve life. Recovering the body of a 22 year-old college student is a service that they are willing to perform and they are proud to serve however they are needed. But, truthfully, Lord, they live for the successful rescues, the lives saved and stories with happy endings.

They could use a break.

One of the deep honors of my life and work is that I have been granted the privilege to walk with those who are grieving. I am called to serve people who gather to remember and grieve by officiating at funeral services. It is work that is deeply meaningful. And I think I’ve gained a bit of skill through years of practice. But this weekend I’ll have two funerals on Saturday and another on Monday, with my usual Sunday services tucked in between. I’m up to my eyeballs in bulletins to prepare, orders of worship to plan, meditations to write, and stories to tell. It is good work, but it never comes evenly spaced in any period of time. I want to serve. I want to help, but each service takes it toll on my energy. I wouldn’t mind a couple of weeks without a funeral.

I could use a break.

I know that you have a lot of other prayers to answer, God. I know that my concerns are small in the scheme of things. I’ve spent enough time in the emergency room and the halls of the hospital this week to fully understand that there are lots of people with problems that are deeper than mine and pain that is worse than I can even imagine. I count myself among the most fortunate of your people. And, God, I am grateful. Thank you for all of your blessings.

But I read the stories of Moses, who dared to argue with you and even question the wisdom of your judgments. I nearly cry when I read about how he intervened to save the children of Israel when you had every reason to simply give up on them. I know I’m no Moses, but I admire the way he stood up for his people. I would like to have the courage to stand up for the people I serve as well. They’ve had a rough time recently. They plan the funeral lunches. They bake the cookies. They usher the mourners. They serve without complaining.

They could use a break.

I know that there must be days, God, when too many of our prayers sound like whining. It must get old to hear your people crying out to you. And I know that you love your people unconditionally and you always seek what is best for us. I know that I couldn’t do the things that I do if it were not for my absolute faith in your providence and presence.

You alone know how many times I’ve thought about Tevye, the character in the musical play Fiddler on the Roof and his prayer to you, “Would it foil some vast, eternal plan if I were a wealthy man?” And I know the answer to his question. “Yes, Tevye, it would foil the vast eternal plan. Wealth always comes at the cost of poverty for others. And praying for wealth, while entertaining in a musical play, is not the prayer God longs to hear from the people God loves.” So I, God, am not praying for wealth. I am not praying for luxury. I am not praying to somehow magically escape the trials of this life. I am not praying that I would escape being touched by grief.

I just want a little break. A day off. A few minutes to catch up. A morning to sleep in without being awaked by my list of tasks to be accomplished and people to visit and problems to solve. Is that too much to ask, God?

I remember, God, that the Fiddler in the play is a metaphor for survival in a life of uncertainty. The fiddler assumes a precarious position up there “trying to scratch out a pleasant simple tune without breaking his neck.” I know that you don’t ask of us more than we have to give. I know that trusting you is the path to my future. I know that I will receive a break when I truly need one.

There is another song that is a part of the original musical that has been left out of most modern productions. In that song Tevye sings:

When the Messiah comes
He will say to us
’I apologize that I took so long
But I had trouble finding you
Over here a few, and over there a few.
You were hard to reunite
but everything is going to be all right.

I get it God. I need to just show a little more patience.

So, dear God, if you can’t give me a break this week, how about a little patience? It couldn’t hurt.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!