Last summer I made it a point to pray for the well-being of my friends and family every day while I was overseas. When I got home, three of my friends went to the hospital (one with leukemia), two were in prison, one lost her mother, and one was walking away from his marriage. After a summer of praying for them by name every day on my walk to class, I felt like God got his wires crossed.
But last night when I had dinner at the home of my friend whose marriage has been healing, enjoying continuing my friendship with his wife and three-year-old daughter, I wondered if no one’s wires were crossed, neither mine whose heart was urged to pray for him as he entered a dark few months nor God’s who uses destruction itself to bring healing, who can use marital crisis to strengthen the very family at risk. I used to imagine that we pray in order to urge God to act; now I wonder if we pray in order to open our eyes to see the ways he is already acting.
Maybe both. Maybe the epic story of history is ultimately a story of redemption, regardless of our own agency; maybe we pray and obey in order to audition for our roles and the roles of our friends. When tragedies continue to come upon my loved ones, I pray that they get to play the parts of healed bodies and released prisoners. As that happens, I am in a good position for the role of a redeemed doubter.
After all, my doubts could hardly intimidate a God who uses death itself to bring life. Sometimes we are called to have faith in God’s goodness without evidence; but then when we find that no amount of effort on our part can conjure the thoughts and feelings we imagine are tantamount to faith, sometimes God gives faith itself as the evidence of faith.
Last week I bumped into my old formerly-homeless friend Barbara, once a crack addict and street prostitute, now having been clean for two years and married for two months to one of the men she met at a homeless shelter. I realized after our impromptu lunch that my cynical heart that is no longer shocked by tragedy is applying the same sense of inevitability to the redemption of those inevitable tragedies. Of course Barbara is being redeemed. It would figure.