Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
I’d pray this little prayer every night in my head in my little bed in the little (I mean little–I stood in it again this summer) room that I shared with my brother and sister. Later I added the Lord’s Prayer. Together they made up my before-I-go-to-sleep ritual through nursing school and even after.
I prayed another prayer. “God, I’m going outside now. When I come back I want a whole pile of money on the bed.”
I guess I took the whole ask-and-you’ll-receive thing a bit far.
He never answered that prayer, and I began to doubt.
Then there was this one, when Grandma Dummer lay in a hospital bed–pneumonia, I think.
“God, please don’t let her die. I’m only ten. I think I could handle it better when I’m eleven.”
He didn’t answer that one, either.
Today I pulled out my prayer journal.
A prayer folder, really. Stuffed with sheets torn from various notebooks. I spread them out on Lil’s highchair tray. There are the ones that start in January 1980, written out with a blue fountain pen, the one with the cartridge.
January 15, 1980: “Lord, drum into this styrofoam head that I need approval from no man.”
February 5, 1980: “Why am I so tired all the time? I can’t concentrate on friends or conversation and am absolutely no help to anyone!”
August 8, 1980: “Oh, to have the patience of Mama Mouse with six young nursing ones attached firmly to her pregnant tummy as she walked around her aquarium!”
February 3, 1981: Lord, I trust in your timing, in your purpose. Yet I’m so disappointed. My period started last night.
March 8, 1981: Lord, I want to write!
July 21, 1981: I yelled! How ugly the words! How can I be so awful? How could I make this such a miserable night?
July 22, 1981: All I want is your will for my life. I want to know you.
July 22, 1981: I’m crying again. I’m doing it a lot. Will I ever grow up?
October 4, 1981, (2 a.m.): In pursuit.
October 5, 1981: Today I mail my first article to a Christian magazine.
I find thoughts about resigning jobs, leaving churches, moving, infertility, marriage and money struggles, surgery, the adoption of our firstborn.
I find high and flowery words. “Goofy” thoughts. Tear-smeared pages.
I find steno pages taped to three-holed 8-1/2 by 11 pages, and I find pages from my 5-1/2 by 8 planner.
I find a shift of writing from right slant to vertical back to right slant.
Some pages neat. Some pages total scribble.
And I know, because I remember, some pages are missing.
The pages I have are filled with exuberant joy and crushing sorrow poured from the heart.
And some are all prissy and proper Christianese.
I remember times when I could not write or pray. When I could only fall on my knees and sob. When I would walk through my daughter’s room and lay hands on the door, the wall, the furniture, her radio.
I remember screaming at God for not answering prayers, for not protecting her, for not slamming doors to pain.
I remember sitting in the car and telling my husband that I could not pray one more prayer, that I was tired, oh so tired, and I just wanted it all to end.
I wanted me to end.
I remember prayers scribbled in bound notebooks, since thrown away for fear someone would see and hurt.
Since then, I’ve journaled, stopped, started, tossed.
Last week I could not pray. Oh, I think I may have offered a before-meal blessing, but for the most part there was this ache, this yearning, this groaning, in a place where His presence pressed. And I could hardly speak of Him without tears.
But it was all good, very good.
And I’ve been thinking.
Maybe it’s time to start a new journal.
An honest journal.
With bound pages not so easily destroyed.
Where I can find my soul before I die.
And where, maybe, in the finding, in the reading, someone else can find theirs.