“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 remember thinking as a child that this traditional bedtime prayer my mom prayed with me (until I was about seven) was creepy and awful. Why would any parent want their child’s last thought before sleep to be about dying?
I’m not sure why she stopped saying that medieval-ish prayer with me but left to my own devices I came up with something more suitable. Something more conversational and comforting. More like I’m sorry and thank you.
See, I was that child that got kicked out of Sunday school. I was that annoying kid who asked too many questions that these exasperated, good-hearted, volunteer teachers didn’t have the answers to.
At some point we just stopped going to church.
Looking back I think we stopped going after my middle brother made his confirmation when he was about fourteen which means I was about five. Although I didn’t particularly like Sunday School, I loved church. I loved the stained glass, the singing, the majesty. And for reasons I’ve never questioned, we just stopped going.
So I literally had no formal faith formation as a child…and I’m eternally grateful.
I was never taught how to pray, what to say or when to say it. I just talked to God.
It wasn’t until I attended a Catholic all-girls high school that I learned any rote prayers at all. Sr. Mary Michael made us say a Hail Mary before every math class so I had to learn that one quickly, but honestly, I didn’t even know the Lord’s Prayer. I spent several months moving my mouth like I knew it but it was completely foreign to me.
When I finally did memorize it, I was astounded at how my classmates let these words fall out of their mouth without any regard to their meaning. Now, a converted Catholic, I’m still amazed at how seemingly unmoved my fellow parishioners are when saying this beautiful prayer at Mass.
This prayer, these words…Jesus spoke them….to His Father. He spoke them in honor, in gratitude and with humility. Jesus wasn’t asking for anything other than guidance and forgiveness.
And here is the kicker…He surrendered all outcomes to God.
Thy will be done.
Not my will. Not, please God I need this to happen.
Just surrendering and trusting that God will facilitate the best possible outcome for all those involved.
Surrendering is hard. It leaves you vulnerable and open to pain.
No one accepts pain willingly. If we do it’s in a trade-off for something else.
But it’s in that uncomfortable surrender space that God can do His work. A cardiologist can’t heal your heart without opening your chest.
Jesus knew this. He tried to teach us.
But we never really got the lesson.
God exists in the surrender.