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The Thousandth Mile


“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Chinese proverb

“A journey of a thousand miles doesn’t end till completing the final step.” – my observation

***

“I’ll be praying for you.”

I’ve said that a thousand times.  I’ve meant it a thousand time.  In the last 24 hours I’ve said it and done it over and over and over… throughout the watches of night and all through today I did it on behalf of a friend who even now lays desperate in a hospital bed.

So I repeated over and over again, “I’m praying!”

But what I really wanted to say was, “I’ll fix this for you.”

Or at least, “Here’s how I will REALLY be helpful.”

Neither of the latter could I do, so I was consigned to the former.  This was beyond frustrating simply because I wanted to do something actually effective.

Did you hear what I just said?

Did it make you cringe?

Be honest… do you ever feel that way too?

So all night long and all day long I’ve been praying.  I’ve been praying that the doctors would have wisdom.  I’ve been praying that legs and bones and organs would miraculously healed.  I’ve been praying for peace amidst great fear and comfort amidst great anxiety.  A thousand other prayers I have prayed today because “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b)

That’s what I believe.

Only, I will be honest here… sometimes I don’t.  And I’m not the only one.

I pray and sometimes I feel like the sky above me has been shut up tight.  Why would God not come through now?  Am I not praying exactly what He wants to do?  So I begin to ask “why”? And as soon as I do I regret my request.  A thousand answers spill out from the would-be theology that years of growing up in the church has given me.  A virtual toolbox of why a loving God simply won’t answer a desperate prayer…

“You don’t have enough faith.”

“Sometimes He just says no.”

“He wants you to learn a valuable lesson.”

“Like Paul, it’s your ‘thorn-in-your-side’ “

“You’re not praying perfectly in His will.”

“You were too proud.”

“You were too passive.”

“You didn’t say the magic word.”

“You simply didn’t pray right, or use the right words, or fast long enough, or breath deeply, or ….or….. or….. or…”

And of course, my own frailty wants to throw in one last insult…

“You know, there’s just something about you that ticks Him off.”

So I took a long walk tonight on the beach during sunset.  Very romantic of me, I know.  But my heart prayed and my mind wrestled with this question.  And I began a conversation with Him.

Why God?  I mean, I know you don’t owe me any favors.   I have done nothing to earn your attention to this need.  But it really needs to be done, and it really needs to start happening tonight.   Please?

I walked towards the sunset and my shadow trailed off longer and longer behind me.   After a few miles, in the fading light I looked back and saw the trail of my footprints stretching off down the coast.  I began to think of that poem about footprints in the sand.

Oh man, I hate that poem!

“Why?”

I don’t know.  Corny?  Sentimental hogwash?  It’s just silly.  Especially that part about asking You why there were times when there was only one set of prints and it was because You were carrying us. Ugh!

“Is that so far fetched?”

It’s just, I’m a heavy guy, Lord.  The thought of me slung over your shoulder is rather ridiculous.

You would have been totally, “I love ya kid, but lay off the Oreos a little, would ya?”

I laughed madly to myself.  Between you and me, I do that a lot.

“It’s not a race, you know.”

What?

“This life… it’s not a race.”

What do you mean?

“I mean you’re not in a race on this earth to be the first to understand all the mysteries of this Christian walk, or relationships, or miracles, or even prayer.”

But I have so many questions!

“I know”

And so much is hanging in the balance.

“I know”

But DO you?

“I know and care more than you.”

So DO something!!!!!!

The wind whips by me in the new darkness and we walk a ways in silence.   I continue to walk down the beach with a single pair of footprints trailing off behind me.

I just…. I just don’t know how to pray any more, or any better.  I don’t know what to say to make this right!

“It’s not a race, you know”

It seems like it is.

“It’s not a race for you to learn how to pray the best, or the loudest, or the most eloquent, or even with the most faith.”

But you said…

“I said that whoever seeks me will find me.”

Yah, but with ALL THEIR HEART!   Am I really using ALL MY HEART?

“Are you here talking to Me?”

Yes

“Do you want to be here talking to Me?”

Yes

“Then relax and talk to Me”

What do you mean ‘It’s not a race’?

“This journey you’re on… I see how it ends.   I knew the beginning when you took your first step and I know the end when you’ll take your last.  None of it is a mystery to me.  What you began, you will finish.  What I have begun in you I will complete.  I AM faithful.”

And my prayers?

“I hear everyone.  It’s not the fancy words, or the great reasoning.  It’s not the pitch or the pressure or the passionate phrases that convince me and move me.”

Then what IS it?

“It’s your heart.”

My HEART?

“Yes.  Like right now.  What are you doing?”

I’m talking to You.

“You’re praying to me.  And what am I doing?”

You’re listening to me.

“Come on, Kevin.  You can do better than that.  What am I doing?”

You’re loving me.

“Right.  This walk… this conversation… is a time of love.”

But what about the answer to my prayer?  What about the miracle I need.  You do miracles right?  I mean, not just your everyday miracles like this sunset, but really miracles.  Bones being healed.  Veins being restored.  Life where there is death.  THOSE kinds of miracles.  You still DO them, right.

“Have you seen any?”

Yes.

“So why are you asking Me?  And, by the way, do you know what goes INTO an everyday miracle like a sunset?”

The winds and the waves lap up against me as we walk on in silence for a while.

“I’ve heard your prayers, by the way.  Every one of them.   And I’ve heard the thousand others that have been given on his behalf.  And I’ve not been silent.  I have moved through a thousand situations.  I have been there in the endless sacrifice given by his friends who have never left his side.  I’ve been there in the hands of the doctors, and nurses and ambulance drivers.  I’ve been there in the heart and minds of his family who longs for peace that passes all understanding.   I have been there as hundreds lift him up in their prayers.  I have not been silent.”

But will you bring HEALING?????

“I’m not finished yet.”

But WHEN?

“Do you trust me?”

Yes.

“Then trust Me.  And Kevin….”

Yes.

“Keep praying”

So I walked down the beach, broken and a little more humble.  I know there is so much I still don’t know and understand and that this journey is easily begun, but has so many miles to cover before it’s done.   And frankly, after a whole lifetime walking it, there is so much I still just don’t understand.

But the journey isn’t over yet.

And I know it’s not a race.

So I’ll keep walking down that beach, sometimes in the bright sun of a miraculous new day and sometimes in the majesty of a starry night.  Sometimes as the sun sets long in the horizon as my shadow stretches behind me, perhaps to eternity.

And as I walk, I will talk to Him, in all kinds of ways.  In ways as vast as a relationship between a Creator and His beloved can imagine.  And sometimes, when the pleads become the most desperate, wouldn’t you know it…

…sometimes I just can’t help but feel like I’m being carried.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

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