January is always a hard month for me.
I’m not sure why. It just always has been. There’s a number of different factors that play in to it, but none of them are enough on their own for me to actually despise the month. Yet, I do.
One day a couple weeks ago, though, instead of being angry for an entire month, I decided to try something different. I decided to pray. For hope, specifically. That’s all I wanted, all I needed to get me through the month. Hope.
The day after I did this, my husband came up to me and said that he’d been doing some math, and had come to the realization that we could save about $1500 over the next five months if we moved closer to where we work and go to school. We currently live in East St. Paul, and work in South Minneapolis, which means we spend about an hour total every day driving between cities–not from one destination to another, just the freeway driving between the two cities–if traffic is good. This equates to an unnecessary 300+ miles per week. Our ’96 Toyota Avalon gets about 20 mpg and we have a 15 gallon tank, so we’re wasting roughly an entire tank of gas every week. If we moved to Minneapolis, we would save essentially that much. Even if we broke our lease early and forfeited our security deposit, we’d still end up with something like $1000 or so saved by the time our lease would expire on its own (5/31). Furthermore, I hate the place we currently live, so I’ve been wanting to move out since day one. So, when he presented this to me, with the suggestion that we move, and quickly, I began to think that, perhaps, this was the answer to my prayer.
We asked our church community that night, both in person and on our community website, if anyone was looking for housemates or had a mother-in-law apartment to rent out, and got an email back the next day from a couple of friends who were looking to rent out their basement in exchange for childcare. We also checked Craigslist and found an amazing apartment that was twice the size of ours for $100 more per month, in the perfect location, and the building is a co-op. We posted our apartment on Craigslist and had a flood of people looking to sublease.
Hope continued to abound.
However, quickly, that hope gave way to anxiety. What if our friends’ basement didn’t work out? What if we didn’t get the apartment? What if none of the potential tenants’ applications were accepted? What if? What if? What if?
Depending on what I’m doing with my life, I have panic attacks somewhere between once or twice a month to nearly every day. This season has been more on the side of the latter.
So I kept praying. There was little else I could do.
But I found myself in a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand, I wanted to pray that God would just make all of this happen–a bit foolish, I know, but to my credit, I wasn’t exactly rational in the moment–that we would find the perfect person to take our apartment, that our friends’ basement would be a great in-between place, that we would get this particular apartment. On the other hand, I couldn’t bring myself to pray this knowing that, should these prayers come to fruition, God would be taking away someone else’s free will in order to serve my desire.
I pondered this for a few days.
Finally, I came to the realization that I had missed a big chunk in the spectrum of prayer. I had created a dichotomy between praying for specific outcomes and not praying at all. That’s how I had been taught to pray, and those outcomes happening was how I was taught to judge a person’s holiness. If what they prayed for came true, God must be on their side.
Oh, how wrong this is.
Because the beautiful thing about God is that She is not the God of outcomes, but the God of the open door. She does not determine the future for us, but carves out new opportunities. Their fruition still requires certain responses from creation, responses creation has the free will to deny. She is ever the Creator, birthing new possibilities, new opportunities, new realities by the the second. She opens the doors; we, by our own volition, choose to go through certain ones, and to not go through others.
In some ways, my prayers changed. In other ways they were quite the same. I stopped praying for specifics, and instead asked for gracious hearts from my faith communities–for people willing to help, to search, to lend. I asked to be shown the doors that were already open–to have the living communities we want to be a part of put on my radar. I asked to be comforted, to be granted a spirit of patience (something I am truly in great need of).
Let hope abound. And oh, how it has. Because I no longer worry about specific outcomes. I trust that, as creation progresses, God is opening new doors, and leading us to those already in place, as we find our way by Her guidance.
I will leave you with this, a blessing we use at the Porch as a benediction, one we say as a community, to one another:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” -Romans 15:13