Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Planting Our Losses as Prayer

A week ago, I'd have been preparing to help with the WELCA Bible study.  The group was studying the story of the widow visited by Elijah, who shared her last bit of food with Elijah and found that the grain didn't run out.  She makes a cake for Elijah and survives to see more bread.

Of course, she survives just to have her son die.  But Elijah brings him back to life.

The woman leading the Bible story sees it as a tale of hope, making a way out of no way.  I saw it as loss after loss--but the good news was that God can transform those losses.  I was trying to come up with an artsy/craftsy project.

I thought about baking bread, but we didn't really have that kind of time.  I thought about having us write things on paper and set them on fire, but that seemed dangerous.

In the end, I decided that we would write our losses on paper slips and bury them in a huge pot of soil that I'd bring.  Maybe we wouldn't write our losses, but instead we'd write about situations that we want God to transform.  Maybe we wouldn't write, but would instead draw.  Maybe it would be something completely abstract, so that it could stay a secret.  We'd talk about the pot as representing the grave, and how redemption can often come, even when it looks like death.

I expected some resistance, but I didn't expect resistance to the act of putting something, even a secret something, on paper.  One woman proclaimed again and again, "That's between me and God."  I didn't push.

The woman whom I thought would most hate the exercise loved it.  She wrote slip after slip and took great delight in pushing them into the soil.  No matter how long I teach, I will never be able to predict with complete accuracy how things will go.

The woman who refused to commit to paper also did not like the pot of soil.  "Why can't we just pray?"

I tried to explain that what we were doing was a form of prayer.  I tried to explain how prayer that engages the body more thoroughly (writing/drawing and then the burying) might work better for some people.  I did not convince her.

At least we weren't trying yoga or dance or some other full body prayer kind of thing.

It's been a week, and I still can't decide if I think it went well or not.  And honestly, it's probably not important.  I enjoyed it, and at least one other woman did.  It stretched me to think differently, and it stretched others.  And even if it wasn't enjoyable for all, it only lasted for 10 minutes, so it's not a huge deal.

And who knows what seeds have been planted?

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