CHARLOTTE, NC – When I attempt to pray while kneeling alongside my bed, I fall asleep. Not just a quiet sleep, but full-blown deep sleep with dreams. I do better praying while I am driving to the office in the morning. It’s dark, so you can’t see me talking to God out loud while I pray.
One day someone said something very hurtful to me. It was as if a dagger had been plunged into my heart. I tried to make sense of what just happened but couldn’t. I wanted to understand why it occurred. I kept running through my mind what I could have said or how I could have handled it differently. It didn’t make any sense to me.
On the way home I stopped at the grocery store. As I went up and down the aisles, this dark cloud wouldn’t leave me. I felt a deep sense of despair.
Let me pause and take you back four months ago when Covid19 first hit and shelter-in-place began. I didn’t buy toilet paper and hand sanitizer like everyone else. Instead, I found myself in the pasta aisle buying macaroni and spaghetti sauce. Our bathroom may have had a problem, but not the kitchen. We would survive this pandemic. By now, the pasta sauce in our pantry had gotten low.
As I turned down the pasta aisle, it resembled day one of the pandemics on the toilet paper aisle. The shelves were bare. This wasn’t good. My wife will only use one kind of pasta sauce. Let’s call it brand good. My wife is hardcore. If I come home with brand X, Y or Z, not only was I sleeping on the couch that night, I was also going back to the store to return it.
My eyes began to scour the shelves. There was plenty of brand X, Y, or Z but not brand good. I continued to scan the shelves as if I was a radar, looking for an airplane on the horizon. My eyes continued to go back and forth looking for brand good when something happened.
While I continued to scan for it, I found myself moving into a passionate prayer to God. I didn’t ask him to punish someone in my life. I didn’t ask God to change the other person or get them to apologize to me. Rather, I pleaded with God to change me. That was all I cared about. The prayer went something like this, “I’m asking you to change me. I am asking for your joy. Change me. Change whatever is broken in my life that I would hold onto this injustice that occurred earlier today. Change what is broken in me so I can have your deep, abiding joy. Jesus, you said if I abide in you that my joy may be complete. Do in me what you promised to do. Your word promised that the same resurrection power that raised you from the dead also lives in me. Use that power to change me that I may have your joy in this situation.”
Just so you know, the angels didn’t sing, the lights in the store didn’t produce fireworks and I had no warm fuzzy feelings. Nothing occurred. The next day when I heard more about the matter. I wasn’t pleased.
Amy Carmichael, a Christian missionary in India wrote, “We must learn to pray for more for spiritual victory than for protection from battle-wounds, relief from their havoc, rest from their pain.”
My prayer for you is to have the victory, in spite of the difficult circumstances.
I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well my friend.
Rev. Tony Marciano is the President/CEO of the Charlotte Rescue Mission. He is available to speak to your group. Go to www.charlotterescuemission.org and go to contact us- just ask for Pam.