Our Wednesday night book study group (affectionately referred to as EHS because of the first book the group read together) has been reflecting on the book "Clinging." "Clinging" is a book on prayer written from a contemplative perspective. Expanding out from the traditional evangelical approach of vocal intercessory prayer, the first two chapters have emphasized the relational aspect of prayer with a firm understanding of all prayer begins as a response to God who loves us.
The first chapter's title is "Beginning." The chapter's opening words summarizes well the chapter's intention. Emilie Griffin writes:
"There is a moment between intending to prayer and actually praying that is dark ad silent as any moment in our lives. It is the split second between thinking about prayer and really praying."
Griffin invites us to begin right where we are, "returning to what is true and real," touching the "possibilities of God's love."
The second chapter on "Yielding" pokes a little closer to those fortress places in our own souls that are closed--maybe even sealed stubbornly--from the God's love. Parsing out the lines between practices that open us to prayer and prayer itself, Griffin keeps the reader engaged from her words. But yielding is hard, especially when we feel hurt by God or God's people, causing us to self protect in our vulnerability and suffering.
As I was prepping for our study last week, I had just watched the first two episodes of the HULU produced "The Handmaid's Tale" for Season Two. For those who have seen the First Season last year, you know how violent, sexually explicit and abusive this story line is. It is repulsive. I usually turn series with this caliber of darkness off, choosing to not partake even when they are given awards and accolades from others, but because streaming affords the power to fast forward, I have continued to watch because something of the "Tale" speaks truth to my soul.
I have wondered how such atrocious things can happen in society, become the sanctioned and enforced, especially when they are religious ideals which meant for good, become in the end abusive and destructive, separating us from the real and true.
But that is not why I write now...
There was a scene, the last scene of Episode Two, that has captivated me. It haunts me. I can still feel inside as I write now. The main character June does something. It may not mean much if you haven't journeyed the whole way to this point with the handmaid formerly known as Offred and seen the religious abuse and the liturgical formulas that are so bizarrely applied, wrenching the goodness of God from ever ounce of life, so I don't want to spoil it for anyone. But it is beautiful: God awe-ful beautiful. You can actually experience one woman's interior journey from darkness to (a little glimpse of) light that is now portrayed in four stunning minutes of filmography.
I don't think this moment would have been so soulfully impactful if I hadn't seen where June had been. It may not have meant much if I didn't know her story and the stories of the others whose suffering I have been bombarded with in Season One and now in the start of Season Two. But there it was and I was with her.
All that to say, I do think our study on prayer is important. For ourselves. For our world.
In Christ's name I pray.