I learned long ago that prayer can overcome distance. I learned this in one of my favorite ways to pray, called kything, a way of praying for someone even when you can’t physically be with them. In kything, you settle down into prayer, visualize a place where you can be with the person you want to pray with, see them in that place with you, and then invite Jesus to join you. You can talk to Jesus on your friend’s behalf, or just be there with them. Listen to what Jesus says; see what comes up for your friend.
I didn’t know visualizing would be a strong form of prayer for me, but it turns out it is. And so kything with loved ones who are far away is a favorite way to pray.
I have kythed a lot for/with my Mom while she’s passing, back in Texas. It feels like when I am in God, in prayer, then – knowing that God is with Mom – I am somehow with Mom, too. It’s been comforting, in so many ways.
Friday night, during our church’s Good Friday prayer vigil, that way of praying took another turn, somehow crossing a couple of other wires.
One wire has to do with the fluidity of God-time. I have heard the possibility that as an unlimited Being, God lives outside of time, and is not limited to any when.
The second wire is my sense that somehow my future self and my current self (and therefore my past self) can communicate. I have often wondered, particularly in the midst of a difficult situation, what my future self would think, looking back on that moment. That wondering often helped me get a little better perspective, sometimes even bleed some of the drama out of the situation.
Once I had a more-than-imaginary, visceral experience with this. The summer I had separated from my husband of 20 years, and moved into a house with the kids, suddenly a single gay parent, the first night in the house was mind-bendingly, heart-rendingly difficult. A remodeling project that was supposed to be done two weeks before the school year started had barely been completed a few days into the fall semester. I had been moving us into the house slowly, and we finished the move after school one day. By the time I got the kids to bed that night, it was 10:00 pm, way past their bed-time, and my daughter was in tears over not having her homework done (among other things).
After I got the kids to bed, I sat on my own bed and melted down. After crying for a few minutes, wondering “What have I done? Can I really pull this off?” I suddenly felt a presence near me, reassuring me, and then a few words in my head: “You can do this. It’s the right thing, for all of you. Trust me. I know. Where I am now is worth everything you are doing through.”
That was me. A future me was reassuring me in that moment … or I was going a little crazy. But, given the peace and calm that flooded my soul in that moment, I chose to believe the Creator of the universe had bent the rules for me, just a little bit. I took the reassurance, and a shower, and went to bed.
(Short epilogue: Yes, there was a day a couple of years later when a cumulative set of experiences for my children and me told me in no uncertain terms that good things had come of my decision. Spontaneously, I remember thinking, “It was all worth it.” And then I flashed back on that moment … and yes, I closed the loop. In my mind, I told myself, with renewed faith and sure knowing, “Yes, you can. Yes, it’s worth it. Keep going.”)
So … all wires in place? Now … Good Friday, 2010. I’m praying in the sanctuary with a few other people. I have more than an hour to just sit and pray, and I sink deep into the well of silence. My mind starts roaming … first to my mother … deep kything … asking Jesus to just be with her … wrap his arms around her … let her know she’s not alone. I ask Dad to come be with her, too.
Then my mind spins further … if I can pray across space, and if God bridges that gap, and that same God is unlimited by time, then I can pray across time, too.
And immediately, I am in the garden with Jesus. He’s over there, praying like there’s no tomorrow. Not letting the awareness rise of how crazy this trip is, I just sit across the garden, and I pray, too. I ask God to help Jesus, to get him through this night, and the next day. “I know I won’t have the nerve to stay with him, God, so you have to. Help him be strong. Don’t let him feel alone.”
And then my mind leaps forward again, to 200 deaf boys, abused by a priest in their school. I think of my own experience of being sexually abused as a child by someone I should have been able to trust, and I reach back to the boys, trying to send them mental and emotional encouragement … I think of the point in my own recovery when someone shared these words with me, and applied them to my own context:
“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9:42)
In the moment I first heard those words, for my own sake, I knew that God could be angry on my behalf, even as God was a loving and forgiving God, who could manage both grace and justice just fine.
And I tell those boys – in my head, in my heart, in our souls, I don’t know – to believe in themselves, and their worth, and to fight back. That God knows them, and is angry on their behalf, and wants to make things right. I imagine standing outside the coat closet, the classroom, the confessional, the lakeside cabin, and shouting “NO!”
Slowly, the deep kythe fades … my eyes open. I am on full alert in my here and now, almost vibrating with a living energy.
Just imagination? Long pause here … may be. I don’t know. What I do know is that sometimes God does God’s best work in my life through my imagination.
My job is to be there, in my mind, in my heart, in my soul, and to listen, and then to do something about what has transpired there.
Tomorrow my beloved and I will kindle the Easter fire for our church community, and then keep walking through this world, looking for the ways God wants us to love, and finding and doing as many as we can. Because in every time and in every place, there are people who need to be loved, and who need to love.