“One modest tool for letting go in prayer that I’ve used for twenty-five years is a God box” Anne Lamott
Last Lent Bishop Lee extended an invitation to members of this diocese to join him in reading a book as a Lenten discipline. He would offer on-line commentary and others would respond. This year Bishop Lee suggested the book by Anne Lamott (one of my favorite authors) entitled Help Thanks Wow: Three Essential Prayers.
I have been reading the book and the quote above is from her chapter on Help. She has been expressing her awareness that she’s not in charge of “things” no matter how hard she may try and that she needs to be able to let go of this obsession to be in control. In her words HELP. This God box is her device that helps her surrender.
She goes on to say: “I’ve relied on every imaginable container – from a pill box, to my car’s glove box, to decorative boxes friends have given me. The container has to exist in time and space, so you can physically put a note into it, so you can see yourself let go, in time and space.”pg. 27
I was intrigued by this tool. It makes so much sense to me. I remember a time in my life when I simply could not forgive a person who had hurt me deeply. For months I agonized and carried around this hatred and resentment. Finally my therapist said in one of our sessions – if you can’t do it out loud – if you can’t say I forgive you verbally, what about writing down the desires of your heart. Write a letter to God, to the person who hurt you….see if that will open the door to doing what you want to do.
I did as she instructed – I sat down one afternoon, many, many years ago with pen in hand and pad of paper – my prayer – God let it be…..I began to write and like streams of tears the words flowed onto the paper – what had happened, how I had been hurt, the action, the words, the feelings. It was almost as though I wasn’t composing the letter but that it was composing me.
I was exhausted when the message was complete. I took the papers, folded them up and put them in the top drawer of my dresser. Over the next couple of weeks, whenever I felt the cloud of anger come over me, I’d go to that letter, as a reminder that I wanted, I needed to forgive and let go. It happened over time. One day when I realized that I hadn’t been consumed by the past for a very long time, I went in search for the letter; found it in the very back of the drawer. I burned the letter and as the smoke rose and the ashes crinkled in the bowl I knew I had been set free.
I tell you this story because sometimes we need “tools” to help us accomplish the tasks that are before us. Sometimes we need something tactile that physically brings us into awareness and accountability. That is what Lamott’s suggestion of the God box has done for me. It has reminded me that perhaps I need to have a box such as that to prompt me into giving to God that which doesn’t belong to me – that which I cannot control, govern, solve, manipulate or influence.
I leave you with one additional quote: “We learn through pain that some of the things we thought were castles turn out to be prisons, and we desperately want out, but even though we built them, we can’t find the door. Yet maybe if you ask God for help in knowing which direction to face, you’ll have a moment of intuition. Maybe you’ll see at least one next right step you can take.” Pg. 27
How might a God box be a tool for your prayer life?
May you know the blessings of God’s love and compassion.