My mom had a super power. A lot of super powers actually. She had this ability to face adversity with joy. The gift of teaching and preaching. The ability to love fiercely and compassionately. But I think one of her best giftings was prayer.
On days when I feel especially lost, what I miss the most, actually, is my mom’s prayers. Some people pray reverently, or quietly, or peacefully. My mom prayed boldly, firmly convinced that she would be heard. She prayed with authority and confidence. But most of all, she prayed with discernment. She always said that it was a special thing to have discernment, because it meant God trusted you with sensitive information. Sometimes there would be a stranger or a person who barely knew her, and she could walk right up to them and pray specifically for their needs before they ever said a word. There was something so comforting about it, like the way a tree sways in the wind, the movement the proof that the wind exists. It felt like my mom’s special connection with heaven proved to me that God was real.
One of the last times she prayed with me at church, I had been kind of down for months. We had already been through hard losses as a family, and we were struggling with my dad’s sickness, and I could sense that change was coming professionally for me although it was a slow unravelling. I felt so completely lost. In the past, I had unloaded all my worries on her and she had given me advice and support, but by this point I had started trying to hold it all in because I knew that the load she was carrying for herself was already so heavy and I didn’t want to add to her burden. She was working so hard to keep it together and remain a faithful friend and wife and grandmother and youth pastor. She was all but raising my kids a lot of the time when I worked long hours or when I was graduate school, and I just didn’t want her to have one more thing to worry about.
Anyway, on this occasion, like she always did, she just knew. She turned around in her seat to look at me where I was sitting behind her and she wrapped her arms around me, and she cried. “You’re surrounded,” she said. “You’re surrounded on every side and you think no one can get in.” And she whispered prayers of hope and peace over me as tears streamed down my face. She reminded me of the story in 2 Kings chapter 6, when Elisha and his servant are in Dothan, and their enemies have been tracking them down while they slept. Elisha’s servant goes outside and sees that their enemies have surrounded them, and they have no way to escape. The servant was scared, but Elisha didn’t panic. He prayed. He said, “Open his eyes Lord, that he might see that those who are for him are more than those against him.” And the servant’s eyes were opened to see chariots of fire, the servants of God surrounding the servant’s of Elisha’s enemy.
I think that’s how I still feel now. Surrounded. It sounds ungrateful, or even arrogant, given the blessings that I do have. But the other day, My Friend said in passing something about next month being December, and I thought, “December? Already? I’m this far into another year and I’m still just as sad and unsettled as I was before.” And immediately I wished for my mom to come and pray with me again. To wrap her arms around me, and tell me that she saw me feeling surrounded. She taught me so many things about spirituality and prayer and life, and I should be able to use what she taught me to pray for myself, to move on for myself, but so far nothing feels like it’s working.
So for now, I write her letters, and sometimes I sit on a blanket and talk to her. I hug my kids, and I marvel at how much Mary Ann is like her. And I remind myself to pray, “God open my eyes, that I might see…”