I have to pray out loud a lot. It’s part of this job, and for the most part, I’m now fairly comfortable doing it.
But for the first few months I worked here, I found myself stumbling over the beginning of the prayer. Sometimes I would start with one thing, but in my head, it would sound too much like I was praying with little kids. So then I would try something else, but it would feel too old-school. And no matter what I tried, it never quite felt right.
At some point, I started opening prayers with, “Good and loving God, …” and it clicked. It felt right, it sounded like me, and I just sort of adopted it.
And for about the last year, it’s how I have started all my prayers — the ones I lead out loud, the ones I pray during my own devotional times, the prayers I pray with other people — all of them.
But a little over a month ago, I was sitting in the Gathering and I noticed something — Rev. Lance Marshall starts his prayers a little differently. He says, “Great and loving God.” Ok, maybe not much of a difference, but it was enough to get me thinking.
There are so many things in our lives that become habits that we just stumbled into. We do things one way because we just happened to do it that way the first time, or the way we did it last time, and it becomes something we’re comfortable with and don’t have to think about.
I’m going to be honest, before I noticed that Lance and I start prayers differently, the way I began prayers was not something that I had really thought that much about. I found something I was comfortable with and just went with that.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about the difference. So over the last month, that’s what I’ve spent most of my devotional time thinking about.
If every time I pray, I open with “Good and loving God,” what does that mean? Do I really believe that God is good? What does it mean for God to be good? What do I actually mean when I say that God is good? What do I think the difference is between a God that is good and a God that is great?
And, since both are true, why is it more important to me that God is good than God being great? What is it that God loves about people, about our world, about me? What does it tell me about who I am if God is good and loving?
Who does that call me to be?
What I have discovered is that I truly believe that God is good. Over and over again, God has shown up in my life and in the lives of the people around me — through other people speaking truth and love into my life, through hope and light in the midst of darkness and chaos, through the strength to just get up and go one more round when I feel the most defeated and want to just give up, through our kids who remind me what love and kindness and compassion and grace look like, sound like, feel like.
And I believe that God is loving. That God looks at all of God’s creation — me, you, and every one of our students — and God sees us, in our imperfection and brokenness, and calls us good, calls us created in God’s image, calls us beloved. In turn, I can look at our kids, and at you, and at the people sitting next to me in the coffee shop and see them the way that God does — as good, as loved, as family.
This Sunday night at the Refuge, we will be having our second Worship Night of the semester and I will be talking about my journey through these questions and the answers I have found.
My answers are not perfect. But then again, I am not perfect. My answers are not the only answers. But they are my answers, the ones that give me hope and resilience and peace.
I hope that through being honest and open about my own life and spiritual development that our students can see part of their story reflected in my story, that they would find the courage to find their own questions and seek out their own answers, and that they would know that no matter what, God is good, God is loving, that they are good and that they are loved.
Associate Director of Youth Ministries