God Helps Those

“God helps those who help themselves,” my father used to say, with disdain in his voice for those who sat on their own hands, praying and waiting for miracles. Growing up in a Midwestern farm family, he had learned that, for the harvest, the work of tilling and planting were necessary. And though I grew up far from the corn fields and livestock of his youth, I did internalize his message. If you want something in life, you must work for it, doing your part before even daring to petition the gods. This has caused me to being a most reliable worker bee, creating my to-do lists and cheerfully checking off each action as I muster the energy to complete it. But it has also created many disappointments as my visions and the work I’ve done to ground them in reality frequently seem to come to no avail.

Recently returned from the woods of East Texas and my women’s spirituality group, I’m reminded there are others whose spiritual perspective operates in a very different way than mine. I view with envy the simplicity of my women friends’ childlike faith. As they loll and lounge in the visions of their heart’s desire, they assume the universe, like an indulgent grandparent, waits expectantly to respond to their every whim. And as I hear them tell it, this does in fact occur.

A woman, having hurt her back, needs a close in parking place in the pouring rain, and she whispers a simple prayer. In the crowded lot, one opens up in front of her just as she arrives at her destination. Another tells of a trip to a flea market, and finding the fireplace anvils she needed for her new apartment, in spite of the fact it was the middle of summer. A gas-saving low mileage used car, at the right price and with a low interest rate loan comes to another friend through a sequence of remarkable synergistic events and efforts. (For this outcome, there were many people praying, tilling, and toiling on her behalf.)

As someone whose prayers have quite frequently been answered with a firm and unrelenting “No,” I wish for the ability to trust my longings to the forces that bring all things into being. But until then, I will help myself by offering a singular prayer for clarity of vision and the patience to wait for instructions as to what I should be doing next.

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