It’s been a long time since I fit in the secret hiding space under a blanket-covered coffee table, but my youngest granddaughter brought me along as her special guest recently. She read to me from her first I Can Read booklet, then introduced me to all her Lego people by name and personality characteristics. She has a marvelous imagination.
It didn’t bother her in the least that I attended via Facetime on Mommy’s phone. She just propped me up between sweet Emma with the yellow plastic hair and charming Benjamin with the miniature bow and arrow. We played until the phone batteries ran out.
This week she called to show me – with great excitement — the space where her baby tooth used to reside. Its new residence was an empty Doritos bag, because she was munching chips in her car seat in the van when the great moment arrived. She dug the tooth out and proudly held it up to the screen so I could see the little spot of blood on the bottom – her red badge of courage.
My family is spread across the country and as much as I complain about being techno-challenged, I love modern technology that allows me to be a part of the lives of people I love so much. On the other side of the continent, in the Maritimes, another granddaughter also lost her first tooth on the same day. She shared her joy as well.
Later in the week, when a storm closed schools and took out power on the island, she and her brother called me from their safe place snuggled with two cats and a dog under thick blankets in a dark cold house. We talked about feeling afraid and what we can do when things we depend on don’t work and that Jesus is always with us. Suddenly the lights came on! There was much rejoicing and plugging in of devices.
When my oldest granddaughter started staying at home by herself instead of attending her brother’s “boring soccer games,” she Facetimed me as well. Sometimes I help her with homework and sometimes she just props me up near the computer while she works on an essay and I putter around on my own projects. Sometimes we don’t need words to say I love you. Sometimes being in the presence of a safe person is enough – even if that presence is only via a cell phone. She jokingly told me she simply wanted someone who could hear her scream should the occasion arise.
Once one of the kids put me in the fridge to see if the light stayed on when the door was closed. I was able to advise. Another time she smuggled me into a room where an adult conversation, that clearly neither of us was meant to hear, was taking place. Awkward. I started singing a silly song – loudly, very loudly. And then she had to go to bed and we couldn’t play anymore that evening.
One chat with my little granddaughter made me think. During one of our Grandma-babysits-by-long-distance-so-Mommy-can-shower play dates she said, “Grandma, I’m setting you down for a minute. I’m just going to the bathroom so don’t hit bye, ok?”
I’ve often said I wished I could pick up a phone and talk to God. I have questions. I have things I want to show him. Sometimes I get scared in a cold dark world with no sign of order or light being restored any time soon, and I need him to just be there in case I feel the urge to scream.
That’s what prayer is – talking and listening to God, with a variety of subtler forms of communication. Sometimes prayer is pouring out my heart and sometimes it’s simply being in his presence. The thing is, I realized I am the one who “hits bye” when I am distracted.
Some place along the way I picked up ideas about prayer that formalize and complicate hanging out with someone who loves me and enjoys being with me as much as I enjoy my grandchildren. Somehow, I thought prayer was like sending God a formal business letter. It needed a salutation, words of appreciation and respect, reminders of previous topics discussed, and an information download leading to the real reason of the letter – the request, followed by more compliments and a closing assuring sincere intent.
Prayer in public meant making an extemporaneous speech addressed to God but delivered for others to hear and judge with appropriate confirming murmurs. Frankly, the process was just about as intimidating as standing up before my fellow tenth graders and talking to them about civil responsibility and my intent to vote when I was old enough. These speech prayers usually have sign-off endings as well, sometimes with an over-and-out “amen” by each speaker and sometimes in “a closing prayer” by a person with authority to wrap things so we could get on with the more relaxed talk in the foyer. (By the way, Amen doesn’t mean The End. It means “I agree.” In current vernacular it might be the equivalent of a thumbs-up like.)
Sometimes a prayer can be written with thought, like a poem. Many passages of scripture are prayers we can voice ourselves, but they do not need to be the end of the conversation. They may be the beginning of a deeper intimacy.
My granddaughter made me question why I “hit bye” at the end of my prayers. What if God wasn’t finished? What if he was puttering around holding the universe together while he waited for me to get to the point or ask a better question and then when he had something to say I hung up on him?
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (who were experiencing some pretty severe bullying) that they would find God’s way for them if they continuously practised expressing joyful, thankful attitudes and didn’t stop praying.
How do we stay in continual contact with our Maker? Call out to him. Talk. Listen. And don’t hit bye.