I first wrote and published this piece several years ago when Barack Obama was president and John Boehner was speaker of the house, and we were in the midst of a federal government shut-down. It was a time of great anxiety, partisanship and divisiveness. Things being what they are, I decided the beginning of this new year would be a good time to re-print this essay. It begins with a Bible story, but I send this out to people of all faiths and no faiths, that we may all find common ground. Amen!
The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most beloved stories from the New Testament—not just among Christians, but throughout our western culture. In a nutshell: a man traveling on a public road is attacked by robbers. His belongings are stolen, he is beaten and left for dead. Members of his own ethnicity and religion see him and pass him by. But a Samaritan—a member of a rival group, a people for whom the Jews of Jesus’s time felt animosity—a Samaritan stops and helps the man, tends his wounds, takes him to an inn, and pays from his own pocket for the man’s lodging and care. The Good Samaritan—or the person we might least expect—he is the answer when Jesus is asked, who is my neighbor?
I was thinking about this story this morning and it occurred to me for the first time that what the Samaritan did was easy. Now don’t get me wrong: after thirty years working in special education I know that the physical care of others is no simple task. During my years as an Instructional Assistant and a Teacher, I changed soiled diapers, cleaned up vomit and blood, even improvised on-the-spot instruction on how to hold your head upright and pinch the bridge of your nose while blood is gushing out of your nostrils. The act of caring for others is often physically exhausting and emotionally draining—and I should add that the smell and sight of bodily fluids and excrement can bring you close to losing your own lunch. Not the most fun part of the job.
But what’s easy about it is this: you can’t do it wrong. Today in education heated arguments ensue about what to teach, how to teach it, and how to know we’ve taught it well. There’s a lot of finger-pointing and blame. But when you see a child who’s soiled his pants, there’s no debate. You know what you need to do. Likewise when the Good Samaritan saw a man lying in the road, bleeding and near death, he knew this wasn’t the time to debate the merits of the Affordable Care Act.
I like to think that for the vast majority of us, when we know the right thing to do, we do it. The problem often is that we’re not sure what to do. All who know me are aware I have strong political opinions. I think my side has been doing the right thing—for the most part. Folks on the other side probably feel the same way. But right now I don’t want to talk about politics; I want to talk about prayer.
For many years I was deeply in love with a man named Harry. We used to pray together—not as a regular routine, but often. One of my most comforting memories of our time together was sitting on the couch holding hands on the morning of September 11, 2001, praying.
Inspired by John 14:13 (“Whatever you ask in my name I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”), Harry liked to end our prayers, “. . .in Jesus’s name, Amen.” I liked this too, but one day I created a new prayer for us: “May the love we have for each other be a reflection of God’s perfect love for us.”
Harry and I are no longer a couple but I do feel this prayer was fulfilled. I feel we completed the work we were meant to do together and now we’ve moved on. I haven’t said this special prayer in a long time but I thought of it this morning.
I want to offer this prayer to the world as an affirmation of our intent to turn over all worries and concerns to Divine Consciousness (or God). There is great anger in and at Washington right now. We don’t know what to do to heal the divisiveness but Divinity is already at work in ways we do not understand. It is our greatest desire to see our own ideas of perfection manifest, but we must be open to the idea that God’s perfection may not look the way we want it to. But even as I’m writing this, I’m thinking, I don’t know what to do! I don’t even know what to write!
Then I remember my friend Craig telling me, “It’s never about doing, it’s about being.”
Call it prayer or affirmation or meditation. You can even call it an intuitive leap based on empirical evidence if you want. But know that prayer isn’t necessarily something you do, it may be what you are. Allow yourself to be the prayer, because you are God’s love, you areGod’s perfection. Affirm that this is so. Ask for understanding.
And if you need words, I give you mine: May the love we have for each and every one of our NEIGHBORS, be a reflection of the perfect love God has for us.
In Jesus’s name, Amen.
Post Script: please know that I feel comfortable praying in this way because I come from a Roman Catholic/Christian tradition. I believe the prayers, hopes and wishes of all people—whether they believe in one God, many Gods, or no God—are equally valid.