Wednesday

Sometimes screaming into a pillow is the best solution ...

Ever have one of those days when you hit one button on your computer and you lose everything? Frustrating, huh? Sometimes grabbing a pillow and screaming into it is the best solution, wouldn't you say?

I've had such a morning. Since I started working from home there have been days or, at one time weeks, when productivity was barely detectable. I'm used to the newspaper world where I have written two articles within two hours and where there was always a completed product everyday by 12:30 p.m. In the newspaper world it's go, go, go. Produce, produce, produce. Family? Forget them. They'll be waiting for you when you get home. They'll just have to understand. It's not a job; it's a lifestyle.

Although I fought against adopting that attitude, it did get in there somehow. Or, perhaps, my personality is such that I feed off of that type of work environment. Yes, that's it. The personality was and is definitely there.

So, when I quit my job and decided to work at home I had a lot to get used to. It took me about a month to come down from the frantic pace and I thought I was doing pretty good, but today I backslid.

Go. Go. Go. Get 'er done, done, done.

Get what done? I'm working for myself. Things are getting done.

The trouble is that results aren't always readily visible when you work from home. It takes time to build from scratch. Sometimes visible results are available even at the office. That's difficult when your boss is looking over your shoulder, asking about the project. Sometimes, even when your boss isn't looking over your shoulder, you may still drive yourself.

"Get this done! You'll get fired if you don't hurry!" Hurry, hurry, hurry. After a while you begin to feel like a hamster on a wheel during the middle of the night. Run. Run. Run. I don't know where I'm going but I must hurry!

Yesterday I came across this prayer in my morning devotions from "Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals." The book is set up by dates and you follow the readings for that day. In doing this, you would think that prewritten devotions would not apply to your daily situation. Not true, for the Holy Spirit works in marvelous ways. Here's the prayer:

"Give us patience and humility with our feeble efforts at faithfulness. Bless the minute things we do in your name that our small acts of faith may find witness among many and thereby give you glory."

In the past I've always taken exception to words such as "feeble" or "minute" in this context. Doesn't God regard anything we do out of faithfulness as great? Well, probably, but when comparing myself to God, some of the things I do are "feeble" and "minute." It is God, however, who takes those "efforts at faithfulness" and makes them into something great in the life of someone else for his glory.

In God's economy no act is too small. He is the one who provides the dividends. Our job is to be faithful. Patience, faithfulness and prayer. These are the three huge things that God has been working on in my heart lately. I didn't ask for it. It came with the territory. Remember too that one of Richard Simmon's steps to permanent weight loss is patience. Patience not only covers weight loss, it covers a lot of other things as well. We perfectionists struggle with that mightily.

And so grabbing a pillow and screaming into it can help, but it should be followed by prayer. I've always had the suspicion that we should be completely honest in prayer.

This may shock you but in Old Testament 101 during my first year at Point Loma Nazarene University, Rueben Welch, the professor and a great Bible teacher, was talking about prayer and asked a class full of students:

"Have you ever told God to go to hell?"

You can imagine the looks of shock that were exchanged in the room that day. I was one of those shocked students, but the question never left me. It speaks of brutal honesty in prayer. This kind of honesty is how we mortals can keep from going nuts in a world gone mad.

Here's a quote from an article I've been chewing on the last two weeks. It's called "Prayer and Personality: Prayer as Primary Speech," by Ann and Barry Ulanov. The article can be found in the book The Study of Spirituality, edited by Cheslyn Jones, Geoffrey Wainwright and Edward Yarnold, SJ:

"In prayer we speak to and of ourselves, of what lies heavy on our minds, of what rumbles in fear at the pit of our stomachs, of the grudges and resentments we hold behind our eyes below the surfaces of our outward being. We speak what we have to say, whatever that is, and however we are moved to say it ... If prayer works, the human personality always increases. It never diminishes. The self that emerges this way comes forth unshackled, scoured, clean, uncovered because anchored in God ..."

And, a few paragraphs later:

"There, in prayer both private and liturgical, we find a space for aggressions, hatreds, discouragements, chaotic urges, and undirected longings to be experienced, brought into conversation with God. Slowly they take on shape to be used in our shared life. When ignored, these unharnessed energies are acted out by us against our neighbours and ourselves. The anger we do not understand whips out at our defenceless child. The love that is undirected and unreceived turns to hate."

Pretty deep, huh?

And yet, so simple.

Right.

But it's the only way to make screaming in a pillow worthwhile. After you're done screaming the pillow is still there, you're still there and worse yet, the problem hasn't gone away. You just feel more relieved, for about a minute or two. It is through prayer that we find relief, help and sometimes answers. When the answers don't come, peace is there when we give up our "right" to know the answers. Funny how God works, isn't it?

And so I advocate this method. Screaming into a pillow, yes, sometimes, but prayer always. God will be there when you call.