I pulled An Altar in the World down off the shelf this morning to do some preparation for our deacon’s meeting tonight. Every month our deacons spend a part of their meeting exploring a spiritual practice of some sort. This month it’s my turn to guide that part of the discussion. I’m thinking about the spirituality of chores and I went looking for a line that Barbara Brown Taylor (I think) wrote somewhere, sometime about praying while she hangs the laundry. As I looked for that, I found this:“I do not know any way to talk about answered prayer without sounding like a huckster or honeymooner. When someone wants to tell me how God has answered prayer, those are the first two possibilities that occur to me, anyway: 1) This person wants to sell me something, or 2) This person is not quite sober yet.”
This, right here, is what I love about Barbara Brown Taylor. She doesn’t hesitate to cut right through all the pious language and call it like she sees it. Her continuing reflection on answered prayer is one of the best I’ve read:“The problem, I think, is that divine response to prayer is one of those beauties that remain in the eye of the beholder. What sounds like an answer to one person sounds like silence to another. What seems like a providentially big fish to someone registers as blind luck for someone else. The meaning we give to what happens in our lives is our final, inviolable freedom. Only you can say whether God answered you. If you have any sense, you will ask someone with more experience than you to help you decide what the answer means, but even then the choice is yours. Are you still waiting for God to answer you, or is your life the answer you have been seeking, hiding in plain view?” (pg. 182)
“Divine response to prayer is one of those beauties that remain in the eye of the beholder…The meaning we give to what happens in our lives is our final, inviolable freedom.” See how elegantly she dances around that issue? I don’t mean dances in the sense of evade, but in the sense of handling a hot potato or a water bug skating around on a pool. Anyway, I like any religious writer who can go from calling pious people hucksters in one breath to dealing seriously with our deepest questions in the next.
Now, back to searching for that piece about laundry…