Surprised

I attended a conference in Indianapolis last week. It was only for a few days and flying in and through Chicago gave me an appreciation for hats, coats, and gloves. The conference was about theological exploration and, though I didn’t really want to take the time away from home and work, I am glad I did.

I forgot that I could still be surprised by the stories of others.

Like the woman in my small group who shyly told of being on the FBI “list” back in the day when she and her friends sat in at a lunch counter and shut Dillard’s department store down “because they would not hire blacks.” Now she is an ordained minister in the AME church in Arkansas – the first woman to hold that distinction.

Or the man who worked as both a priest and psychologist with first responders after 9/11.

Or the young lady struggling to teach college students and raise her own two young children.

Or any of the other stories of faith I encountered – one surprise after another.

And I forgot that I could be overwhelmed by prayer.

For two mornings, our prayer was led by a group out of Richmond, VA called Urban Doxology. While many in the room danced, waved their arms, and shouted: “Amen,” I was more of the “chosen and frozen” kind of pray-er, rocking back and forth like I was putting a baby to sleep, but still moved to tears at the songs of praise and powerful witness.

After Friday morning prayer, when I was psychologically done with the conference and emotionally ready to go home, I found myself seeking out one of the worship leaders. She had given a powerful testimony about her struggle with anxiety and sang a song that saved her once and continues to save her today.

As we started to talk, I told her about my own child who, at age 13, struggles with anxiety. I found myself choking up and I simply said, “You give me hope,” to this young woman with such a gift for music and such a witness to the 100 or so gathered.

“Can we pray?” she asked. Sheepishly, I agreed.

She began, “Heavenly Father, we pray for Patrick’s baby girl….” And I lost it.

But as she prayed, I was overcome with a sense of relief. My oldest will always be my baby girl. She will always be my Ace Number One. And I knew at this moment she would be okay. In all my distractions, I remembered that there is a God who loves her more than I can ever comprehend, even if the child wonders if that’s always true.

“Amen,” the prayer concluded, and I thanked her.

I forgot that I could be overwhelmed by prayer.

~pjd