I know, I know — what an A plus creep thing to do, to tease you with a new post and then disappear, rudely, with no explanation!! You know what they say about it being easier to ask forgiveness than permission? Yeah, that doesn’t apply here. But I do have a most excellent excuse.
The last week, I have been studying to become Southern.
My tutors, in the main, tended on the short and adorable side, a darling girl of 14 months and her clever older brother at 2 and a half. Their mama is my Southern Buddy and invited me along on a trip home to Arkansas, ostensibly to be an extra set of hands for travel, but truly, I think it was just to bless my socks off.
I could blither for a long time about the beauty of the farm, the weather (don’t talk to me about Pacific Northwest snow. My eyes are still closed and I think if I sing “A Bushel and a Peck” loud enough, I will feel 70 degree gentle breezes brushing against my face. I am disinterested in having my delusion tampered with, thank you very much), blowing bubbles for the cowdog to chase and snap at in the yard, the joy of leaving the blinds in my corner room open and seeing the sun rise each morning, BISCUITS…
Yeah, actually, we might need to blither about the food a little.
My Buddy’s mama will insist that it was nothing fancy, but everything at her breakfast table brought a thrill to me — how do you even choose between locally grown (crazy tasty) sausage gravy on top of your hot buttery biscuit or Gigi’s homegrown and homemade strawberry jelly??? (the answer is: you eat two biscuits. It was a trick question). Eggs over-easy, black grapes, the cranberry nut bread that the neighbor made and sent over and that is absolutely incredible toasted and smeared with butter… I could have happily eaten breakfast for every meal. The hamburgers on the grill also deserve their own post, but let’s not get sidetracked, shall we?
If I had a fear going into this trip, it was that my innate uselessness in all things truly helpful would cause my friend to regret ever inviting me. I have been writing about the importance of choosing your travel companions, so there — you have something to look forward to. But I tend to be someone who can, with all good intentions, miss really obvious things (I hate it when we drive by an open field and my husband exclaims, “wow! They tore out that orchard really fast!” and I have to scramble and pretend I noticed that there used to be an orchard there), so I dreaded being a useless companion to a mother of small children. But behold the goodness and mercy of God — He provided eyes to see, hands for holding, and my tiny suitcase that delighted a 2-year-old boy to pull through multiple airports.
The Beloved instructed me to come home with an Arkansas accent, and I went about the task with alacrity. My first step was to acquire a tutor.
At 14 months old, the sweet Southern Buddy’s babby is able to say “hi” and “bye” in a flawless Arkansian accent (possibly the friendliest sounding accent this side of Scheffield, England and yes, I have tried all I can think of to write the sound out phonetically and I simply cannot), or to switch over to the sharper, more clipped Washington “hi and bye” — on command. She was a patient instructor, and permitted me to imitate her time and time again until I could greet her fellow countrymen without debilitating shame ensuing (well… at least about my accent. My tattoos remained another story). I only wish I could still do it back home without feeling such a fraud.
But isn’t that exactly how it is when we learn to pray? And I don’t mean in the sense that you pray before your meals, recite the Lord’s prayer, or “prayed that prayer” when you first came to Christ. I mean when God teaches you to pray the way a child talks to her Father — when it is the thing you must do, no one else can understand or soothe your troubled mind, no one else has the ability to handle your lisping appeal, no one will do but HIM. When all you can think to say is… hi. And He receives it with as much love and attention as He did the prayers of the great-hearted saints of old. And while He delights in even our most foundering prayers and clumsy self-absorbed attempts at coming to the throne, He does not leave us in our harsh accents, but rather gives us a Tutor — His Spirit, and examples to copy in His Word.
So hear the sound, over and over, and borrow the Psalms, imitate the prayers of the apostles, cry out like prophets who have been broken by sin and sorrow and flayed open by the words of the great I AM! Come fumbling, and receive grace. Bring your awkward words and your sin-soaked heart and grab hold of His promises by faith — He rejoices over you with loud singing, and will teach you His song. It matters not what hesitation keeps you from His gracious throne — throw it off and never pick it up again, for the King delights in you, because of His precious Son, and receives your prayers as perfect in Him.
Again, a laser-focused exhortation wrapped in delightful analogy. You do realize you are a tutor, too: from now on, a sweet lisp or arresting accent will nudge me about prayer. [Must know — do you ever just look out a window and say, “Huh. Gopher hole”? Your mind amazes me; thanks for sharing the beauty and complexity it observes.]
That’s an interesting question. I am more likely to look out the window and think absolutely nothing and then to learn later that we have had the worst year for gophers that has been seen in half a century. Which is awkward.