A large part of my job as a high school secretary is to secure substitute teachers to fill in for our regular teachers who are away from their scheduled classes. That can mean everything from a full day position to a partial period, and all things in between. It can be hectic at times, making sure all classes are covered, that correct attendance passwords and lesson plans are copied and room keys distributed, and it takes a lot of coordination, but when the first bell rings and I know everyone is where they’re supposed to be, it’s also really satisfying. It’s a daily puzzle that sometimes threatens to stump me, but somehow always manages to get solved (though sometimes not by the first bell!)
We use an online resource to help match open positions with substitute teachers called SubFinder. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like for people who held my position pre-internet……so many phone calls! While SubFinder does a terrific job of filling the majority of available positions on any given school day, there are usually a few days a week where, for a variety of reasons, some positions have remained open and still need to be filled. When SubFinder is in an open call-out state, I track the jobs that are still open every few minutes, really hoping to see the final result of “Accepted”, but more often than not, what I see over and over again are these words: Answered but No Response. What that means is that the call has been received, (usually picked up by an answering machine), but no response was given (usually because the mail box is full.) The job wasn’t accepted OR rejected, it’s just kind of…..in technology limbo. Think blind date where two people have agreed to try to make a connection by setting up a time and place, only one of them never checks their messages and the other just keeps calling someone who’s not answering…..there’s not likely to be a date happening any time soon!
This morning, as I was checking in on the status of an open job, and kept seeing the phrase, “Answered but No Response”, I thought of prayer. I don’t know how these things happen….they just do. Maybe it’s because I committed to writing a daily meditation during the season of Lent and my mind is subconsciously wondering what I might write about, and maybe it’s because as part of that commitment I truly try to find what God might trying to show me throughout the day – probably a bit of both – but this is what brought me to thinking about prayer while checking SubFinder!
I’ve been a Christian all of my life and learned as a child that prayer was simply conversation with God – and oh, how I loved to pray! I remember sitting on the back porch as a very young girl, telling God about all the woes and injustices in my little life and truly feeling like He was sitting there with me. I know now how precious that gift was, and it has had everything to do with the ease with which I approach God as an adult. Over many years and countless conversations with God (He listens to me like no other!) I’m sure I could reflect on much about prayer, but for tonight I just want to share two thoughts, brought to us by SubFinder….
- Though I do love to spend time talking to God, there are days…..times…..seasons when it’s harder than others. It may be that I’ve just become complacent in our relationship, taking for granted this connection of the Spirit that I’ve come to expect so freely, so I tell myself I’ll make more time tomorrow….and tomorrow….and tomorrow. Or it may be that God has been leading me in an area that I’m really not that interested in entering, and like a toddler that covers her ears and says, “I can’t hear you!”, I’m in effect saying to God, “I get the message….I’m just not ready to move on that right now…..can you please call back later?” Answered…..but No Response.
- The second is a bit harder to describe and definitely digs into a very vulnerable corner of my heart…. I have been witness to countless times God has directly answered prayer in most undeniable and profound ways. Our family has been lifted continually in prayer for the past two years, and I feel those prayers….I truly do! But there have also been times that I’ve prayed from the depths of my being and have seen no discernible change. I say “discernible”, because I do believe God is at work in things I can’t see, and this is absolutely what faith is all about. I know God has heard me, and I completely believe God loves me and cares about my needs….that He has the answer….I just don’t know it yet. And the not knowing feels an awful lot like….No Response.
Jesus left us so many examples of times when he prayed to the Father. He prayed with the disciples, he prayed in the synagogues, he prayed for individuals, and he often went off alone to pray in private. Not only that, but he didn’t always feel his prayers were immediately answered as well. In his time of greatest distress, he actually felt abandoned by God himself, so I know Jesus gets it…..He understands our need for answers and for things to work out “our way.” But he was also ever pointing us back to the authority that God has in our lives, and himself remained yielded to God in the belief that God would work things out for good….even the hardest, most unimaginable times….he surrendered in prayer.
I’ll be honest….my prayer-life has taken a direct hit this past year. I’ve had to re-learn some things about faith….about trust. It’s been a season of prayers I haven’t seen answered in the way I believed they would be, and the disappointment has been profound. But I can honestly say, that the same God who sat on that back porch with me fifty years ago is still sitting with me today…..still listening….still loving…..still holding those prayers and working on my behalf in ways I’ve yet to see. I can’t begin to understand it….but I do believe it. I still choose to believe it. And that’s saying something. =)