Have you ever wanted to do something for a friend who was hurting, but it seemed there was nothing you could do?
What if you could lift the weight of the world, just a little, off her weary shoulders and carry it for her for a while?
Let’s call her Katy. It’s not her name, but she looks like a Katy. We met long ago in church. She was 19 or so. I was a few years older. But she was an old soul, wise beyond her years, and we became forever friends.
I suspect she never planned to be a minister’s wife. But she fell hard for a guy who was born to be a preacher, and that was it – there was no turning back.
Separately, they were truly wonderful people. But the sum of them together was so much more, something else entirely.
I wish you could know them.
Over the years, they moved a bit, pastoring churches here and there. We didn’t get to see each other often, but when we did, it seemed we’d never been apart.
Life flew by, our children grew up, the preacher’s beard turned gray. Now we email each other photos of our grandchildren.
When your child grows up, you don’t stop being a mother. You still love and worry and pray for a grown child just as much you did for the baby and the toddler and the teenager.
OK, maybe not as much as for the teenager, but nearly.
The difference is you can’t stop a 20-year-old from running into the street. Or send a 30-year-old to her room. Or tell a 40-year-old to stop putting peas up his nose. You aren’t in control of their lives any more. You never were, but for a while, you tried to make them think you were.
When they’re grown, all you can do is watch and pray.
Katy is good at watching and praying. One of the best. But when the road runs long, even the best can grow weary.
For years, she has prayed especially hard for her youngest, who is struggling to find his way in the world. Never mind the details. If you’ve ever had to watch a child suffer, you know what it’s like as a parent to feel helpless, to feel your heart ache and break, time and time again.
Katy sends me updates so I can pray for her son. But I wanted to do something more.
Years ago, as my first husband neared the end of a long and valiant battle with cancer, I found myself growing weary, physically and spiritually. I wanted to be strong for him and our children. But honestly? I couldn’t see how I’d do it.
Some good friends decided I needed a break. They arranged to take care of my husband and sent me away for a weekend to a monastery for a silent retreat.
Yes, silent. Yes, it was weird. Picture me not talking. But the weirdest part was this: We were asked to make a list of everyone and everything we wanted to pray for. My list was three pages long. Then we were told to give the lists to the retreat leaders, who would pray all weekend for everything we had listed. All our prayer concerns would be covered, they said, freeing us to pray – get this – for ourselves.
It wasn’t easy. Mothers don’t get much practice praying for ourselves. But I tried. And when the weekend was over, I went home knowing I would have whatever I needed to see my husband and our children through the dark hours ahead.
That’s what I offered to do for Katy, to lift that weight off her shoulders, to pray for her son, as if he were mine, and free her to pray just for herself.
She found it hard to fathom. For a mother, letting go is the hardest thing to do. But she agreed to try it just for a day. Sometimes, being willing to try is a bold act of faith.
Prayer is a mystery. All I know for sure is this: What it changes, more than anything, is the one who prays. I will pray for my friend and her precious child. And the blessing will be mine.