Recently, my wife and I decided to have a weekend of focused prayer in our home, to lay aside our worldly cares and set our minds on Christ. Things did not go as planned.
The whole weekend, my one-year-old daughter was miserably upset, due to a bad cold, which left her with an endless fountain of snot running down her face. And though she was hungry, she was too miserable to eat, which drove her to a wailing, screaming fit.
I felt less like praying and more like taking up smoking. In fact, several hours into our big, holy weekend, we realized we hadn’t even prayed once, so we tried to get re-focused by singing together in harmony. But then we got off-pitch so badly that we gave up and started laughing at ourselves – while the baby cried in the background.
At the end of the weekend, we had prayed in coherent sentences a couple of times, but for the most part, we were just getting by, surviving.
Three weeks later, the baby’s nose isn’t running anymore, but I’m sorry to say we still haven’t had that time of focused prayer. I don’t even think we realized we needed it – until today.
This morning, my wife offered to drive me to work – a real treat for a man who normally rides the Metro bus. Unfortunately, not only was her car almost out of gas, but we also discovered it had a flat tire, so we drove my hooptie instead.*
*Hooptie (Wikipedia) (hoop-tee): old, decrepit, unreliable and often nonfunctional car which has limited mechanical abilities and is often in an unmaintained and usually in a rusty or dented shape.
While on the way there, we briefly stopped at the bank, went inside, and when we got back into the car, it wouldn’t start.
The hooptie was out of gas – right in the middle of a downtown area. Awesome.
At first, I idiotically tried to push the car three blocks to the nearest gas station (while wearing a suit). However, thanks to being parked on a slope, I only moved the car about five inches before giving up.
I thereafter walked to a gas station, bought a gas jug, filled it up, and – with all the dignity I could muster in my pinstriped suit – confidently carried the plastic jug back down the sidewalk of the busy street like it was my favorite, red purse.
After I put the gas in and we started the car, my wife and I realized something: lately, our lives have been a lot like our two cars – both of them running low on fuel, if not dragging along a flat tire. We’re running on exhaust fumes.
We’re wiser with our cars than we are our spiritual lives though. Today, after the car started back up, we went straight to the gas station to fill the tank. We didn’t care how much it cost per gallon – we just wanted to fill the tank to avoid having another breakdown. And as we talked it over afterward, we realized it’s high time we did the same spiritually.
I’ve heard that when scripture says to “be filled with the Spirit,” it’s not talking about an occasional or one-time event (Ephesians 5:18). Apparently, the phrase literally means we should “be being filled with the Spirit.” It’s an ongoing thing.
So I know I need to be filled up right now, but I don’t know what that’s going to look like for me. Lord knows I’m going to need a lot of help. I’m not very good at even the most basic, spiritual disciplines.
For example, I don’t get very excited about reading my Bible (even though I often get a lot out of it when I do). And when I pray, sometimes God feels closer than my skin, but most of the time, I feel like I’m just talking to myself. And then there’s silent meditation – it seems like such a good idea, but silent meditation is really hard for me because – well, it requires silence.
Regardless, my wife and I are worn out spiritually, and whatever it takes, we’re bringing our hooptie selves to Jesus to get filled up – for free. It’s time to stop running on empty.