Thursday, February 14, 2008

Meditation on a Paper Clip

I push a lot of paper at my job. Thus, there are plenty of paper clips roaming about looking for work. I have a drawer full of them, big and small. I have one in front of me right now. I turn it over in my fingers as I’m reading at my desk. The paper clip is this simple little piece of wire bent three times into a useful tool.

Sometimes, for whatever reason, I unbend a paper clip so that all I have is a long, straight metal…nothing. The only uses I can think of for a straightened paper clip are to pick a lock, pick your teeth, or poke through that little hole to reset your PDA. These are functions for sure, but even if you try to bend the metal back to form, it just is never quite the same.

I mentioned last week that during this Lenten season, prayer is one of the disciplines I’ve committed myself to. It’s going okay. I admitted to myself last night that I really don’t know how to pray much at all. I mean, I can do prayer and I can say some words and bless a meal, but I can’t pray for much more than 10 minutes. I confess that one inspiration for me is this general impression I have of some of the famous spiritual men and women of centuries past having spent long hours in communion with their Lord. Perhaps that betrays the truth most of all. I don’t know what it means to pray; I’ve idealized it. It all appears very spiritual until your sitting there, kneeling there, wondering, “Okay, now what?”

The man who inspires my prayer most is Daniel, of lion’s den fame. His story has taught me the few things I believe about prayer. That’s where the paper clip comes in. Like the paper clip, Daniel was bent at the knees, probably again at the waist, bowing before his God. He was not about his own goals, straightened out and useless. A man does not pray who has things to achieve. This bent posture of reverence showed Daniel to be available to God’s purposes, not because he prayed outwardly, but because inside his will was bent like a paper clip. His prayers were so regular, Daniel so committed, that even his enemies depended on them in their plans to destroy him (and they were proved right, or Daniel proved faithful, for he faced the lions as a result).

There is much more to heed from Daniel’s disciplines and practices—well worth your time. Prayer is still largely a mystery to me—in purpose, method, results. But for now, I think it suffices, and perhaps is God’s own clever means to his end, that I come like a paper clip, like Daniel, regularly, openly, honestly, determined, asking God, “Okay, now what?”

Continued here, then here.

1 comment:

Rosemary said...

You write very well.