“Prayer beads?! Really, that’s what God is saying? Are you sure God wasn’t saying, ‘Get a job with benefits’?” That’s what I was thinking. Oh, I didn’t say it. I mean, I may not be the best husband ever, but I’m not crazy (well the jury may be out on that, but it does not change the fact that I did not actually say this.)
I guess you can say I was a little taken aback when Kristen told me God was calling her to make prayer beads. I have several good excuses in my defense.
1) I did not hear the phone ring when God called, I think God should have the decency to include the spouse in these little notifications. After all, God has been up to this stuff for a long time. (See the stories about Noah, Abraham, Moses, Hannah and Mary in the Bible for reference). It would just be nice, if God occasionally gave the spouse a head’s up when God is about to do something really out of the ordinary or unexpected or, you know, God-like.
2) God should have realized we are Protestant. I don’t know how much you know about Protestants, but we don’t generally do this stuff. We like our religion pretty much unadorned. I mean we are not all demanding plain religion with no embellishments, but let’s face it, if something is new and unfamiliar for us, generally our motto is, “Don’t do anything that looks too Roman Catholic.” (It’s not an official rule, that might sound to Roman for us. It’s more like a Protestant principle.)
3) Really? God speaks to people in Sports Bars? (That’s where we were when this call experience happened. We had dinner together and Kristen drank unsweetened ice tea. So, I couldn’t even blame drinking for this strange God experience she was talking about.) I thought God generally did this kind of thing when you were sitting on top of a mountain, walking the beach or spending a week long silent retreat at a monastery. Turns out I had to reread all those stories I mentioned in #1; all those people encounter God right in the midst of everyday events.
Truth be told, I was just scared. What if this call was real? What if this really is what God has called my wife to do? I knew enough about God’s call to know that it often carries us into unknown places and along unfamiliar pathways.
It’s been over five years since that initial conversation, and I can say it has been every bit as scary as I thought it might be. People call our house to tell about how prayer has taken on new meaning. People email to say that their children have suddenly discovered prayer as a part of their lives. Older adults have written to tell about how they have found new meaning in their practice of prayer. People, myself included, have told how using beads in prayer helps keep them focused, connected to God and more devoted to prayer than they have been in years. People have opened up their own faith journeys with us to share how they have become more connected to God. Each new encounter is a journey into new territory and often opens up new understandings for us of how God works with people.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about call stories in the Bible: Jesus and the first disciples in Mark 1, Abram in Genesis 12, Moses in Exodus 3. Often I have read these stories and simply focused on what these people gave up to respond to God’s call, what a difference it made in their own personal lives. But now I have started thinking more about how their simple acts of faithful response impacted the lives of so many others.
It’s true, responding to God’s call often moves us along new pathways in unfamiliar territory. But it’s also true that God works through our faithful response to touch lives in ways that we could not think or imagine on our own. Thanks be to God.