Someone posted an instructive homily on a group website a day or so ago following a subject thread of "how do you surrender?" the body of the questioning post was as follows:
"Hi all. A quick question - how do you surrender? What does surrender mean to you? Is it accepting the will of God in all that happens to us? If so, why do we still pray to God if we have accepted everything as being the will of God? Sorry for the strange question."
The thread reply's were many and varied, but one reply in particular caught my attention, it's heading was:
“This says it all re: Merlin Carothers Ministry on Surrender for Dummies.” and we were presented with a story of many prayers proffered, as here... The chaplain got down and he said, Now Lord, we've got to stop fooling
around. I mean we've got to tell this man something. He's got to know
something. " And then He said, "But anyway, thank you for them just
exactly as they are. "
The Lord said, "Finally! Finally, Merlin, that's what I've been trying
to get across to you all along. You can't help them." That's right
Lord I can't help them. But the Lord said, " I can. Now when they come
in this time, sit down, fold your hands, open your mouth, and I'll
tell them." And Merlin said, "Oh praise the Lord, that's what I wanted
Lord." well, read the short story
Scroll down about 28 paragraphs, or halfway through the document to the paragraph beginning, "I want to tell this story because it is so important...
Now, these are my thoughts on the Merlin Carothers story...
And you know, I wonder if this teaching story, so inspiring on so many levels, might be about just about one man, the advancement of Merlin Carothers, whom we are informed, by Merlin Carothers no less, as a matter of course speaks with God, and in turn, is spoken too by God, we assume from this and his other stories, on a regular basis.
These conversations with God are certainly Biblically canonical for any Christian, commonplace, occurring repeatedly and often, and absolutely necessary for the establishment of the Jewish race, the Jewish religion and the Jewish nation as recorded so importantly and so often in the Tanakh, and the direct instruction from Allah to the Prophet Mohammad which established the Nation of Islam as proscribed by the Qur’an.
These days, God is also speaking to quite a few of the Protestant fundamental Christian Ministers, particularly those on the extreme right. And often this conversation is rather self serving for the recipient, or the recipients group, or rather damning to certain societal groups, gays and women seeming to often be the brunt of God’s ire as He goes his way punishing many innocents for the sins of the few, according to these modern day recipients of God’s private word. I remember one Minister who was in great need of money for his various projects and God told him that if the members of his rather large TV audience didn’t cough up the money God would take his life. He appeared on his television show,passed on God's message to his flock, and the "body of Christ" responded by sending millions to the Godly shakedown and the minister's life was spared.
God taking our personal phone calls directly somehow makes me uneasy. Large room for abuse there, custom made for despots and we’re seeing this play out in the current religious wars in the Middle East. Our own President it seems is chatted up by God occasionally as evidenced by "...the former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath says Mr Bush told him and Mahmoud Abbas, former prime minister and now Palestinian President: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George go and end the tyranny in Iraq,' and I did.” And another source...Shaath says, “President Bush said to all of us: ‘I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan’. “And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, ‘Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East’. And by God I’m gonna do it’,” Shaath quotes him as saying.
As I’m writing this, my on screen news ticker just upped the numbers on both the South Asia earthquake, 20,000 dead, estimated 3 million homeless in Pakistan alone, and higher numbers to come, and the Guatemala storm deaths, 1,500 from one Mayan village alone, not to mention the other devastations to humanity this year, the tsunami, New Orleans, the religious massacres in Iraq and Northern Africa, and the millions tangentially effected, the physically injured for life, the millions deeply grieving from loss of family and loved ones, and the astounding psychological havoc on both adults and a children.
I think my discomfort with personal prayer comes from time being spent by God on Merlin and his need for miracles such as those from the above story when that time might be better spent elsewhere. But then the ways of God are mysterious and acted out behind a curtain for most of us lesser mortals although apparently not to Merlin.
Today being Sunday, the Football games will be on across America, and often we'll see a look up and point up to Our Father In Heaven after the hero has scored his 6 points, letting the millions focused on him know that the glory of those 6 points belong to God and are the work of God and God's answer to the hero’s prayers and a testament to their special relationship. Ah the humility.
Merlin Magic indeed.
And it’s so easy to slip into this thinking so exemplified in this Merlin story and the many others he’s sure to tell. The need to present ourselves to an audience as the hero. Or, to elicit a powerful ally in the horror of this being in the world. Who’s theory in the First Noble Truth was the one about suffering?
When I was a child my Mother would kneel beside the bed with me before sleep and I would tell God my fears and my desires. And you know at a later date my Mother would always remind me of the boogie bears God had vanquished, and the desires and wishes God had granted. Yet looking back, these were everyday happenings which simply would turn out well, no more no less than for my playmate across the street who didn’t pray. Yet according to the adults, all those benifician happenings were prayers God answered. Very heady and powerful stuff for an impressionable child. O Lord wont you buy me. God the protecting Father, and God the beneficent ever providing Friend. Chogyam Trungpa’s clear view of 20th century Western Christianity right on target.
The self absorption of a Child, a self referential child who still appears periodically when as an adult I’m frightened or confused, or pained, to pray. However, now, it’s so much more helpful to remember the 1 Corinthians 13 bit about “understanding as a child, and putting things from childhood behind,” and when I do remember and realize that stress and fear has caused the child from the past to reappear, this adult has learned to attempt to focus on the breath, feeling the breath touching the upper lip just under the nose, to attempt to empty this grasping, controlling, knowing mind, this creator of lies trapped in the carcass of the past or the mad delusions of the future and that attempt is the closest to surrender and to a TRUE prayer this human may ever know.
I don’t mean to be harsh on Merlin, we’re all are where we are, I’m Merlin and Merlin is everyman, and Heaven knows emptying may be the off base and Merlin may have the true skinny and I may be missing blessing and powers beyond knowing and crossing a goal line before millions and pointing to God may be a highest worshipful statement. But there’s just something about this story by Merlin that makes me feel askew and this human has learned through many years of mistakes to heed the message of askew.