I was in the Christian bookshop yesterday. I had a half hour to kill before meeting up with the husband. It was cold and wet and window shopping didn’t have its usual appeal. I had spent a quarter of an hour putting a salesman through his paces. It’s my birthday tomorrow and an e-reader hadn’t quite made it on to the birthday list but I have been flirting with the notion of possessing one for quite a while. I am still flirting.
The Christian bookshop had moved premises last week and I had bought a book then – it was on sale. “God’s Gentle Whisper” – with the tag “Developing a responsive heart to God.” So, yesterday I was back in the shop, checking out the shelves just n case I had missed something from my last visit.
“Why are you here?” said God. We both knew the answer to that one – I was sheltering from the rain and the wind.
“You are not planning on buying anything?” It was less of a question and more of an instruction. At the time I was holding a book in my hand and reading the back cover.
“There is nothing in THAT book you don’t already know the answer to. In fact, there is nothing in any of these books that right now you will find the least bit helpful.”
God knows, this is not a ban on all Christian bookshops – this is a very individual “Mel” ban. It’s not a for-the-rest-of-your-mortal-life ban either. I have a habit of assuming that because it is written in a book, the contents on the pages have a special authority about them. I think that the author of the book has some special revelation on a subject – that they know more about it than I do. In some cases that might be true. The assumption that what someone has written it in a book has more authority than the notes that I write in a jotter is flawed.
Take “God’s Gentle Whisper” – the book I bought last week. I settled down to read the first chapter this morning. It was about someone else’s grandmother’s prayer life. Right from the start I am making no connections – I never knew either of my grandmothers – not deeply.
The author’s grandmother had a beautiful garden. Even less connection – my garden could not be called beautiful by any stretch of the imagination. In the book people passing by the garden stop and smell the fragrance and feel their spirit lifted and their world is that much brighter for listening to the birds in the trees. That doesn’t happen to people who pass by my garden. They probably mentally mow my lawn and do the weeding and the word “eyesore” features somewhere in their mind.
The author’s grandmother is often seen walking around her garden praying. OK – I stopped at this point. This is not a woman I know…This is not me. If I have to have a beautiful garden and walk around it praying in order to develop a responsive heart to God I am a lost cause. No doubt as I read further I will find something that connects – but from the start there is nothing that says to me “That could be me…”
This is entirely God’s point. I bought the book thinking the answer was somewhere in the pages – that someone else had done all the research and knew the answer, and all I needed to do was to read it and follow the instructions.”
“If you want to know how to get a heart that is responsive to Me – ask Me!” said God.
My heart is my heart – it’s not author’s heat, or her grandmother’s heart – it’s mine.
I think about my prayers. They are not spoken as I walk about a beautiful garden smelling flowers and listening to bird song. Most of the time they are fired from the battle lines of my work place. Sometimes they are poured out over a cup of tea when I get home from work. Or while I am clanking pans in the kitchen as I wash up. They are busy, part of life, on the go, moving about, filling in the empty spaces of a full up day kind of prayers.
I thought for a moment that one of us – the grandmother or I – had got it wrong. I don’t live in a world that has the beautiful garden. I’m not even sure I have the time or the skill to create a beautiful garden that I can walk about and pray in. Maybe when I retire…
Then I realsed that it may not be a garden but I have created a beautiful place to pray. It’s not a physical place at all. It is my relationship with God that is my beautiful place. I talk, He listens, He talks, I listen – sometimes.