Honest to God Prayer: Grace in the Grit

We have two or three great moving experiences in our lives—experiences so great and so moving that it doesn’t seem at the time anyone else has been so caught up and pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and broken and rescued and illuminated and rewarded and humbled in just that way ever before. —F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reality is bittersweet. On the wall beside me I’m looking at metal sand castings, made by my son in middle school, representing the ancient faces of comedy and tragedy. Life is full of blessings and brokenness, the one often filtered through the other. Our idealistic dreams soon clash with practical and political realities. We have to eke out a livelihood yet still long for meaning and purpose through our work. We cherish intimacy, yet our closest relationships cause the deepest pain.

What the old miners in Colorado, where I live, called “pay dirt” provides an apt metaphor for our experience of the spiritual life: only by paying attention to the dirt will we ever see any flecks of gold. Sometimes all we seem to see is dirt. When we do find gold, it usually surfaces through some combination of the surprise grin of circumstances and the long-term grit of our own and others’ toil and sufferings.

Here’s the key to grounding honest to God prayer: genuine praying is not an escape from disturbing realities, but rather a whole-hearted embracing of life’s ambiguities. If we frame prayer this way, it becomes the laboratory for noticing sacred particulars in secular stuff. We may be pounded and dazzled and astonished and beaten and illuminated and humbled in the very same experience. 

Grit Seasoning

While I do this grit
work, season
the irksome pieces
with enough
Ahas! to remind me
of the reason.

From Kent Ira Groff, Honest To God Prayer: Spirituality as Awareness, Empowerment, Relinquishment and Paradox (SkyLightPaths Publishers, 2012).


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