He was sitting with his back to me, earbuds in his ear, scrolling down his phone.
He had texted yesterday, saying, “I have a couple of questions for you. Can you meet me at Starbucks?”
Smiling barista, moving quickly , (they always move so fast) “What can I get for you?”
“Grande Pike Place. No milk.”
“Hey,” I tap him on the back as I walk up.
“Hey.” He pulls one bud from his ear.
I smile. “If you want to ask me questions , you might as well take out the other one.”
He pulls the other one, clicks his phone off. “What do you think about prayer?”
I know him well enough to know I don’t have enough info to answer what he is asking. “Why are you asking? What’s your take?”
“I think prayer is pretty much something that people do to make themselves feel better. Kinda like a mental exercise. It really doesn’t do any good. Except, maybe making ‘em feel better for a while.”
I know him well enough to know where this is coming from. I have to tread lightly. “Well, I think you may have a point, in a sense. I know a lot of people that have prayed for things and solutions, all kinds of stuff. They seemed to have a sort of peace after praying, but, a lot of times, what they prayed for didn’t happen.”
He was slouched back in his chair, his legs extended, his feet shaking in time to the music playing in the background.
I asked, “So, have you prayed something that didn’t work for you?” I knew what he would say.
“Yeah?! All this!” He made a gesture with both hands, sweeping them from his head to his feet.
I knew what he was talking about. He had been born with a disease that limited him in some ways, making it difficult to make and keep friends, to do normal things.
He continued. “I have prayed and prayed for God to heal me. Nothing! I figure, either God can’t, God won’t, or there is no God.”
“What would you get, if you had your way? What do you want above everything else?”
“I JUST WANT TO BE NORMAL!” A little bit loud. A couple at a nearby table turned toward our table, then looked away, whispering.
“Okay,” I said, “First question. What do I think about prayer? I used to think of prayer as a kind of grocery list for God. ‘While you’re here, could you pick up a couple of things for me? That would be great!’ But, honestly, I wasn’t very good at praying. I’m not real sure I understood, or took it very seriously. But, now, I look at it as a way to find out what He wants me to do. I say, ‘Okay, new day. Where are we going today? I want to go with you, all day, to be able to help you do some of the things You do.’ It’s kind of like volunteering for a mission, then going to the officer to find out what the mission is.”
He was losing interest. This wasn’t the question he was interested in.
“About being normal. I get it. You want to fit in, to do the things that your friends do, hanging out, driving, being one of the group.”
“Yeah, that is exactly what I want. And I can’t see that ever happening. Why doesn’t God care? If he even exists at all.”
“Listen,” I tell him, “I have been normal. Had all the normal things, good job, wife, kid, two cars, house, good reputation. Life was good, right?….Except, it wasn’t. Normal is way over rated. Depression still takes over. Meaning to life, like a vapor. Why am I so sad? What is the point to all this? These questions don’t stop just because you have the life that you thought you wanted.”
I looked at him. He was listening, doubtfully, probably thinking I had no idea what he feels. “Let me ask you a question. If you could ask God, assuming He exists, for the perfect life for you, what would it look like? Better yet, would it require you to be healed, first?”
“And, you don’t see that happening?”
“Okay, there is one thing you haven’t figured. What if God had some purpose in all this?” I did my hands like he did before over his body. “What if He told you, ‘If you will carry this weakness for me, and move into your life trusting me, I will show you a power that you never knew before. You know, My strength is made perfect in your weakness.’ That is one thing you haven’t tried.”
“I have tried believing in God. It doesn’t work.”
“Believing in God is different from trusting God. The demons believe in God. Trusting God cannot be tried, like sticking your toe into the pool to see if the water is cold or warm. You have got to dive in, full trust, stay in, give yourself to Him. No matter what. You have no idea of the life you could have, if you stopped wishing for normal, and started looking for LIFE.”
The story ends here, because this is a conversation I would like to have with my friend. We have touched on stuff. His eyes have not been opened to the infinite possibilities of his life.
But, haven’t we all been there?
We just want it to be a little easier. A little more normal.
“God, please just do this one thing. Really, that’s all I need just this one thing. It can’t be that big a deal for You.”
And, in a tiny whisper, “Do you really just want that one small thing?
Is “normal” really all you want?
I didn’t create you to be normal.
When I thought of you, I had a job that I made you to do.
But, to do it, we have to do it together.
You will not regret it.”