Inspired by Thursday’s post from Emily Gowdy Canady, our family is using the spiritual practice of prayer pumpkins during the month of October. Pumpkins were joyfully purchased on Wednesday at a church pumpkin patch, then lined up along the center seam of our kitchen table. On Thursday morning we added our first names, praying for members of our family and churches who are sick and could benefit from prayers of healing.
Today, on day two, I awoke before the rest of our household and read the news, as I typically do each morning. The difference was today as I read the news, my white prayer pumpkin was sitting in front of me. After reading several articles all on the same subject, I turned my pumpkin upside down, grabbed the Sharpie and wrote my prayer before the rest of my family even woke up.
After my first sinful and very human response (that’s what you get for not wearing masks!), the small spirit of God within me course corrected my thought process. I instead wrote down the name Donald and offered a prayer for healing, albeit on the bottom of my pumpkin so I won’t see it every single day this month.
When our children finally woke up, I informed them of the news and they articulated aloud my own inner thoughts. Hearing elementary aged children express ill will for another person was a slap in the face. What had I been modeling for them? It certainly has not been Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies.
‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. —Luke 6:27-31
I’m grateful to the diversity of parishioners at the church I serve because I’m regularly reminded to pray for our president. That’s what Episcopalians do, both corporately and individually, we pray for the leaders of our country. Whether we have been offering these prayers as a plea for a change of heart or not, that prayer now needs to be for healing of mind, body, and spirit.
Jesus teaches us to love our enemies, to pray for them, even those who persecute us. This may be one of the most difficult tenants of our Christian faith, especially in our polarized society today. But thank God it is, because hateful thoughts and judgmental actions only further propagate cycles of division and destruction. This is what I shared with my children after they shared their own honest prayers. Talking about it was easy, modeling this type of love will be far more difficult. Just as the spirit of God within in my corrected my thoughts, I’m praying the same will be true for our children’s thoughts.
If the world doesn’t know Christians by our love, the world won’t know really know us, and therefore won’t know our Lord.
Pamela Lewis says
Thank you, Eric Liles, for this very sobering and chastening post. Perhaps this is an occasion for all of us, especially for those who claim to be followers of Jesus, to put our claims to the test. Are we indeed followers or only fans of Jesus? I do not want Donald’s condition to worsen, as he is another human being, a child of God. However, I want to still reserve my right to be displeased, hurt, and insulted by things he has said (and even done) which have hurt, displeased, and insulted others. I would like his heart to be changed so that he understands how his words and actions have affected others. I believe I can hold those two sets of thought in my heart at the same time. While I do not relish or gloat over what has happened to Donald, I must also be honest with myself and with God over my negative feelings about him. Living within that tension is part of the Christian experience.
I would offer, if I may, a gentle correction: I believe Eric Liles meant the word “tenets,” rather than “tenants.” We live by tenets, but tenants live in an apartment.