I’ve been prayed to before.
Once upon a time, in the dusty town of Spencer, IN, I used to work at summer camp. I worked in the kitchen, which was a little bit like all of the camp and none of the kids, so it suited me just fine. Every day revolved around getting the food out on time and slowly evading the ever-present possibility that we would become the targets of a revolt of 150 militant and starving children led by their equally starving staff members.
Much like the great breadstick massacre of 2012… which we don’t speak of.
Working in the kitchen does give you certain powers, some celestial, and some diabolical. You stare down people when they come in for a mop and after they’ve taken it, you follow them with your eyes all the way out the door, so they know the DEAL. You yell at people when you’re moving hot things, cuz that’s clearly more important, and if they don’t move, just give them a little love tap with the sizzly corner of a tray of waffle fries. They’ll move. You own the kitchen as your hallowed space, a place not of undue clutter, and you can even kick out the director if he’s getting in your way.
But mostly, my powers over my three years at camp morphed into this: the kids didn’t know that “Tim” was a person. Over time, they came to understand “Tim”, rather, as a magical word, one that would make whatever food they wanted appear, like abracadabra. We had a ceramics god, a horse god (or rather, The Grand Empress of Equestrian Affairs), and I ended up as the Norse god of Food.
…you can even kick out the director if he’s getting in your way. (But he’s so nice that you just let him eat grapes and laze about.)
“Tim” The Incantation led people to the land of chocolate milk and honey for their biscuits and gravy, as well as washed away the sins of the people in time for lunch. Sometimes the spell would scarcely leave someone’s lips before the apple juice was back or more breadsticks were available to all. So the children were naturally conditioned to think that “Tim” solved any problem, a form of omnipotence, if you will.
So this kid sidles up to the door one day at high noon and asks, “Do you have any watermelon?” This is a question that he might not have asked if he knew anything about the constraints of my job. If he knew anything about stocking or ordering. If he knew that my supervisor had instructed that we only serve watermelon at dinner instead of lunch. But he doesn’t know anything about this; he only knows that “Tim” can do anything. I tell him that unfortunately, we’re not serving watermelon at this time, and without missing a beat, he hits me with, “That’s okay…do you have any Key Lime pie?”
Oh yes, watermelon takes 59 seconds to cut up and I told you I don’t have that. But I TOTALLY have Key Lime Pie.
So clearly he doesn’t understand magnitudes of complexity, either. But you have to hand it to the kid, his logic is consistent. He just believes that I can do anything. And despite the ridiculous difference in prep time between a watermelon and a Key Lime pie, he thinks I can do both. You can already see where I’m going with this. None of the constraints of my job are visible to that child, and as long as they remain invisible, he will become increasingly disappointed when I fail to meet his requests. The only thing that lessens that sense of disillusionment is the truth – that I can’t do everything.
That’s the whole point of this, and it’s why prayer is ultimately so disappointing. In the comments under my last post, I had someone compare God not answering prayers in the way we expect as akin to a parent not honoring their child’s request for chocolate cake for breakfast. But as I pointed out in that post, not all requests are so trivial. There is no good reason why a God of infinite love, who is present everywhere, and able and willing to protect His children and provide them with things that they need would turn a blind eye to them when they call. There’s no reason why God would be present at a rape, but not doing anything, only assuring, “You’ll understand later, I promise.” You have got to have a better god than that.
Don’t make me renounce the higher harmony, brah. – Brosky Dostoyevsky
My point is that God cannot be all of the things that Christians want Him to be simultaneously. It is impossible, and something’s got to give. The reason I didn’t have a Key Lime Pie that day was because I’m not omnipotent.
So what’s your god’s excuse?
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