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Pray for justice but not from fear

This week was struck by the first line from Wicked Game, Chris Issak’s iconic mega-hit from the early 90s.

“The world was on fire and no one could save me but you.”

Last week, the word fire caught my attention as the West Coast burned and many us huddled indoors, hiding from the smoke.

This week, the first line from “Wicked Game,” Chris Issak’s iconic mega-hit from the early 90s, jumped out at me:

“The world was on fire and no one could save me but you.”

The word fire grabbed my attention as the West Coast burned and many of us huddled indoors, hiding from the smoke.

As I listened to “Wicked Game,” I wondered why a song about feeling betrayed felt uplifting. (OK, Isaak’s sultry voice and melt-your-heart-looks helped.)

The lyrics sounded depressing:

No, I don’t wanna fall in love (this world is only gonna break your heart)
No, I don’t wanna fall in love (this world is only gonna break your heart)
With you
With you (this world is only gonna break your heart)

Yet, what I heard, echoed in his words, was an overtone that sounded like the opposite of his words. Here was someone feeling betrayed by love, who obviously wanted love. Hurt perhaps, but still believing in love. I heard the call for love.

Within the dark, the fear, the anger, can we hear overtones of the ideals and visions that call to us?

Praying beyond fear

Last week, I felt gut-punched by the news of the death of our beloved RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg). Grief for the loss of a truly great soul and pillar of justice. Almost immediately, though, I was flooded with fear, big fear, for the fate of the country and the U.S. Supreme Court. I prayed that the values she represented: fairness, justice, and compassion would survive in the Court.

I realized, though, that I wasn’t sure how to pray. I cringe at prayers like, “Let my team/side win.”

How do we pray for what we want in such a tumultuous time?

I find both power and comfort in prayer. But if prayer isn’t a word in your native tongue, or the idea of praying “to” something is off-putting, don’t worry. You can think of prayer as a conversation with your deepest self.

I think, intuitively, we all know how to pray. Almost everyone knows at last two basic prayers. One is “Help!” the other is “Thank-you.”

As I wondered how to pray in a meaningful way, a friend, who is a wise guide in such matters, offered me insight. He reminded me to:

“Pray without fear and not from fear.”

He suggested that it’s OK to use prayer as a way of offering positive imaginations of the world we hope to see. Our world, especially now, needs strong, life-affirming visions.

I realized that underneath my fear was a desire for justice that cares about the good of all, that is fair, compassionate, and not swayed by money, religion, gender, nationality, or skin color.

When I allowed myself to hold onto that image, and offer it without fear, I felt stronger.

Much stronger than when I imagined all the things that could happen if “the dark side” wins.

Finding something positive within a fear or complaint

Years ago, I took a program that used an exercise in complaining as part of its teaching. We were given instructions to pair up, designate one partner to be A, the other to be B. A, the speaking partner, would then complain vigorously about something that irritated them. (This turned out to be fun because we’re rarely invited to complain.) B, the listening partner, was told to listen for the values or desires that lay beneath A’s complaints.

What we discovered was that under many complaints and fears lives a true desire, a value, a longing for something.

“The Russians are evil and conniving,” might really mean “I want the United States to be self-governing with fair, safe elections.”

I have trouble appreciating the values held by “the other side.” My skin bristles when I hear statements like, “I don’t trust yyy candidate. He’s a loser. I don’t care what the media say about candidate xxx or what he’s done. He understands me. ”

While I could debate whether candidate xxx cares about or understands the person in question, what stands out is that our speaker wants to be heard, understood, and cared about. He wants a better life. He wants to feel hopeful about the future.

There may be things that he wants that I’m not too happy about. Yet, I can align with the idea that everyone deserves to matter, feel cared about, and live with hope for the future.

I heard, inside the rant, an overtone of yearning for a better life.

Like the hint of love when Chris Issaks sings, “I’m never going to fall in love again.”

What I can do

I don’t need to remind you that we live in perilous times. I can speak out. My husband and I can empty our pockets and contribute as much as we can–right now we’re focused on voter registration initiatives.

I can also hold a strong, positive, generative vision of the future I want. Because my imagination has power, too.

I want to stand for something and not just run from fear.

If “my side” wins in November, it will be the beginning of massive work to be done.

If “my side” doesn’t win, then I’ll need every fiber of strength within me to stand up to my fears.

No one promises life will work out on my timetable. As Issak sings,”This world is only going to break your heart.”

I will be praying to find a center of calm within so that I can pray, not from fear, but from the overtones I hear distantly ringing through the fear: a vision of what still matters.

Responding to an interview question in 2018, Issak said:

“The most important thing is just to love and be loved in return.”

Amen to that.

One Response

  1. Thank you for these words to try and stay positive. The news is so depressing these days and were limiting our watching so we don’t get depressed. We do need to stay positive in terms of how to frame what we want and then know what we can do. It starts with voting but more needs to be done. As Sonya Renee Taylor said in her poem, we have a chance to stitch a new garment. Time to get busy!

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