The inefficiency of intimacy


Every weekday morning, it's the same. I wait for the last click of the church doors when the sacristan leaves, and I settle into my favorite pew for an hour of prayer all alone. Just me and Jesus in a big empty church, the slowly rising sun gleaming through dark-hued stained glass. I'm usually sufficiently awake by then. (Rushing to make it in time for 7:00 Mass in the bracing cold is always nice and energizing.)


Those first few weeks, bleary-eyed with sleepless grief as I was, I would often spend those hours alternating between tears and yawns, fighting to stay awake, watching in awe-struck wonder as I caught glimpses of my dad on his deathbed as I looked up at Jesus on the cross. Then there were those first few days of adjusting to life as Emma again, and I could breathe a sigh of relief in the silence, feeling no ounce of discomfort before Jesus alone with my newly unveiled head. I waited in hopeful expectation as my pilgrimage to France approached, wondering what miracles God would work. And then I brought to Him my disappointment and confusion upon my return, having received none of the graces or answers or lightning bolts of clarity I had so boldly assumed would come. Time and time again God heard my pleas to show me the way, open the right doors, restore hope in my weary heart.


Mostly, I've just waited.


Those hours of sometimes desperate, sometimes joyous prayer come and go, like tides moving over my ever-growing heart. Some days, it feels like a total waste as I check my watch again and again and it's only been five minutes? Some days I sense words of encouragement or direction that send me forth to my day with newfound vigor. And every day, I wait. It's the waiting that changes everything.


Try as I might to expedite just about everything in my life—Quick! Grieve, heal, reestablish relationships, find a job, find a home, settle into a predictable routine before you're engulfed by that soul-deep ache of the great and terrible unknown!—there is no replacement for plain old time. Minute after minute of crying and complaining, praising and pleading, sending the sighs and surges of my heart straight to the heart of God. Those hours of prayer have opened me up to grace upon grace. I've been perfectly situated, in the sometimes maddening silence, to receive. God has beckoned me with gentleness to come and simply be. To rest in His presence and let Him look at me.


It's all very inefficient.


But that's the way love works, I suppose, feeding on time and patience and presence, growing in the small dark corners of the heart as we open ourselves up to the fearsome prospect of being wholly seen, holding nothing back. It's slow. And we live in a world that prizes expediency. But despite all my protests, I happen to love the inefficiency of it all. Instead of the immediate revelations I often crave, God has given me Himself, over and over. He's allowed me to hear His still, small voice as the storm of my heart rages on. He's directed my gaze to His wounds on the cross. He's drawn me irresistibly to His Eucharistic presence in the tabernacle, a miracle of mystery and might in the poorest of forms. He's invited me to wait on Him and for Him and with Him in the heart-to-heart that only lovers know.


I love Him more today than I did yesterday, and I pray I can say the same every day for the rest of my life. With the help of God, I will.


One inefficient hour at a time.

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