Praying and Saying Goodbye by Suellen Shay

Praying and Saying Goodbye by Suellen Shay


In October 2007 for three consecutive Thursdays a small group of approximately twelve of us came together, led by Robert Steiner, to acknowledge our grief and experiences of loss. We found comfort and healing in the candle-lit darkness of the church, in the soft music, in the prayers of the Psalmist, in the stories from Job and the Gospels. We discovered in our own scriptures – the Psalms in particular – the richest resources for saying and praying our goodbyes, for articulating to God our sense of loss, grief and anger. As Walter Brueggemann points out, the pattern of many of the Psalms – and what we experienced through the course – is a movement with God from being securely oriented, to being painfully disoriented, to being surprisingly reoriented. Brueggemann writes, ‘The agenda and intention of the Psalms is considerably at odds with the normal speech of most people, and the normal speech of a stable, functioning, self-deceptive culture in which everything must be kept running, young and smooth. Against this speech the Psalms are abrasive, revolutionary and dangerous. It announces that life is not like that, that our common experience is not one of well-being and equilibrium, but a churning, disruptive experience of dislocation and relocation’. (Praying the Psalms)

A Prayer of Disorientation
(by Joyce Rupp, from Praying Our Goodbyes)

God of Exodus, I am off on an inner road never travelled before. Deep within, where only your eyes see, there is so much mystery, greyness, restlessness. I want so much to have a sense of direction, to know where I am and where I ought to be headed. But the dark and the questions stay. You ask me to be full of faith, to believe deep within that you are my signpost, that you are my wisdom and my guide, and to trust your presence. Your words to me are clear: ‘Do not fear. I go before you.’

But the winter of my spirit wears on. The days pass by. I plod along like boots too big on a small child. Only, I do not marvel like the young one, or pause to wonder at the beauty. Instead, I just trudge and forge ahead, no spark of love, no charge of joy, no spiritual energy. Just a dead walk through an aimless winter. Everywhere in me I cry out for you. God, I yearn for you. I desire you greatly. And every now and then you come to me, sear my soul, wash over my thirst, soften my edges, glimmer in my darkness. So I know all is not lost. I am not lost, at least not forever. God of my depths, I cry to you to be my guide. Help me to have a strong sense of inner direction and grant that I may have the reassurance of knowing that I am on the right path. Take all that is lost in me and bring it home to you.