Let me introduce you to my friend, Emily. Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, as well as the author of five books including Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. Follow Emily on Twitter or Facebook.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I've invited friends to share their words in this space as we explore the mysteries of prayer during the Summer Bible Study.
I didn’t know I was praying.
All I knew was I was hungry. Sobbing into my pillow with my skin pulled tight across my rib cage begging the cotton, which smelled like the wind—because Mum hung our sheets on the clothes line strung across the skies of northern Ontario—to be normal.
No, I thought prayer was what I did at the very end of the night, in those final moments before falling into a sleep bloated with dreams of chocolate and sandwiches and cakes.
The long rote of a thing this preacher’s kid did which begged God not to send her relatives and friends to hell. It was a detailed list of names, and if I missed one it felt as though they were damned. And I put it off until the very end because this nine-year-old didn’t know God was love. She just knew life was as hard as the wooden church pews she sat on each Sunday morning.
But when the nurses told me at thirteen that I was a miracle; when they looked at this hypothermic girl whose braces showed through her teeth, whose hair was falling out in clumps, when they said Someone out there loved me, I knew then those nights of begging had been some kind of letter-writing to the sky.
Prayer isn’t a posture. It isn’t a please and thank you or a Hail Mary. It isn’t polite or tidy or a long list at all, but rather, a ragged sinner beating her chest crying out for a Savior.
Prayer is the created, calling out to a Creator.
And God meets us there in the beating of our chests, and I heard him in a field in Holland, nearly a decade later, where I was training for a six-month mission trip to the Middle East. I was sitting by a farm fence with my guitar, when I heard God for the first time, the grass rustling and the smell of wildflowers. I have called you, he said, to intercede for my people. They are hurting in Lebanon. I will show you their pain but not so you can take it upon yourself; only that you will intercede for them. Pray for my people.
It wasn’t so much a voice as a sigh—a deep, unadulterated sigh. Like my spirit had just lifted and descended, and the words with them. All of the sentences just falling around me—a message from heaven.
He speaks and we listen and we beat our chest and we forget, how much he loves us, until he reminds us.
And even as I returned from that mission trip, no longer eating again, and got married; even as I spent three years drinking twelve cups of coffee a day and skipping meals and getting addicted to sleeping pills; even as I found healing again and moving to Korea to teach English and then back to Canada, to take care of a mother dying from brain cancer, I prayed.
The guttural gasp of a girl missing home.
Because isn’t that all of us? Aren’t we all just children missing home? Longing to connect with a Father who runs headlong down the path, robe trailing in the wind, to greet us?
And even now as I hold my miracle babies—the two boys I was told I’d never have, and only prayer conceived them—I whisper His love over them, a love that sounds a lot like spikes being hammered into a cross, or the sobs of a nine year old girl who’s starving, and I sigh.
Because this preacher’s kid is no longer hungry.
No, she is so very, very full.
This week, we're giving away THREE copies of Emily's new memoir, Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I thought to Look.
Broken down by organized religion, a childhood battle with anorexia, and her parents' rigidity, she set out to find God somewhere else—anywhere else. Her travels took her across three continents in buses, cars, and planes, across mountains and over deep blue seas.
What she hadn't realized was that her faith was waiting for her the whole time—in the place she least expected it.
Poignant and passionate, Atlas Girl is a deeply personal story of the yearning we all share to be truly known, entirely forgiven, and utterly loved.
To win, click here to leave a comment on the original blog post at MargaretFeinberg.com. The three winners will be selected and announced on Friday.
Congratulations to the winners: Hannah, Tracy, Molinda Bailey