Anxiety hit at the same time consciousness did, dense and heavy, suffocating. Raising my head a few inches from my crumpled pillow, I reached with blind hands toward the snooze button in an effort to beat back the day. Almost simultaneously, reflexively, as my fingers found the alarm, I threw out an old and familiar prayer, “God, please be with me. Jesus, be with me.” I waved the words like an amulet, to ward off the lost and sinking feelings.
I’ve spent years telling God what to do. At first I was quite specific, ticking off requests like an eternal “to-do” list that I might helpfully hang on God’s refrigerator door. Later, I settled for the more general command in which I simply asked God to “be with” me or she or whomever the situation demanded. It was as though I was acquiescing in some way, trying not to be such a nag and all – “Ok, God, so I know you’re not necessarily going to do what I want, but could you at least not abandon me?”
Today though, as soon as that prayer was flung, it was followed by the awareness that God is always with me and I felt the invitation to pray again a new and challenging prayer, “God, open me to your presence.”
It wasn’t what I wanted – I wanted escape, resolution to the questions at hand – but that prayer shifted me. In that moment of surrender, something inside me split open just a crack and some of the darkness lifted; almost as though I had been the one holding onto it all along.