I don’t feel like praying.
When I get up in the morning, I feel like watching YouTube playthroughs of video games—Ace Attorney, Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Sometimes the latest recap of Bachelor in Paradise. I feel like staring into my cereal bowl, crunching in silence. I feel like avoiding the to-do list that hums in the back of my mind, forever cycling and refracting and looming.
The first few times I played hooky, I felt guilt rising. It drummed on my Christian foundation—a deep-seated fear that anything I desire, if not explicitly Christian, is an entrance for sin.
And even now, a part of me does miss craning my neck towards the window every morning to see the sun (or the still-lingering night), reciting in my head, “Let my soul rise to meet you / as the day rises to meet the sun.” But neither the guilt nor the longing has proved powerful enough for me to turn off my phone and pluck the prayer book off the shelf.
I’m not in crisis, despite what my lovely church prayer warriors seem to think. I’m simply adrift. After losing my routines this summer and flailing around in the emptiness for a bit, I find myself wading back into the overscheduled days, the half-worked weekends, the next school cycle—all without grasping for your hand to hold.
Yet, you’re still yelling for me.
If we’re doing footprints in the sand, I’m wandering into the ocean. But even with my head fully fixed on the waves, refusing to glance towards the beach, your voice still finds its way.
When I practiced the examen for the first time, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal when I was closest to you that day, I was shocked for a moment to rise quickly to the surface. In an excitement akin to the high of church summer camp, I resolved to continue asking those questions, to continue listening for your voice. I did for a few days.
I’ve found you in other places—multiple conversations that circle around to honesty in prayer, articles and podcasts that bring me closer to imagining how true multicultural worship may work. Sometimes I believe this is the most connected we’ve been for a long time. But these encounters aren’t drawing me out of the sea. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t leap out of bed and fall to my knees. I don’t open the Bible with excitement or count the days until Sunday.
You’re reaching out—I know it, I sometimes invite it—yet I continue to wade farther from shore. You’re showing up, but I can’t bring myself to meet you in the ways that church tradition says I should, so I turn away.
I’m lost: between resting on the laurels of your unconditional love and working to feel worthy of it, between disciplining myself to consistently show up and waiting for the spirit to move me, between the unrelenting self-denying life that I cannot cajole myself into and the easy, if not slightly hollow, life that I cannot be satisfied with.
All I can offer is my honesty, in all its ugliness.
I dreamed a dream:
I was walking along a beach with you,
two sets of footprints in the sand.
When I looked back, along our path,
the pairs abruptly narrowed to one.
I turned to you and said,
“Honestly, I get it.
I didn’t want to be around me either.
You can’t keep watching someone keep walking in circles:
kicking up the same patch of sand,
stubbing their toe on the same stone.”
You shook your head a little, grinned.
Your finger pointed—traced the seagulls,
trailed down the sky, found the ocean.
“I didn’t leave you behind;
you weren’t stuck.
You decided to try your own thing,
splash in some tide pools.
I called out, again and again;
sometimes the waves crowded your ears.
“The distance may have felt vast,
but I was always with you.
I always saw you.”
Alex Johnson (‘19) is a virtual computer science teacher and a proud resident of the Creston neighborhood in Grand Rapids. When she isn’t reading Young Adult fiction, she’s listening to podcasts, playing rhythm games, and preaching the gospel of intentional community to anyone who will listen.