Last night my family went to the Johnson County fair. It was about as midwestern as you can get and a truly delightful time with family. But the highlight of the night for me was the six-year-old girl in front of me and my sister while we were in line for a questionably safe ride.
Like any little girl, she was so free. Our conversation began with her complimenting my earrings, and continued with her complimenting every single thing about my appearance that she could find: “I like your shoes, and your shirt, and your ring, and I LOVE your hair!” She also told me that she loved my freckles. Y’all, those are not freckles on my face. But she was so genuine, so full of kindness, that it was a stunningly beautiful affirmation. There is nothing like the feminine genius present even in the littlest women to empower the world.
We continued talking about her day at the fair, her family, the fact that she went on the scariest ride at the fair and didn’t scream once. And then at a certain point she drew her head a little nearer to me and lowered her voice. “Can I tell you something?”
“Of course!” I replied, praying that she wasn’t about to tell me her social or the three digits on the back of her dad’s debit card.
“Ever since I was one year old, I’ve dreamed of being a ballerina!”
As she threw her arms in the air and twirled, my heart melted even more than it already had. “Actually, I used to be a ballerina! Do you want me to teach you some ballet right now?”
Her eyes lit up, although she was prompt to inform me that she still didn’t know Swan Lake. We stood in first position, did some port de bras, and transitioned into a first arabesque. “You just did ballet!” I exclaimed, and her face radiated happiness. I gave her a high-five, and then we got on our carnival ride, where in that moment my deepest dream was not to plummet to my death in Johnson County, Indiana.
It was a beautiful encounter for many reasons, but I also think a tender analogy for today’s readings on relational prayer. Honestly, today’s readings are hard. By God’s grace, we hopefully have all experienced direct answers to our intercessory prayer. But we have also asked and seemingly not received, sought and seemingly not found. And this too is grace.
I’m so moved by the first reading, which tells us, “The Lord remained standing before Abraham. Then Abraham drew nearer…” Today we are invited to imitate Abraham’s faithful and persistent intercessory prayer. We must beg for mercy for ourselves and the whole world. We are invited to bring our desires and needs before our Father. But above all, we are invited to imitate Abraham as he draws nearer to the Lord. The Lord remained standing before Abraham because He wanted Him to come closer, to taste deeper intimacy with the Divine One. And His response to Abraham’s nearness was more than Abraham could have ever imagined.
In today’s Gospel we learn the earth-shattering truth that the God who whispers, “Come closer,” is our Father! This Father thirsts for us to draw near like my little friend at the fair yesterday. He wants to hear our lowered voice as we share with Him our wildest dreams and our deepest desires.
Regardless of your age, you have dreams that the Father will mysteriously fulfill. I can’t emphasize enough that prayer is a mystery, as is Divine Providence. Because we are weak, rather dumb children, sometimes we ask for snakes. But because the Lord is a good Father, He can see the fish for which we are actually begging, even without our own knowledge.
I have no idea if this little girl will become a ballerina. But if I, a total stranger, experienced such delight hearing her dreams and desires, how much more does her heavenly Father delight in her dream? I know He will fulfill her dream in a way that makes this sweet girl into a living praise of the Father’s glory.
Yes, today’s readings are scary and at times, very difficult to read without cynicism or discouragement creeping in. But today’s readings are unbelievably beautiful. They are a cause for every person to have the same joy as that little girl.
My life is a continual testament to the reality that Jesus turns our mourning into dancing. Whether you are mourning or dancing today, draw near to the Father. He is waiting to hear and fulfill your dream.
I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father. – Bl. Charles de Foucauld