Yesterday, we almost bought a house.
This house had everything we wanted at a price we could afford. Sure, there was room for improvement, as would be expected for most things in our price range, but we’re DIY people so we like it that way.
Not only was the house ideal, with sunny nooks for reading, raised beds prepped for gardening, and a mountain view from the master bedroom (bonus!)—the location couldn’t be beat.
It was less than 500 feet from the library and a stone’s throw from there to the post office. Next door to the post office was my new favorite used bookstore, where I found these on Saturday while listening to the live Irish music being played in the back of the store. Further down the street was Kyle’s favorite coffee shop and multiple restaurants we’ve been wanting to try. In the other direction was the zoo and the farmers’ market. And on a nice day, we could even ride our bikes to church—just a couple of miles down that same winding road.
Do I have you dreaming along with me yet? Truly, we were in a state of bliss.
In the Seattle real estate market, we’re learning, homes go quickly. Not only do you have to move at a fast pace, but you also have to be willing to compete, because it’s more than likely that each home has multiple offers.
After studying every detail online Saturday night and Sunday morning, we looked at the house in person yesterday in the early afternoon. Less than two hours later, we were making an offer, writing our initials and the date on more papers than I could have ever imagined. With only one other on the table, our agent thought we were a shoo-in, and we put in an escalator, saying that we would beat any offer up to a certain amount, to guarantee it.
With the offer in and waiting to be reviewed at 6pm (we would know by the end of the night!), I found myself more full of hope than I had ever been (or so it seemed). Desire sprung out of my soul like a geyser with a force equal to that which had kept it down for so long, and I danced in its rain as it fell to the ground as if a season of drought were finally coming to an end.
It felt so good. I felt so free.
I’ve been wondering about the meaning of prayer a lot these days—what it is, what happens during prayer, what it results in—especially in times like these when I want to gather up Prayer Warriors in hopes that their faithful petition on my behalf might solidify the deal (you know, so as to cover all of the bases). But really, I’ve been thinking that it’s not about might, but instead all about desire. Praise, petition, thanksgiving—each is an expression of deep longing. And the expression of deep longing requires surrender—of defenses, of ego, of control.
It is an intimate exchange, which seems appropriate for communion with the Divine. That’s what prayer is, really—something that I feel any person of faith would agree with. And communion means “an act or instance of sharing.” And that doesn’t mean it’s just me sharing my desires with God, because the prefix “co” means “together, mutually, in communion.”
When I bring my desires to God—in praise, in petition, in thanksgiving—letting go of defenses, ego, and control in a stance of complete surrender, God is with me in my desires—together, mutually, in communion.
But to risk by surrendering to desire is to also risk surrendering to pain. I thought of this as Kyle and I sat in church last night as the clock passed 6pm, our phones on vibrate just in case we might get The Call. I wondered if I should be risking so much by being vulnerable with my desires—was it wise? After all, there was still a small chance that we might not get the house—that my desires, now laid bare on the table as an offering of hope, might not be fulfilled.
But there was something about that sweet communion of bliss that felt so full, so whole, so authentic. I didn’t want to be protected from it by reason, however “wise” it might seem.
If the Divine was truly there with me, alongside me in my desire, then I wanted to bask in the glow of that radiant hope, no matter how fleeting. In the same way, if I surrendered to my disappointment and grief if my desires weren’t fulfilled, I knew that the Divine would be there alongside me as well, however sorrowful that communion might be.
As the service came to a close, Kyle tapped me on the shoulder to get my attention and showed me his buzzing phone. Our agent was calling. This was The Moment—one we had only been waiting only six hours for, but with desire that seemed to hold the weight of a lifetime.
We quickly ducked outside and found a private place so we could answer the phone. Reason told me it was so we could hear clearly; my desire told me it was so we could have plenty of space to burst into celebration. I watched as Kyle listened intently, nodding his head as our agent spoke on the other end. Because I couldn’t make out what our agent was saying, I focused on his eyes and his mouth, waiting attentively to catch the first glint of a brightened expression that said, “We got it!”
But nothing came. There were more words that I couldn’t decipher on the other line (too many to be good news?), but still no expression from Kyle.
And then it happened.
He looked straight into my eyes with mutual longing and slowly shook his head back and forth. No. “We didn’t get it,” he mouthed.
The others who had put in an offer countered our offer by $25,000—tens of thousands more than the house was really worth, our agent said. We couldn’t do it. It would be foolish, our agent advised.
And so we walked away—from the possibility of getting that house, from the bliss of surrendering to our desires, from the place where moments ago we thought we would be celebrating—eyes wide, hearts full, grins glued to our faces.
And then, we walked into our grief—into the valley that comes with mountains, the desolation that counters the consolation, and the devastation that is the other face of desire. And we stayed.
Communing with God in the midst of sadness isn’t as easy as sharing in the delight. It’s far easier to regain control, pick up my defenses, and just keep going—”It’s okay, we’ll find another one. Where’s the next house?” In the moments that the sadness does creep in, it quickly turns to anger, often against myself—”I don’t deserve it. I’m not good enough. I shouldn’t have risked and surrendered to desire. I knew better. Just keep going…”
It’s harder to be met in your grief by the Divine and to stay there and honor it just as much as you honored your desire. In some ways, it seems impossible to bear. But it’s often by facing the things that seem unbearable that transformation occurs, particularly in relationship. And it is only when we truly surrender—feeling both our highs and our lows in the presence of the Divine—that we can fully commune with God.
This, I think, is prayer. At least that’s what I’m wondering.
What are your thoughts on prayer? Do you freely express your highs and your lows? Have you felt God come alongside you in moments of grief just as in moments of delight? Share your response in the comments.