shabbat had tiptoed in, as it always does, praise be to God who promised it.
without fail, no matter what the week has washed up on our shores, shabbat graces our table, graces the earth, as the globe is shadowed in darkness, as sunlight goes out, and candles, one by one, house by house, city by city, flicker on.
we’d lit our two candles, as always we do. we’d gobbled our fish, as the hand of the clock was sweeping toward half past the hour, and we’d not had plenty of time.
prayers would begin any minute at the church, yes, where our synagogue dwells. the cantor would lift up a minor-key chord, the rabbi would open the book. and all of us, the few of us, gathered there would begin.
only this friday night i wouldn’t be there.
i knew, deep in the place that knows all these things, that a room with walls and a roof, even a room with windows taller and wider than i’ll ever be, it wasn’t big enough for my prayers. not this friday night. not at the close of this very long week.
so, while the man who i love went to pray in that room, i went to the edge of the lake. i went to where the trees reach into the night, finger the darkness. where the dome scrapes the edge of infinity. where no prayer is too big.
i went to the place where, uncannily, eerily, that night, the lake made no sound. not a whimper of wave. nothing, but stillness.
then, from out of the black, out of the dense deep thickness that is night at the beach, i heard the lone cry of a night-flying goose. i couldn’t make out its wings, couldn’t see a wisp of its shadow.
all i know is i heard it, high overhead. calling, and crying, and breaking the night with a sorrowful mourning song, not unlike the one in my soul.
i sat there, on the sand in the cold, looking up into the moonless night. not even the moon made itself known that dark night at the edge of the lake.
somewhere, though, i knew, it was out there, the moon, round and white, absorbing, reflecting, the light of the number one star. but this night it wasn’t for me to see. not this night.
nor the V-string of geese, heading for home, riding the wind, steering straight for the polestar. only the night-shattering cry, haunting, calling, sending chills down my bones.
and so it passed on the moonless night at the beach. prayers spilling like waves that i couldn’t hear. floating out to the heavens that seemed to be cloaked wholly in blackness.
fitting, i thought, as i sat there unfurling each and every petition. i couldn’t see God. couldn’t hear waves. couldn’t even make out the moon.
but in none of those instances did my lack of sensation suggest absence of any kind, nor mean that nothing was there.
just because i couldn’t hear flapping of wings, didn’t mean the geese were not flying.
just because i couldn’t hear luffing of waves to the shore, didn’t mean the lake had gone dry.
and so with the God whose moon was lost behind clouds.
it all surrounded me, every last bit of creation. and, yes, too, creator.
faith is the thing that comes to you when you kneel in the dark on the sand in the night. and the lone goose calls to you, tells you it’s there up above.
wasn’t long, that dark night, till the first star crept out from the clouds.
i never did see the moon.
but, in time, i turned and headed for home.
my prayers had poured out from me, filled up the night sky. branched far and wide beyond the limbs of the tree. skipped past the lone shining star.
i headed for home, safe in the knowing that moon and rippling water were right where they needed to be.
and, likely, God, too.
even though all around me was darkness. even though i couldn’t see but one step in front of me.
prayer is like that sometimes. so is life, too.
do you sometimes feel as if your prayers can’t be contained in a room, or even your heart? do they need to spill out on a canvas without any edges? where do you like to go when your prayers are so very big?