Snow had spilled over the tops of my second-hand boots. I could feel it melting and repacking itself into ice balls around my ankles while tiny ice crystals began to form between the weaving of my cotton socks. I shook, not from the cold but from the sobbing...the grief...the trauma.
In utter fear and frustration I stomped my foot into the snow and threw my arms open wide...screaming his name again with a child's anguish. Frantically, I looked in all directions, turning in circles, my neck twisting left to right to see if there was a glimpse of him...hoping that he had heard me. I prayed that I would see him dart across the field toward me...gleefully embroidering a new pattern into the flaky coverlet of snow. There was nothing but complete silence. I sobbed. It was over. There was nothing left to do. I was spent, emptied...and terrified of the grief I could feel seeping into the holes in my heart as the spirit of hopelessness reached out to embrace me.
A cold, soft wind rose and and blew my long, damp hair back from my neck. I shivered, tucking my chin deeper into the puffy collar of the parka. My hat was gone...one more thing vanished into the night...lost somewhere between my house and the neighbors...hastily snatched by the gnarled, frozen fingers of some random branch. My ears where numb. I could feel the headache at the top of my head trickling down over my temples and rooting in my neck.
Warm, golden lights glowed in the windows of the neighboring houses oblivious to the drama playing out in the field before them. The moon was unmoved, bored with this play to which it had become the only witness. To add insult to injury, it cast shadows of gray across the seamless skin of the snow...mine an undefined, hideous blob in the middle of it all--the only blotch on the otherwise picture-perfect snow scene from a Currier & Ives postcard.
Not one element of the night seemed disturbed by my wailing...my frantic, fear-driven search behind every house, down every street...from the edge of the woods to the fast cars and lights of Rt. 161.
I dropped to my knees, head bent, chin on chest--arms hanging limply at my sides. My red, chapped cheeks burned as salty tears flowed in little rivers down the landscape of my face.
And then I prayed...
Please help me find my dog. Please. I'll do anything you want. I can't live without him. He's all I have. Please don't let him get hit by a car...I'll never sin again. Just give me this one thing and I'll never ask for anything again. Please.
I'll be good.
I lifted my face to God. I searched the heaven's, seeking his face in the ebony sky above me that undulated with a million little lights. I wiped my plastic, puffy sleeve across my eyes, my nose...and stood up. "Please." I added.
I took my first steps back toward home, muttering "Please" as I went, shaking my head in affirmation to God that I would keep my promise and be the perfect, sinless girl who would never ask for anything again.
Looking back lovingly on my much younger self, I chuckle and shake my head. At 10, I had no idea what temptations were to come as I became a teenager...or how many times I would have to ask for forgiveness for wrong decisions made as a woman...a wife, mother, friend, daughter. And, I would never have begun to imagine how many times would I need to use that desperate prayer that first I said in an open, snow-frosted field.
That night long ago, God answered the prayer of a heart-broken 10-year old girl. But this is not about God answering in the way we feel we need. This is about the promises we make. And it should come as no surprise that I did not keep the promise I made to God that day...nor do I believe God expected me too. But I believe God does expect us to try.
God understands our human emotions, our pain, our grief and fear. I know in my heart that He was watching me that night...although no one else could conjure a sideways glance. He is always with us...always knowing...always caring about each of our pains...large and small. God feels our pain as we do...not a way that is acknowledged by the collective world, but in the way it touches us and dwells in our souls, hearts and minds.
This "Slice of Grace" is not about whether God answered my prayer but about the promises we make to God. As children we think as children and as human adults we are all driven to desparate prayers...I've had my share and then some. But, in the everyday prayers we need to be mindful and faithful and true. For it is in these little promises we make to God every day that we can hold ourselves up to our highest standards...those set by God before us.
I know God will not punish us for ignoring our promises, the guilt and self-disgrace we feel is punishment enough.
This is my prayer everyday:
"Dear Lord, God, Father,
Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being my constant companion, for watching over me and caring for me and all those I love. I pray that you will help make me a better person, that I will be more loving and caring today then I was yesterday. That I will thank you for each big and little thing that comes my way. Lord, remind me often that I am your child. Remind me each moment of the life you want me to live...and then give me the strength to live it.
Lord, bless all those who are suffering...calm the children who are fearful...comfort those in grief. And Father, Thank You...Thank You for each and everything I have and for each moment I have to touch another life in a way that would reflect your love.
And Lord...help me to keep my promise to love you above all others and all things and to walk in the way of your Son, Jesus Christ. Just help me...to be better.