It’s confession time. Even spiritual directors are imperfect. Wildly imperfect. We get busy, we take on too much, we get distracted, we “fall off the prayer wagon.” I am not immune to any of this.
I had a big, powerful dream this past week. I’m going to share some of it because it spoke very clearly to me about the pitiful state of my personal prayer life, and it feels like a good parable that might be meaningful to others as well.
In the dream I’m in a big, fancy hotel, trying to get to my room on the fifth floor. I get in an elevator, push 5, then my mind wanders. Suddenly I “wake up” to discover I’m the only one left in the elevator. I step out when the elevator stops, but I’m not at the fifth floor. Instead there’s a huge dining area before me, but it’s closed off by a low wall. It’s clearly a very fancy buffet—tiny little desserts are laid out close by. I realize it’s a wedding banquet, but I know I don’t have an invitation.
I turn around and see a wall where very fancy types of free tea and coffee are laid out, but I’m not interested. I then go around the corner and find some free food, but what I see are desserts and, upon closer inspection, it appears that most of the icing has been eaten off the tops of the chocolate cupcakes. But they look good and I want something to eat, so I take one anyway, and put it in a white paper bag to carry with me.
I turn and go back to the elevator bank. I push the button, but then wander off, exploring, and miss the elevator when it comes by. I come back and push the button again and try to stay nearby, but still manage to miss it a second time. Then a third time I do come back, stick close, get on, and find I’m in an elevator that only goes to floors 13 and above.
I get off that elevator when it stops, then get on again, intending to go back to the ground floor and get on the right elevator. I finally manage to do that, and get to the fifth floor. I walk off to find I’m standing in an outdoor area. It’s been raining, but has stopped. I find the faucet handle that would turn on a rain barrel, but I need to choose where to point the hose. I see a low, almost empty lake and know I should point it in that direction. I turn on the faucet, stop and start it once, and the water initially comes out brown and dirty, then flows clean and I watch the lake slowly begin to fill up.
Then I woke up.
What a very powerful metaphor I found this to be. I can’t find my room, my place, for prayer, in large part because I’m wandering and distracted. I am not yet invited into the heavenly banquet—although I can see it. There is sufficient free food and drink available now, “outside” that heavenly banquet, but I choose to go for the stuff that’s been tasted by others and partially devoured—and is full of sugar, so it isn’t good for me—because I want what’s easily available rather than taking the time to venture further in search of real sustenance.
I am distracted and wander off, so that I miss the way home multiple times. I finally get to my territory and the lake is almost dry. I’m parched. I don’t need fancy cupcakes; I need clear, clean water from heaven. And there is free water from heaven, but I’ve turned off the faucet so my lake is almost dry. I fumble to get the faucet on, and the water doesn’t initially run clear because of all the dirt that’s accumulated in the system. But I let it run and it doesn’t take long for the dirt to clear its way out of the system and good clean water to begin to fill my lake.
So…does any of this speak to you? Have you had dry, distracted spells in your prayer life? What do you need to do to get the abundant water from heaven flowing freely into the lake of your soul?