Sometimes old books are like old friends, and it is fun to get reacquainted with them. Recently I found on my bookshelf an old familiar book called “Prayers” by Michael Quoist. Within that book is a wonderful prayer that exemplifies how many of us in the so-called helping professions feel at times, and in fact it may be how all caring persons feel. I quote from that prayer, with some adaptation of language to be more inclusive, but the major thoughts are certainly from Michael Quoist:
“Lord, why did you tell me to love all people?
I have tried, but I come back to you frightened.
Lord, I was so peaceful at home, I was so comfortably settled.
I was sheltered from the wind and rain; I would have stayed unsullied in my ivory tower.
But, Lord you have discovered a breach in my defenses.
You have forced me to open the door of my heart.
The first came in, Lord. There was, after all, a bit of space in my heart.
I welcomed them. I would have cared for them as my very own little lambs, my flock.
You would have been pleased, Lord; I would have served and honored you in a proper and respectable way.
Until then, it was sensible.
But the next ones, Lord, the others – I had not seen them, they were hidden behind the first ones.
There were more of them. They were wretched; they overpowered me without warning.
We had to crowd in; I had to find room for them in my heart.
Now they have come from all over in successive ways, pushing one another, jostling one another.
They have come from all over town, from all parts of the country, of the world; they are numberless, inexhaustible.
They don’t come alone any longer but in groups, bound to one another.
They come bending under heavy loads, loads of injustice, of resentment and hate, of suffering and sin.
They drag the world behind them, with everything rusted, twisted, badly adjusted.
Lord, they hurt me! They are in the way, they are all over me.
They are too hungry; they are consuming me!
I can’t do anything any more; as they come, they push the door of my heart, and the door opens wider.
Ah, Lord! My door is wide open!
I can’t stand it anymore! It’s too much! It’s no kind of life!
What about my job? My family? My peace? My liberty? And me?
Ah, Lord, I have lost everything; I don’t belong to myself any longer;
There’s no room for me at home.”
And then in his prayer, he hears God respond with these words:
“Don’t worry, God says, you have gained all.
While others came into your heart,
I, your God, I slipped in among them.”
from Bishop Michael J. Coyner