And, on the radio, hearing about what a bad winter it’s going to be. Blizzards and ice and fog and all the rest of it. Not what I wanted to hear, especially not now the car’s getting so old and unreliable. Last time that happened I ended up stuck for three hours in the snow. Twice! Not a good prospect.
So when I pulled into the car park I stopped a few moments to pray and try and leave that burden with the Lord. Or at least put it out of my mind for a while.
Then it was a busy day – not a bad day, work wise, but I was rushing to get finished on time. And overhearing the office conversation about the new contracts that are being issued. Not only a pay cut (which we knew about) but other changes that could have serious implications. More frustration, more hopeless anger at the way we’re being treated.
In spite of my best efforts, I’m at least twenty minutes late getting off, and I have to fuel up as well. The petrol station is busy, and getting away again is a little snippet of a nightmare. Cars pouring out of several car park exits onto the same slip road, other cars coming the other way. I’m patient, but aware of the queue building up behind me. When I see a possibility, I move out to take it. But the gap closes, and I’m left stranded out in the middle of the road.
A car trying to get past pulls right up close to me. Bumper almost touching my offside door. Really in-my-face obnoxious, the driver glaring and making sarcastic gestures. Exaggerated clapping when the gap opens up again and I can move on – a few seconds later.
I make a rude gesture back at him. It doesn’t make me feel any better.
Driving home, I’m seething. I’m planning what I’ll say when I get home. I’ll tell Annie what a lousy day I’ve had!
But she might have had a bad day as well. She might want to tell me about her day.
I sense the possibility of a fraught evening to follow the difficult day, and that makes me even angrier. All the more, because I know that if that’s what happens it’ll be my fault. I feel guilty in advance, and resent it.
“Oh Lord,” I pray. “Let me have at least one bit of good news when I get home! Something to make up for the rest of the day!”
And then I think about what I’ve just prayed.
In Syria, entire families are caught in the middle of a civil war, and in constant fear of their lives.
In Greece, people are seeing their lives destroyed by the harsh austerity measures.
Here in Britain, hundreds of people have been flooded out of their homes.
The brother of a good friend has just died of cancer.
And hear am I, imploring the Almighty for a bit of good news because I’ve had a bad day and feel miserable.
It’s not that God can’t. Of course he can. It’s not that he doesn’t care about my piddling little problems when he’s got a whole world to look after. He knows how I feel and cares very much that I’m in a lousy mood and heading home to share it with everyone. He understands how I feel, and why. He knows me only too well.
The problem isn’t with God, but with me. I’m being self-centred, focusing on how I feel and how bad my day has been.
So I pray again. Properly this time. And it comes into my mind to say a psalm.
Embarrassingly, I can’t remember any. I can’t even remember how the 23rd Psalm starts.
But I say the few verses I can remember. And then I remember some of the Psalms and scripture verses set to music. I say them, and then sing them. (Safe enough, on my own in the car, with the windows up and going seventy miles an hour).
I remember the 23rd – the hymn version of it! So I sing that, and whatever else comes to mind.
As I do, my anger and frustration and resentment melt away. I start feeling calmer, more peaceful, and even less tired. I realise, with a grateful wonder, that my prayer has been answered. Not the one I said, but the one I should have said, the one that I really meant.
When I get home, I’m even cheerful. That’s probably an answer to Annie’s prayer as well!