this is the way i pray

i’m pretty sure i’m not the woman god wants me to be. i’m convinced of this on a daily basis. at a quarter past six almost every tuesday night i drive nineteen miles from conroe to montgomery to go to bible study that meets for ninety minutes beginning at seven p.m. why does it take forty-five minutes to drive nineteen miles on a divided highway that’s got three lanes for traffic in each direction? why does it take the better part of an hour to drive less than twenty miles? because people are selfish bastards. they don’t want to be behind anyone else. they don’t want anyone cutting in front of them. they don’t want to go any faster than the posted speed limit of fifty-five miles per hour on that well-constructed highway that’s wider than a river because they don’t want to get a ticket. but they’ll be damned if they move over for you. they won’t slow down to let you go by. they won’t speed up and risk getting that ticket. they’re perfectly content to pace the fucker next to them and block traffic so everyone else gets caught at all the lights with them. they follow just closely enough so that it’s impossible to wedge your vehicle between theirs and someone else’s.

i am not a patient woman. and the stupid vision issues with which i have been blessed make driving in a pack of metal at fifty-five miles per hour with little to no way out should an accident occur create in me a sensation of anxiety i do not desire to know. i am not a kind woman, and my lack of patience and kindness is never more evident than when i am making that nineteen-mile trek to montgomery.

when i googled the distance i was shocked to know it was only nineteen miles. it feels a HELL of a lot longer.

interestingly enough, the journey to the church this evening was definitely one of the more peaceable ones. this could be because i ran a couple of yellows to avoid getting stuck again when, thanks to the grace of god, i’d managed to extract myself from the pack and put some good distance between us. and maybe i was going sixty. maybe.

usually the ride home is pleasant. that was not the case today. i changed lanes like i was driving in a nascar race. i rode people’s asses. in those moments when i saw an opportunity to get by someone, another car would fill that hole, and i’d be stuck again. and none of these drivers were going over fifty. all of them were going the same damned speed.

i want to be the kind of woman god wants me to be. i want to be gracious and patient and kind and good. i know i’m capable of these things. but so often, the lesser demons prevail. i want to be the kind of woman who isn’t practically foaming at the mouth and ranting at others with whom i’m sharing the road. i want to be the one who’s not screaming GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY even though the only ones to hear me are me and god.

i want the goodness i get from those ninety minutes to last longer than ninety seconds once i’ve walked out into the night and headed for home. for my heart and mind, my eyes and ears to be open to the lord’s will and word.

one of the things mentioned tonight was we are encouraged to hate evil. not the person doing the evil, but the evil itself.

hate’s not the answer, and i don’t believe god wants us to hate, anyway. i think he wants us to love. i’m not good at loving. i’m good at being hateful. maybe that’s why it’s difficult for me to believe he would want me to hate anything. it always feels wrong when i do it. i never like myself when i am being hateful. ever. and yet… put me on the highway, and i can’t be anything but hateful.

that is not the woman i want to be. that isn’t anything close to resembling the woman i want to be.

i want to be fearless.

i want to be able to employ those tactics for safe driving that i learned in high school — the safe distance, the constant vigilance… the yielding of the right of way. to demonstrate love in my life. i want to have joy in hope and patience in affliction and faithfulness in prayer.

sunday i drove to tyler to find something in that town with earl campbell’s name on it. the distance from tyler to hawkins, where i lived from the time was i was three to eight, is about nineteen miles. i’d only been to hawkins once since we moved away, and it’s been so long ago that my only memory of that visit is the auditorium at the high school. so i made that twenty-minute trek (which is how long it should take to travel about twenty miles), went to my old school and my old house and had dinner at some restaurant there. i let the waitress surprise me with my order. i told her to order what she felt was the best item on the menu. she served me fajitas, which is not a thing i order, but they were good. i liked them.

in bible study tonight, one of the girls said that she had a friend who would pray, god surprise me.

i want to be surprised. i want this life of mine to feel more purposeful. i want to feel like i’m contributing, like i’m doing the work he wants me to do. like i’m using my voice for good. like i’m not wasting it to curse the folks in the cars next to me.

i want my car out of the shop. i’m driving a rental (which i almost wrecked on the way home this evening, by the way) because some dude hauling a flatbed of pallets stacked to high clipped the right fender of my car at a gas station (i was standing at the pump, getting ready to fill the tank and watched, dumbfounded, as that trailer tore the bumper off). when i’m renting a car (on the day of my older’s death, by the way) and tell the clerk that it’s the anniversary of my brother’s death and i need this process to go smoothly, i want him not to be confrontational and condescending.

one of the songs playing at that restaurant sunday night was brad paisley’s i thought i loved you then. when i hear a song like that, when i hear a story like the one told in that song, when a man can communicate the love he feels for another in such a way as to be sweet and good and loving, when it inspires in me a sense of wonder, i want to be happy that a man could feel that way for a woman and not be afraid to admit it. i want to be happy for the woman receiving such admiration. i want my initial reaction not to be sadness and jealousy and to mutter things like even happy country songs are depressing. and when a friend questions whether a happy country song exists, i want to refrain from replying: it’s sweet and good and sentimental… and just the sort of thing that could make a single gal want to clobber a couple, and the damned steel guitar makes me want to snatch that thing out of some dude’s hands, yank the strings off and wrap them around his throat.

when a handsome man walks into my place of work, i want to be able to speak to him without being anxious or seeming flirtatious. i want to be able to talk to him like he’s any other customer. i want to be able to appreciate those physical attributes that are worthy of attention without cataloging all those i lack.

i want to be able to talk with men and not be accused by their girlfriends of being in love with those men. or be accused by other men of flirting with those men.

on the rare occasion a man asks to meet me for dinner or drinks, i want that man to be interesting and attractive to me. i want the words i speak to be the right ones. i want to feel as though i am enough.

a couple of weeks ago i was hired to write an article about a man who manages a cycle shop in the area because so much of that shop’s business comes from recommendation… word of mouth… the encouragement of others.

when i’m tasked with an assignment like this, i want the wheels to be greased so well they spin effortlessly. i was chosen to write this story. i’m happy — excited and honored — to do it. i want to be able to do it in such a manner as to prove to those who have given me the opportunity that they weren’t wrong to do so. but i am being met with reluctance and am frustrated because of it. that reluctance and frustration just feeds the ire i so often feel. i want the fire in my being not to be an inferno but a source of warmth and light.

i want less hate and more love in the world. i know that starts with me, but oh, how quickly i forget. i want to remember.

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