One day in fourth grade, I lifted my desk lid to gather my books, only to discover—of all things!—a love-note. It was the most thrilling moment of my young life.
A few seconds later, however, I was filled with doubt. Could this be some sort of cruel prank? I had been picked on since second grade by my former best friend and her followers.
But then I heard that my friend and neighbor, a new girl, had also received a love note, in a different hand. What was going on?
After we each had received several notes, we came to the conclusion that they were for real. I began to keep mine in a box marked “Precious”.
Then one day our secret admirers invited us to a rendezvous. (The plot thickens!) We were to meet them at an overgrown spot on our block. The boys would be on the other side of the fence, behind the bushes. We were not to try to find out who they were; it was just a chance to talk.
My friend and I duly came, and after a little while, we began to wonder again if this was a prank, because nothing seemed to happen. We felt like fools, standing there talking to some bushes. We began to suspect that no one was really there. At last, when we threatened to leave, we heard some rustling, assuring us that indeed there was someone (or two) unseen listening to us. I can't remember now if they ever did say anything, but if so, I'm sure it was in a whisper.
This memory came back to me a year ago when I was asked to give a talk on prayer. If prayer is conversation with God, many times it is like my fourth-grade experience. He claims to loves us and invites us to meet Him, but then He hides Himself from us and often doesn’t say anything. We can feel as silly talking to Him, who makes no sign of His presence, as I felt that day on the sidewalk.
If we’re not careful, we can fall into the fallacy that led to poor Pscyhe's troubles in the ancient Greek myth. She was married to one who said he was a god, but who would never let her see his face. She lived in his palace, surrounded by luxury, but he would come to her only in the dead of night, and forbade her ever to light a lamp. Her jealous sisters said this must be because he was not really a god but a hideous monster. She didn’t want to believe them, but when taunted that she was afraid they were right, she caved in and agreed to find out. The next night, after her husband was asleep, she lit a candle. What she saw entranced her: the gloriously handsome god of love.
Perhaps some light on this mystery can be found in the many fairy tales in which a king hides his identity to see who his real friends are. I tell my children that Jesus is a King who hides Himself in the Eucharist and waits in the tabernacle to see who loves Him enough and believes His word enough to come and visit Him.
The one who invites us to meet Him is indeed the God of Love. Fortunately, He doesn’t always leave us in the dark. After we’ve proved our faithfulness by standing on the sidewalk apparently talking to some bushes, if we persevere, He will rustle a branch or whisper the sweet somethings we need to hear.