I Still Can’t Forget (A Prayer)

Note: I write prayers for myself, and for others who engage pain of every type—mind and heart, body and soul. I invite you to change these words as needed and make the prayer your own. Or change the words and pray for someone you know (or better, someone you don’t). I appreciate prayers—but I appreciate even more the prayers we speak for others.

Sovereign over the universe,
   vast beyond my imagination;
Living God over all life,
   complex beyond understanding.

You alone are my God
   in a god-filled world;
each competing for allegiance:
   loud, proud, demi-gods,
   and cool, quiet, seclusion.
I just need you to know
   my pledge is to you.

I have no place to complain:
   mortal to immortal,
   finite to infinite.
Nor any right to question,
   only your invitation
   to speak truth.
So, I just need you to know:

I miss my life, God,
   all that I once enjoyed;
pleasures in full retreat,
   now out of sight—
   but not out of mind.

Not when I pass a golf course,
   and see myself standing;
   practice swings on the tee box,
   walking down the fairway.

Not when I pass a bass boat,
   and see myself standing;
flipping a worm into brush,
   the line twitches,
   I feel the hook set.

My heart feels sick
   and I can’t forget.

Not when we are on the coast,
   and I see us walking;
you made the beach for two,
   waves to splash over feet,
words to speak in silence.

Certainly not in the mountains
   when I see myself hiking;
up a trail hidden in the trees,
   breathing hard, gulping air,
a sharp turn and suddenly,
   breathless at the sight.

I miss standing and walking,
   no pain screaming profanity;
medicine absorbing memory,
   and I still can’t forget.

Not when I pass the university,
   and I see myself teaching;
a room alive with energy,
   questions, ideas, living joy.

I see my colleagues at work,
   student-filled offices;
brilliant minds to teach,
   soft hearts to point the way.

I see myself in my office,
   back when I was leading;
days-dreaming, fire du jour,
   walking the halls,
   working with J.R.

Lord, you asked me,
   what else can I say?
I miss what pain has taken,
   slowly draining my life;
then a bandit at night
   steals the unexpected.

I know you already know,
   or so your son claimed;
but I need to say it too,
   it’s not just my feet,
   my legs, my hands;
   my spirit too.

You asked,
   Be honest.
   So I have,
I can no more forget,
   than pain can lose meaning.
And I also can’t forget,
   I have no hope but you.

All I can do is remember,
   the promises you made;
hope for the future:
   your presence now, here.

Glenn Pemberton is a minister turned professor turned writer. After serving churches in Texas and Colorado, Glenn completed a Ph.D. (Old Testament). He then taught at Oklahoma Christian University before coming to Abilene Christian University in 2005, retiring as professor emeritus in 2017 due to a severe chronic pain. Glenn now spends his time writing for the church. Along with short essays he has published four books, including The God who Saves: An Introduction to the Message of the Old Testament (2015), and Hurting with God: Learning to Lament with the Psalms (2012). Glenn and his wife Dana continue to live in Abilene, Texas.
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Author:  Publish Date: May 30, 2017
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  • Craig Churchill says:

    This lament is beautiful. It speaks to parts of me and brings to mind several people I love who suffer loss. I hold each of them in my heart as I pray these words you have written. Thank you, Glenn.

  • Joyce Uhlich says:

    This touched me so much. Actually brought tears to my eyes. I do not lament much. I think I should more. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Pain is wearing me down.

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CHARIS hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. The website is intended to support education for Christian life and community through contemporary discussions and historical sources that variously witness to the gifts (“charis”) of God among Churches of Christ, especially their plea for visible unity among Christians through ongoing renewal and restoration of Scriptural beliefs and practices among God’s people.

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