My husband was already asleep by the time I walked into our bedroom. I paused in my tracks and listened to his steady breathing. Our cat, Junebug, watched me as she sat next to my pillow, her eyes narrowing at the prospect of me claiming my place in the bed.
Except for a little night light by the bathroom door, the room was dark.
Just like I felt spiritually.
It was spring of 2022. For all intents and purposes, the United States and most of the world was emerging from the ravages of a pandemic. There were still COVID cases but nothing like during the time of its onset and during its peaks. Life was going back to normal.
Thing was, I didn’t feel normal. I felt invisible. Just another brick on the wall. Like I could disappear from the face of the earth and no one would notice. Not right away, at any rate.
Per COVID restrictions, I had stayed home like a good citizen, followed social distancing guidelines to a T, and attended all the meetings on Zoom. Admittedly, I didn’t really mind the anonymity. It meant that I didn’t have to be with other people. Didn’t have to attend functions that brought on social anxiety. I was gregarious on the outside but in reality, I preferred to just stay home and do quiet things. When, because of the pandemic, church get-togethers and even meetings came to a halt, I embraced the changed fully.
But now that we were back to normal, I still avoided going out. I skipped out on all church activities except for Sunday meetings.
And then one day, I simply stopped praying.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we are taught to pray. When we first get up. Before meals. Before scripture study. And especially before bed.
That night, like multiple other nights, as I stared at our wary cat on my side of the bed, I decided I wasn’t going to pray. What was the use? I felt nothing even with my head bowed, my knees on the floor, my hands clasped tightly. I said words I didn’t mean, offered up gratitude I didn’t feel, and came away unchanged, unlifted, unloved.
In essence, I was invisible in God’s eyes. It didn’t matter if I didn’t pray; He wouldn’t notice. Besides, prayers felt like an empty exercise in futility that only magnified my shortcomings. No amount of vaccine could prevent, nor any dose of medicine could cure, that darkness in my soul.
Barefoot, I padded wearily in the dark and made my way to the bathroom to ready for bed. I closed the door and flicked the switch on. The flood of light emphasized the dark circles under my eyes and the wrinkles on my skin.
What had I come to? I no longer recognized myself. To the world, I was an active church member, the mother of three children who had served honorable missions and were now married, and a responsible member of my community.
Such a fraud. Such a failure.
I couldn’t get down on my knees to do the most basic of church things, pray. Even a little child could do something I couldn’t.
My eyes darkened with despair. All the feelings of isolation I had once welcomed came tumbling to the forefront like an avalanche, pummeling at me and making it hard to breathe. The pang of lonely emptiness clawed at me like a wretched bird of prey. I found myself crying out silently, like a little girl, “Heavenly Father–!”
I hadn’t meant to pray, but there I was, standing in my starkly lit bathroom, praying to a God whom I was convinced no longer cared about me. No longer saw me. No longer loved me.
The words came out jumbled, incoherent, unintelligible. My heart asked. Pled. Begged. Please, please, please! That He would, once again, hear and see me.
I don’t know how long I stood there, but when I was done, my eyes wet with tears and my soul wrung out, a wave of love enveloped me like a warm embrace. I knew with a calm certainty that Heavenly Father didn’t fault me for praying standing up. Nor would He, from here on.
Prayer continues to be a struggle. I still hesitate before praying in the morning or at night. And I am still not a perfect church activity attendee. But I am slowly and surely coming back into the light of His love as I pray, with my two hands clasped tightly and my two feet planted more solidly beneath.
Jewel Allen is an award-winning journalist, author & ghostwriter who grew up in the tropics (Manila, Philippines) and now lives in the desert (Utah, USA). You can find her books here. Follow her on Facebook.