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The Prayer Seeker

Michael pressed the disconnect button on the phone and sat down on the sofa. He
took a breath, ran his hands through his hair and gazed up at the ceiling. He’d made the
call as soon as he’d got home from the vicarage. He’d thought that if he didn’t do that,
then perhaps the courage might leave him. Odd how he could act with determination,
even boldness, when he was alone and his actions involved only himself, but once other
people became necessary, then action of any sort was far more complicated.
He blinked upwards and made a mental note to rid the ceiling of the stray cobwebs
lurking in the corners when next he cleaned. Now, however, feeling the edge of the
business card pressing his fingers still, he thought about what he’d just done. He’d rung
the name on the card, the name of a man who might be able to help him in his search for
Part of him had hoped simply to be able to leave a message, to claw back some space
before the next stage in this strange journey. But the man, Chris McMinn, had answered
the call on the third ring, and Michael found himself talking to a person rather than the
anticipated machine. Because of this, he’d sounded more hesitant than he’d intended to
be but Reverend McMinn hadn’t seemed to mind. They hadn’t spoken for long, but the
sound of the other man’s voice had gone some way towards reassuring Michael that he
wasn’t necessarily a madman pursuing an unworkable fantasy or a fool trying to
rediscover his youth and using God to get to it in the absence of any other remotely
workable relationship. He’d pondered that one himself more than once but found that no
answer arose.
In any case, the upshot was that he would visit Chris early next week on Monday
afternoon. He lived in a village about ten miles away so driving there would be easy.
They would talk for an hour and then Michael would need to consider what he wanted to
do next. Costs were minimal and he’d been advised this wasn’t counselling, but
something entirely different, as John had earlier emphasised.
He felt shattered but also as if something had eased through his mind. Something
important, though until he met his would-be spiritual director, he wouldn’t fully know
what that was.
The days between now and then seemed to him to be like a bridge bathed in sunlight.
The light warmed his skin but blinded him as to where his steps might lead. He could
almost feel the shape of the wood beneath his feet and the steady drift of the air across his
face. He opened his eyes, not realising he’d closed them. Everything around him was as it
should be but the memory of the bridge remained.
He remained where he was, on the sofa, the phone by his side, for another half hour
or so. It wasn’t exactly prayer as he had no words for that but nothing he did now was
exactly prayer. He had left that richness behind and he did not know how to find it again,
not without help. Which was, of course, precisely the search he was engaged in. Still, he
tasted the silence around him for a while without swallowing it down. He wanted to sit,
as he was, with his feet in the flowing shallows of the sea, knowing his balance lay
elsewhere and the waters he sought could not sweep him away.
He wanted to feel safe. The trouble was that feeling safe was the oppos ite of prayer.
Perhaps that was part of the reason why he’d stopped praying. Somewhere between
the enthusiasm, the sheer need, of his younger days, and where he was now, the urge for
safety, the push towards caution had strangled him and strangled his fait h too. But he
couldn’t have lived forever in the state of being in which he had first begun to pray. He