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The Prayer Seeker


for someone else. My relationship with Ruth, my job, even the man I thought I was.
You’ve made the choice for other aspects of your life too, Clare, and that’s equally
valuable. Who says I don’t envy you that ability in return?”
When he’d finished talking, she nodded and squeezed his hand. They sat for a while
in silence before making their way back to Michael’s home.
It was only when Clare was preparing to gather her coat and hat for departure, and
call her partner that she said what must have been on her mind all the time.
“Michael,” she said and he knew by her tone and the way she gazed directly at him
that it was a serious matter. “Peter and I are thinking of getting married. Not immediately,
but at some point. I wanted you to know that first.”
“What did you do?” Chris asked him when Michael had explained what had taken
place with Clare. It was the end of January and the weather conditions in the last couple
of weeks had prevented Michael from meeting with his spiritual director any earlier than
this. Snow still covered the gardens, and the paths remained treacherous.
“I did what anyone would,” he replied. “I hugged her and wished her luck.”
“And what did you think?”
“The truth? I thought how strange it was that she was filling her life with the things
she wanted, whereas I am emptying mine and simply waiting. We seem in so many ways
to be travelling in opposite directions, and then it was my turn to be jealous. Not jealous,
or no more than a little, about the fact that Clare’s finding happiness with someone other
than me, though I’d be a fool if I didn’t say it made me uncomfortable, because it did.
Mainly, however, I envied what she’d gained. And I don’t even want the things that Clare
has, but still, the feeling was there.”
“I see.”
Michael smiled as the pause lengthened. He’d grown used over their last few
meetings to Chris’ habit of letting both of them rest in the silence before asking
something important.
“Is there anything you miss from your church-going life in your twenties?” Chris
asked at last. “I don’t mean your prayer life. That’s something you’re exploring now, but
I wondered if there were other aspects of your Christianity you might feel you’ve left
behind.”
Michael hadn’t expected this question, not here in this context, and he wondered if
Chris had been storing it up for a while and, if so, why he thought it a good time to ask
now. He looked away, stared at the winter garden, then breathed deeply.
“Tongues,” he said. “I wonder about them sometimes. I think I had the ability for a
while to speak in tongues, but I don’t have it any more. And even when I did, I wasn’t
convinced it was real. Perhaps I was only fooling myself.”
“Tell me about it,” said Chris.
*****
 
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