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The Prayer Seeker

enjoyed the morning, thank you. I hope I’ve done enough for you to ask me to come
She turned and put the invoices she’d been holding back in the file. “Yes, I think so.
You’re a strange one, it’s true, but you seem harmless enough. For a man anyway.”
The humour in her voice softened the words, and Michael found he felt pleased as he
drove home. He’d achieved something different in this new life of his, and this time it
didn’t involve entirely round himself and his own needs. That, at least, had to be a good
thing. He knew he was what people called contained, but he didn’t actually want to be
At home, he made himself a light lunch of cheese on toast and tea, single person’s
food and he was glad of it. It struck him that being alone like this was possibly the richest
way of life he’d ever encountered. He wished he’d decided on it sooner, but he probably
wouldn’t have been ready. By all that was good or might be, he was glad he was here,
and even if the search for prayer never led him to a deeper experience of his God, it
would be worthwhile, it was worthwhile, and he would never be sorry for it.
Because there was something about the steadiness of the day, both in Anne-Marie’s
office and at home, that grounded him, and allowed that unknown world inside himself to
unfurl into the shape it should be, or as near as possible, though he suspected it would be
a slow process, and rightly so. Perhaps God’s work was always achingly, movingly, slow
and the world of men and women was too fast and edgy to see it. God was eternity and he
was in time; that was the great puzzle. Indeed it was astonishing that the two such
different worlds ever met at all, let alone communicated in any way with each other. The
work of Christ, as Michael believed it, had opened the door to such a road somehow, but
it was a road that needed to be walked on as well as seen. It was also a road such as had
never been experienced or understood before, and which released such energy as could
both heal and destroy. God, and how he knew it, was never safe. But today, sitting and
eating his simple lunch after a morning’s work, Michael did not wish to be anywhere else
or meditating on any other puzzle but this. For now, it was enough.
Over the next month or so, Michael spent two mornings and one afternoon per week
at Thorley Wood. He grew to understand the rhythms of the place, its shadows and its
light. He met the residents at least once, all thirty-three of them and that was near
capacity. Some were as quiet and fragile as dandelion seeds, whilst others were as hard
and unyielding as stone. He treasured the memory of one particular old lady who had
rapped him firmly on the back of his knees with her cane for daring to pass her without a
polite greeting on his way to the kitchen. And who was to say she was wrong? He would
certainly be more courteous in the future, so it was a lesson well learnt and she hadn’t
bothered him since. This was more than could be said for Mrs Wilkinson from Room 4,
who was not quite in her right mind and was constantly attempting to escape. Michael
grew accustomed, on his days at Thorley, to half listening out for the slow slide of feet
along the carpet outside the office and a faint wheezing. If Anne-Marie wasn’t available,
this was his cue to saunter out into the corridor and strike up a conversation with Mrs
Wilkinson about flowers and the seaside, two of her favourite subjects, all the time