Because sometimes you can’t do two things at once.

A few weeks ago in our weekly staff meeting, our boss walked over to one of our staff members. He took a red marker and drew a line on Kelley’s arm. He said, “The artery is cut. What are you going to do.” I was sitting closest. I immediately put the palm of my hand on the red line. I put pressure on it. I kept that hand on his arm while someone else helped him lay down. I kept that hand on his arm while someone else “called” 911.  All I could do was keep my hand on the red line to stop the bleeding.

I don’t think I’ve talked to you about what I think it means to pray for someone, but that story is a perfect illustration.

I have this idea that “praying for” can mean “praying about” or “praying with” someone. So when someone says, “pray for me” they might mean “pray about this situation that I’m in.”  Or they might mean “pray with me and ask God to fix this because if we get enough people asking him, he’s bound to pay attention.”

However, I’ve got this idea that “praying for” might  mean “Would you talk to God because I can’t right now.”

It’s like, while I was holding my hand on the red line, I couldn’t make a call. But that didn’t mean that I was doing something wrong, it meant that I was engaged.

I said to Nancy late last week, “I’m looking forward to being able to pray again.” I wasn’t ignoring God. I was as aware of his presence and peace as I have ever been. But I didn’t have time for conversation. I was holding my hand on a red line to stop the bleeding. I had friends who were calling 911.

13 thoughts on “Because sometimes you can’t do two things at once.

  1. Rich Dixon

    I hope you have a sense of how feeeing it is to hear a “God expert” say it’s okay to be too busy or too hurting or too WHATEVER to pray.

    I suspect a lot of guilt srises from an expectation that we “should” always be able to stop and hold a conversation with God. Thanks for reminding us that He understands. After all, Jesus took time to withdraw from the crowds to pray, which implies that He wasn’t able to do it when He had His hand on the artery.


    1. Jon Swanson

      there are days, dear friend rich, that the idea of being a God expert is as far from my brain as I can imagine. And yet, I know that one of the most important things I give is permission. thanks.


  2. Meg

    Wow. I am really really thankful for the ones who have my back. I will hold the picture you paint for a long while. Thank you. And I am ever so glad that you’re back.


  3. Cheryl Smith

    This makes such perfect sense, for those times I’ve been holding the red line. Or was the one with the cut artery. And helps me remember that we can’t always do it all at once and that’s OK.

    Calling right now for you and Nancy and your mom, and sisters, Jon. I’ll be painting again today. Brush in one hand, covering walls. Words in prayer, covering friends.


  4. Marcus Goodyear

    Good grief, I love this.I grew up learning to connect prayer and guilt. If I didn’t talk to God enough, it was always my fault. (Oddly, God never seemed to call me. Like the friend who only hangs out with you after you initiate.)

    But this is a much better metaphor. And it gives me permission to be with God in prayer even when I’m not talking to God in prayer.


    1. Jon Swanson

      Marcus, that phrase blew me away: “And it gives me permission to be with God in prayer even when I’m not talking to God in prayer.” Thank you.


  5. Joseph Ruiz

    Jon there is something about journeying together, sharing life, praying and reaching out on behalf of others. What an incredibly practical illustration. Thanks for sharing your life and wisdom. Since 911 has been taken care of I’ll place a few of the service calls and trust that will help in the transition, anything more specific please let us know.
    Grace and peace.


  6. messimom

    Jon, I experienced a healing in reading your words. You put illustration to a struggle I’ve been in for a while, and understanding this in such a practical way has just made me take a deep breath. Thank you, very much.


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