We often sat in the little room that held the door to the elevator, blocked off by a small set of windows. The carpet wasn’t incredibly comfortable, just generic purple with a bit of a worn-down vibe. The room only saw high traffic on move-in weekends and with the occasional third-floor resident who was too lazy to walk up the two flights of stairs.
This is where I learned the beauty and the mystery of prayer. Before I really knew and overanalyzed the theology of prayer, I practiced it. Before intellectualizing the things of God, I lived them in an authentic and truly innocent way. Not that I don’t anymore, but it was these moments that began to form me before I even realized it.
Each Sunday night, students would gather in the campus chapel for praise and worship. I roll my eyes now because for many it was just a chance to hold your love interest’s hand when you sang the doxology at the end. If you know, you know.
However, on several nights, following the worship and talk given by a student on campus, Beth and I would spend time praying together. We would make our way to a closed-off area, and we would pray. There weren’t stipulations or rules or parameters for how we could or should or should not talk to God. We just shared a holy moment together with God, oftentimes sitting on the floor of that little elevator lobby.
These moments were where we discovered our alter egos. Between prayers, we would often ask one another, “How would your alter ego deal with this situation?” First, those scenarios started out simple and funny in terms of conflict with a roomie or run-ins with difficult professors. And then, they transformed into scenarios of faith, like battling with our shame or navigating dysfunctional family situations.
Initially, our alter egos did all the things we were too scared, too timid, or too insecure to do. They didn’t care about pleasing others, and they possessed the characteristics that we loved and even were jealous of in others. A little rough around the edges, our alter egos insulated us from actually living out the things we wouldn’t actually do, but they gave us solace and an appropriate place to fuel our anger or even rage.
Eventually, though, our alter egos became more refined and transformed into the ones who lived out our truest longings, who asked for what they desired, and who lived out the values our own selves felt too mucky to do. They became unflinchingly integrated beings, reflecting back to us the truest version about ourselves, acting as guiding lights as we communed with God and reflected on our lives.
Maybe, as it turns out, our alter egos were actually us, hidden at times but showing themselves to be true as we prayed them into being.
For that season of my life, I felt integrated with the truest version of myself, bound to that self in prayer.
It’s funny how the way we exist in the world changes over time. The alter ego that turned out to be me now feels more like a distant memory. Maybe I’m just in a season of life where I feel my circumstances are exposing the crud within my soul—parenting exposes my lack of patience, my need for grace, and how truly uneasy and restless my spirit feels. At times it seems it doesn’t matter how much I pray for my alter ego to take over, she feels nowhere to be found. All I’m left with is a version of me I feel fairly disappointed by and a little annoyed with.
But then I wonder…maybe, as if a gift from God, our alter egos ebb and flow within us like the changing of tides or of seasons. Maybe our alter egos have always been and will always be us—doing a fine dance with our own selves as we navigate seasons of desolation and consolation and everything in between. Perhaps prayer is what offers us the grace to accept any version of ourselves at any given time. Within prayer, we commune with the God who knows that as we exist in the world today, we are in suspense and incomplete, yet always being formed, and that is okay.
At least, that’s the honest truth for today.
Haley Wiggers is passionate about discovering how the messy, painful, and unexpected gifts that come with being human connect and relate to and offer understanding of how God relates to and cares for us. She’s been married to her husband Tyson for 4.5 years, and together they just welcomed their first little into the world. His name is Theo, and he is the cutest. United by undeserved grace, they’ve created a life centered around table fellowship with others and long walks with their puppy.