Why do we always wait until things get awful before we ask for help?
We wait until our marriage is in a ditch before we go to a counselor.
We wait until our kid is failing before we hire a tutor.
And we often wait until we're desperate before we turn to God.
No, this isn't going to be a lecture about religion. Faith and spirituality transcend religion, and I would hope that we're all smart enough to realize that by now.
Back to the point: why do we humans wait so long before we turn to God, Allah, Mother Earth or - insert deity here - to ask for help?
People say there are no atheists in a foxhole. I would also say there aren't many atheists during an economic collapse or when your kid gets really sick or when your car flips over in a traffic accident and you find yourself lying bruised and bloody in a ditch.
There's nothing like a big problem to bring us to our knees, both literally and figuratively.
Make a quick trip to any hospital chapel, and you'll find people who aren't even sure they believe in God, praying with all their hearts, promising to do anything if only the Almighty will intervene and help their loved one get better.
I have to wonder what would happen if we prayed for answers when things were going well.
As a former atheist, turned agnostic, turned religiously confused, turned seeker, turned conceptual believer, I'm well-acquainted with the spiritual quagmire of trying to pray when you're not sure what, or whom, you're praying to.
But vagueness and confusion about the source need not stop you from tapping into it.
Call it hedging your bets if you like, but people generally feel more peaceful when they believe in something larger than themselves. There's a certain comfort in knowing that you don't have to have all the answers.
A minister friend of mine tells about a time in her life when she was spiritually lost and couldn't find a faith. After many frustrations with the dogma and rigidity of organized religion, she finally joined a church that told her, "All you need to know about God right now is that it's not you."
Truer words have never been spoken.
To be honest, I'm always kind of envious of people who claim to know exactly what God looks like and what he thinks about everything.
However, I've also noticed that most of the major religions also include a part about free will. Perhaps that's because the journey to faith is only ultimately a personal one.
Rabbis, priests, ministers and other teachers may help, but, at the end of the day, you don't need a third party to connect with the divine.
And you don't have to understand who or what's out there to ask for help. If you're feeling lost or alone, the vague God of your understanding is good enough for today.
It's like my friend's church says: All you need to know about God is that it isn't you.
And thank heaven for that because wouldn't it be awful to believe that you were supposed to handle everything alone?
Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, author and nationally syndicated columnist. Her books include "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her at www.ForgetPerfect.com.
The Faith & Values column appears regularly in the Saturday Life section of The Billings Gazette.
Pastors, ethicists, educators or other experts who would like to write a column about faith, ethics or values for the section, should contact: Susan Olp; Billings Gazette; 401 N. Broadway; Billings, MT 59101. Or call her at 657-1281; fax to her attention at 657-1208; or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.