“Some of God’s Greatest Gifts are Unanswered Prayer”
“Are you ready for bed, Jackie? Did you brush your teeth and say your prayers?” When I was a child, this was the customary nightly ritual in our house – jammies, teeth, good night kisses and prayers. Typically, this was fought off with cries of “No mom, just ten more minutes! Please? I’m not ready to go!” But by the time I was eight-years-old, I couldn’t wait to climb into my bed with my bald (from over zealous loving) teddy bear to have my evening discussion with God. I finally found something important to pray for and I was eager for Him to listen.
Now I lay me down to sleep. Bless mommy and daddy. Make my brothers stop pestering me and God, please, please, please don’t let Elvis Presley marry anyone until I grow up! I’d recite in my mind as I curled up for the night. He is so cute! I love the way he wiggles his hips and I’m sure he’s singing those songs just for me. Especially that “Devil in Disguise” one.
My first true love was the “King” and with this all consuming crush came my initial lessons in bartering with the Almighty. I promise to be a good girl, do everything my parents want, be nice to everyone and excel in school if You only grant me this one wish. But these passionate childhood desires seemed to fall on deaf ears.
Years later, when my budding sexuality took me far from Elvis to the boy sitting next to me, I felt as if my dreams were floating on the wind like a delicate feather being tossed about with no place to land. I was shy, plump, awkward and, in my mind, as homely as my ugly doll, Pitiful Pearl (a scrawny plastic toy with stringy long hair and dirty clothes that looked like they came straight from the Goodwill). I knew if I were to get any boy to notice me, it would have to come through Divine Intervention. But my pleas for love and romance were rarely heard.
Okay God, I promise if you make Don McCarthy like me, I will never complain again about my brothers. If you just make Tim Johnson like me back, I’ll pray the rosary every single morning before I go to school. If you could have Peter Jones ask me to the prom, I’ll never use the Lord’s name in vain again… and the bargaining continued. Later, these prayers focused around my physical appearance for I was sure that was the reason I had no boyfriend. Now God, if you let me just grow a few more inches, lose 10 lbs, have clear skin, green eyes with hair like Rapunzel’s I will…
Fortunately, as the years passed, I evolved out of my self-centered, shallow stage and my desires became altruistic. There was a world out there that needed my saving. Dear God, if you let me win the lottery I promise to keep only enough for myself, family and friends. With the rest I will conquer poverty, find a cure for cancer and end all wars.
I could handle not having green eyes, being taller and that weight thing – I knew I could control. Besides, hair as long as Rapunzel’s would be extremely painful to comb and would only clog the drains, but the lottery… Was that asking for too much? I could rescue mankind from all it’s stupid, wicked and selfish ways. If God could only see how I could help Him.
Unanswered prayers. We all have had them whether we believe in God or not and typically these pleas are personal requests. Of course, to not feel totally selfish, we pray for world peace, a greener environment, food and housing for all, but it’s those private thoughts, those innermost burning desires (such as being loved for who you are) we lock away deep in our souls and whisper into the universe that eat away at when left unnoticed.
Many years ago, while driving with my four young children and former husband, I heard the song “Thank God for Unanswered Prayers,” by Garth Brooks. Back in college, there was a young man I was crazy about – the true “man of my dreams.” We dated, we broke up. We dated, we broke up. We danced around each other for eight years. Every time we split up I prayed that our paths would one day intertwine, like the branches of a wisteria vine, solid and strong. Instead, my children’s father soared into my life, swept me off my feet and, instead of that sturdy vine, I climbed into a hot air balloon and with air forcefully swirling about I held on tight for the ride of my life.
“Thank God for unanswered prayers. Just because He doesn’t listen doesn’t mean He don’t care. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
Frequently, I repeat those words to myself, especially when life isn’t going the way I want it to go. It was God’s plan that I marry my children’s father. Together we created four outstanding human beings that have brought me great joy. It was also God’s plan that my marriage end. Through divorce I discovered the real “me” – not just a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend, but a woman who was strong and capable. A woman with thoughts, dreams and talents all her own. A woman who no longer stood in the shadows and who finally stood up for what she wanted in her life.
I was once told that “where we are in the moment is exactly where God wants us to be”- whether we like it or not. All my painful experiences have proven this to be right. When the fog lifted and the sun shone again there was always an “AH HA” moment. So, THAT was the reason You put me through all this. Nowhere was that more evident than on the day my mother passed away.
For most of her adult life, my mom suffered from one horrible disease or painful ailment to another. Outside help was unheard of and, being the only daughter, her care rested with me. The last two years of her life were horrendous for both of us. I was raising my children, going through menopause and a painful divorce all at the same time while rushing back and forth to her house several times a day to tend to her needs. I was exhausted and often didn’t know which way to turn. Each night I looked to the heavens and asked, Why me God?
But on the day she passed, as I held her delicate, arthritic hand in mine, I realized that this time with her was actually a gift. Because of her illness we were able to spend extra hours together talking about all that was deep, true and important in her life and what she wanted for her children. The close bond we already shared was firmly cemented for all time and, even though she is gone, I feel her presence everywhere everyday.
Each night now as I lay down to sleep, I have those talks with God and my wishes: keep my children safe, may the world find peace, for those suffering with illness – let them be healed and for the poor that they find comfort and well being. I’ll also continue to pray for the lottery (hey, you never know?), but until that happens I know I can and was meant to make my own way. God gave me the strength and the power to do it.
Never give up on your desires for the things that are important to you. Hopefully, they will be answered. Just like that little eight-year-old girl so long ago, I still pray that God will bring me the one man who will truly love me just as I am. But if that doesn’t happen in the near future, or perhaps even at all, I do believe God has His reasons. Instead, He is guiding me to follow the path He has set only for me and one day, it will be revealed. How will I know? Because what arrives will be so much better than what I had prayed for.