Prayer’s Unexpected Answers

I don’t know about you, but as a Christian, I’ve heard that God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we expect. Maybe that feels ambiguous at best to you. If so, I’d like to share a concrete glimpse of what that can look like from a moment in my life just last week.

Ocean

As many of you know, we have an eight year old who is on the spectrum. For those of you not sure what that means, it means that she was diagnosed with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Asperger’s; and that translates into a level of anxiety and rigidity that most of us are unfamiliar with in our day-to-day lives.

For my daughter, right now, it translates into compulsive behaviors and meltdowns resulting from an elusive search for perfect that does not exist on this side of heaven: lining her chair up just so at the dinner table, wearing only one pair of shorts because none of the others feel right to her, wiping her face and hands repeatedly to avoid being dirty.

She knows perfect is not possible, even so, she seeks it with a fierceness that is too often heartbreaking. Like last Wednesday.

Because a trip to the indoor play space on Monday had not gone as planned or hoped, we left shortly after we arrived. This also led to my sweet girl wanting to go back and try again, and, because that in itself was an incredible victory (because she didn’t write off the play place due to one bad experience), we decided to return on Wednesday.

As I got ready Wednesday morning, I prayed; I poured my heart out to God, as I’ve done so often, lifting my daughter up and asking God to go before us and make a way for us, especially for my daughter. I prayed for peace, I prayed for His presence, I prayed for calm and for a lessening of the anxious compulsive need for perfect.

DSC04430Even so, she sat on the floor amidst seven or eight inside out socks cast aside because they didn’t feel right and her eyes welled with tears, her face betraying her anxious doubts as guttural sobs filled the space between us, piercing my heart.

Really? I thought. This is how God is choosing to answer my prayers. Really?

Anger that bordered on rage coursed through me, in an effort to beat back my tears, and the pain of my mama heart. Just one day, I begged Him. Just one day without all of this.

But in spite of my best efforts to remain calm and to guide her and to coax her and to sort through socks with her, the perfect her brain demanded eluded us both.

And so, my youngest daughter and I set forth for the indoor play space, leaving my oldest at home with her father and her favorite video. It was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we’d been pretty certain that the most people would be traveling or otherwise preparing for the Thursday holiday.

We couldn’t have been more wrong.

There were more people – kids and parents and grandparents and babies (a real challenge for my eight year old because of their unpredictability and crying) – than I’d ever seen before in that small space. Standing there, just inside the doors, Truth rushed over me and through me along with the deafening crush of noise: God had answered my prayers.

God had answered my prayers. But not in the way I was planning, expecting or hoping.

He’d made a way for us. He’d made a way for my daughter to avoid the very things that would have caused increased anxiety and deep disappointment. Instead, she was at home, enjoying a favorite video, loved on by her daddy and her sister got some much-needed time away from her sister and some one-on-one time with me.

It can be tempting to want to step into the place that God has and to answer our prayers our way. I was working diligently to manipulate the circumstances, and God, to get my eight year old out the door for a fun day at the play place. But God knew better.

And this time, He showed me with amazing clarity exactly what that looked like.

Just one day, I’d begged Him. Just one day without all of this.

That is exactly what He gave us. That, and the reminder that my life is always better when it’s in His hands.

Fear Not: Lather, Rinse, Repeat

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Fear Not

(38/365 days of Fear Not)

It’s only been 38 days since I began searching scripture and writing about the command and promise to fear not. If you’ve followed along even occasionally, you may have noticed that God tends to repeat Himself, using exact phrases again and again, sometimes in the same verse, sometimes one verse following another.

There is but one conclusion that I can draw from this: God’s people are pretty dense when it comes to His promises.

If you’ve read any Old Testament accounts of the Israelites, you have to agree.

And, the thing is, despite all of our progress, despite all of our advances in many areas of culture and society – medicine, technology, social networking, science – we have not come too much farther than the Israelites when it comes to needing God to repeat Himself. While we may tend to push the envelope in many areas of study and the public arena, we, God’s people, remain pretty dense when it comes His promises.

We may put a good face on things.

We may face public challenges with a certain amount of bravado.

We may challenge the status quo or others’ beliefs in online arenas.

But, ultimately, when it comes to living out something greater than ourselves.

When it comes to living out something beyond ourselves.

When it comes to revealing who we are and living out our God-given purpose and dream, many of us still wrestle with fear.

Many of us still wrestle with fear.

Behind our masks.

Behind our closed doors.

Behind our bravado.

Alone with our God-given dream, we tremble, we doubt, we fear.

And so God reminds us that if it is His dream that we are living out in our lives, we do not fight alone and that we do not need to be afraid.

In fact, God reminds us as often as we need to hear it.

Just like He did with the Israelites.

He tells us again and again: do not be afraid. I will personally go ahead of you. I will neither fail you nor abandon you.

He will tell us that today as we prepare for what lies ahead for this day’s portion of the journey.

And when we rise tomorrow, He will repeat His words and lead us onto the path of the journey.

We are created in God’s image and each of us has a God-given purpose meant only for us, for our gifts and our talents and our personality. And though we are created by God and in God’s image, we are made dense by the fallen world in which we live and by the culture that repeatedly insists that we are each the center of our own life, and by extension, the world at large.

But that dream that God has given us is not about us.

It’s about Him.

It’s about His world.

It’s about His kingdom here on earth.

It’s about glimmers of light and whispers of hope.

And, honestly, that can be pretty scary to live out. What will people think about me? What will that say about me? Will I fail? Will I fall? Will I look silly? Will I…

That’s where God steps in and reminds us: Don’t be afraid. I will go ahead of you and I will go with you.

Oh, and don’t worry if you forget this promise. God will tell you again tomorrow.