I've never felt more vulnerable. It's impossible to keep something as apparent as a physical transition private, so the most intimate details of our family's life are on display. Our personal experience is being discussed by people who have never met us. I have prayed for compassion and understanding. Friday... I felt bogged down by unanswered prayers.
I have spent the majority of my morning pondering the complexities of prayer and my responsibility in the process. I have come to realize that prayer is, quite literally, a "process". I had an experience with my oldest child a couple of years ago that illustrates this concept...
I had come home from work and was tired from the events of the day. I had some things to finish up so I made my way to the office and diligently went about the process of completing the tasks at hand. An hour or two had passed when Caleb, my oldest child, burst through the door. He was clearly upset. The filth on his angry flushed face was muddied in streaks on his cheeks, a clear indicator that he had been crying. Like most moms do in a situation like this, I utilized my maternal investigation skills to work on the case…
He did his best to explain the incident through hysterical broken sentences as he attempted to catch his breath…
“Kaden and I aren’t friends any more!”
“We got in a fight!”
“He took my gun and threw it over the fence!”
“Is that why you’re crying?”
“No... he pushed me down!”
“Why did he do that?”
“I don’t know!”
“You don’t know?”
“I wouldn’t let him play with it!”
“So, let me get this straight… he threw your gun over the fence, then he pushed you down?”
“Did you do anything to him?”
“Well, I hit him… but that was because he threw my gun over the fence! Now we’re not friends anymore!”
Caleb had reached the age of camouflage and ammo that seems to possess the soul of every ten year old boy. His pseudo GI garb was practically sacred. I tried to be the voice of reason, “You know, Caleb, you and Kaden have been good friends for a long time. You’ll work it out.”
Dissatisfied with the lack of alarm in my voice, he turned around and stormed toward the door. On his way out he quipped, “And I prayed I’d have a good day!” There it was… the infamous “It’s God’s fault” line. I decided to embrace the moment to teach a valuable principle, “Hold up! Get back in here for a minute.”
He reluctantly wandered back in the room. I began to explain, “Caleb, prayer is a beautiful thing but if you’re going to tap into its power then you need to understand how it works. It’s a lot like a contractual agreement. The Lord has promised that he will always answer your prayers but there are a couple of conditions. First, we agree to believe in his will for our lives. This means that we agree to accept the answers regardless of whether or not they meet our expectations. The other part, and the part that is the MOST important, is the fact that answers to prayer come in large part because of the decisions WE make. You might have prayed that you would have a good day, but before you blame the Lord for the outcome, you need to ask yourself if you’ve made the choices that will ensure that blessing.”
Caleb stood there, listening intently to every word. It was evident that he was giving the situation considerable thought. I asked, “Did you do your part?” He thought for a moment but didn’t say a word. I continued, “Is there anything that you could have done differently that would have ensured an answer to your prayer?”
He contemplated for a moment then said, “I could have let Kaden play with my gun.” I had primed the thought process and made the determination to let him figure it out. After a minute or two of silence, when I could see he was feeling somewhat disappointed in himself, I said, “You know what?”
“The beautiful thing is that it’s never too late to have a good day… but that all depends on you.” He looked at me for a moment, and then an excited smile lightened his expression. He threw his arms around my neck, “Thanks mom… I’ll be right back!”
He darted out of the room. A little while later he returned with a satisfied grin on his face. He said, “I took care of it mom. I wrote Kaden a note to say I’m sorry and I gave him my gun.”
It was perfect… one of those rare heartwarming moments when you feel like a successful parent. I could almost hear the "Hallmark" music in the background...
“I’m so proud of you Caleb… what did he say?”
“I don’t know.”
“What do you mean? Didn’t he say anything?”
“No, because I put it down in front of his door, then I knocked, and ran.”
I tried to conceal my laughter. It wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but at least the principle was understood. I asked, “How do you feel?”
“How was your day?”
“Do you see how prayer works?”
Like my son, there have been many times in my life when I have blamed the Lord for a disappointing outcome, never realizing my responsibility in the process. Over the weekend, I e-mailed the mother of Cammie's little friend and addressed my concerns. This morning, I received the following response...
"What??? That is so not what was said and not what is in my heart or (my child's). (The teacher) and I had to talk strategy this past week about getting (my child) to focus in class. She’s a social butterfly and is enjoying talking with Cammie more than paying attention in math, and it’s reflecting in her math grade. We decided it would be best to move her to keep her from talking, but this has nothing to do with Cammie. You have to know that both my husband and I are very open minded and open hearted to people, and passing judgement on you or your family is not in our hearts or minds to do. We welcome you and Cammie with open arms and hope that you will find that we will always do what is in our power to protect Cammie’s integrity as well as yours.
I hope this clears up any misunderstanding. I truly apologize for any distress this may have caused Cammie or your family. It truly is the farthest from my heart to do. I hope you will return my call and we can have an opportunity to introduce ourselves."
I've had to ask myself, "who was judging whom?" Because of the challenges that we have faced, and the negativity that we have encountered from a few people; we jumped to some Hasty conclusions. I have come to realize that we have to do more than just pray for understanding... we have to give others the opportunity to understand. We have a responsibility to do our part.
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18
Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God.
It's always easy to give thanks in retrospect... after blessings are realized. I am thankful for what I learned through our experience this weekend. I have been humbled by my own lack of faith. I have come to realize that communicating with the Lord is the easiest and most frequently practiced part of prayer, but the answers we seek come - in large part - from the actions we take. One of these days... I'll get it right. Until then, I'll keep trying...
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.