I remember, as a little girl, asking God to straighten things out for me- my hair, my teeth, and my lazy eye ranked high on my list. It turns out, my hair is still a frizzy mess (think Hermione in the beginning of the Harry Potter series), but now, I know how to use a straightener and hot rollers to semi-tame it. My teeth? Braces, thousands of dollars, and veneers have led to some decently pearly whites. Here comes the tough part though…my eye is still crooked! Hmph. There will likely be no more eye surgeries or eye patches to fix it. Despite multiple surgeries and years of sporting a pirate patch, it’s STILL not quite right. Accepting this off center part of my face requires the same grace, gratitude, acceptance, courage, and honesty we must use with all unanswered prayers. I am thankful that I still have my vision, and as I look at my reflection, I embrace the differences because I can see what God sees. I am different, and I am defected. Yet, I am His, and His ways are better than mine. Perhaps the most humbling? I’ve had people help me on my jagged journey- family, friends, medical professionals and religious souls have all stood by me in my quest for meeting God at least half-way in answering my prayers. We are nothing, but we are everything, as we work together on our prayer paths.
If I start at the beginning of mommy-hood, I laugh at how much power I thought I possessed. Yes, there is power in prayer. Yes, hard and good works pay off. However, (and this is a BIG “however”) sometimes prayer and hard work do not pay off. At least not in the way we envision. We grow closer and stronger to God in our pious prayer time and diligence. We do not, however, always get what we want. How unfair. How undeserved. Like a kid that studied, we look at our failing grade with disappointment and shock. How? Why? It seems the other kids get it so easily. Good grades, nice cars, fun family vacations and sweet adoring husbands. Where did I mess it up? This thinking is flawed to the degree that it’s missing the most key element: God’s plan.
If I back up, I can illuminate today. I once prayed for a little girl. She’d be raised in a loving home in middle-class America where divorce was something a friend down the road survived. I prayed her safe existence wouldn’t erode her sense of resiliency and self. I prayed she’d be extraordinary and inspiring despite living a good and average life. She’d love and serve God with me and her father as an example. If I was deep in prayer, I’d also ask that she enjoy reading and cooking. Fast forward into two years of infertility, and all I could think about were the basics: how I needed to love and raise a child. I would think perhaps how I might wake up to a Dumbo-like package delivered by a stork. Boy? Girl? Elephant? Giraffe? Didn’t matter. I begged for God to make me a mother. Do you know how many childless yet amazing, lovely, good women that would make marvelous mothers exist?! I know a lot myself. It would horrify my heart. What if? What if instead of a boy, something worse? Nothing? Then, as if magic, a miracle happened. I was pregnant!!!! It was a boy! And I loved him more than I could ever love a thousand girls. His name would be Charlie, and I’d be the sort of mom that never took mommy-hood for granted. It never crossed my mind to pray for a child with a normal life expectancy or to pray for a boy that would never know a day without his father. We were all set in my ignorance-is-bliss existence. I prayed for him to inherit my resiliency and fire. I prayed he’d love animals like his dad and have a silly soul like his aunt. Maybe, just maybe, he’d like reading and cooking too. If it had occurred to me, I would have specifically prayed for a healthy heart. It would not have been answered, but I would have prayed for it anyway. In the end, my son would face three open heart surgeries and several surprising complications due to his congenital heart defect. He inherited the disease from a gene I carry, and thank God, he also inherited my resiliency and fortitude- the strongest sort of heart God could possibly design. After my son’s father left us between the second and third heart surgeries, I found myself on my knees asking again God to straighten things out. At first, “Lord. Bring him back.” Soon after, I would beg, “Just save my son.” Not long after that, “Help me replace what we’ve lost. Now, please.” Every. Single. Day. : “God, please. I cannot raise my son alone.”
My ex-husband has been gone for two years, and many things have not been replaced. I do not own a home. I am not re-married. I am not with a man I once loved. I am at the end of a serious relationship. It would appear that this crooked path is one of darkness, loss, and loneliness. Yet, when I see what God sees, I know better. So much more has been given. My son is alive. He is well. Beyond well. He can usually be found Hulk smashing and sword yielding. It may seem absurd to thank God for such a simple thing, but my soul has begged for it, and my mind and logic know a different path. I am not alone. My son’s Father is Heavenly, and we will walk with Him and know Him more intimately because of our losses and missing pieces. I am not alone because family and friends step up where a biological father stepped out. My prayer has been answered because I do wake up to a steady and loving being to help me with my guy each day: the Holy Spirit never leaves us.
Let’s be honest though, I’m human, and I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m sad. I’m disappointed. But my recent breakup and the losses associated with it have helped me muster more courage: I am no longer scared. Maybe a teensy bit of fear remains… Yikes! I’m without a partner again, and my son and I have to say goodbye to more loves. Ruh roh…Someday, we’ll have to figure out how to love again. Still. I smile. Bravery takes up most of the loss. I’ll love again with naive hope and childlike expectancy just like my little guy. We’ve made it through so much hurt and fear, we must be marked for proclaiming God’s love, and He is undeniably helping us as we grow stronger. So much for finding a forever love the first time, or the second. Lord, how many licks to the center of a tootsie pop? How many loves before a lasting one? I don’t know, but I rejoice in motherhood giving me at least one.
Here I am, crooked as can be. I’m striving to get it. It’s not really about all the prayers that aren’t answered. It’s all the answered but unspoken prayers…things that were never said. I didn’t even know to ask God to help me on a path towards patience, gratitude, and letting go so that I could be ready for my son. On my path, I forgot to pray for help in discernment so that I’d be able to traverse a different uncharted path outside of my plans. It never once dawned on me to ask Him for humility so that I could depend on Him and others when my son and I need it most. Often, I prayed that I never need anyone- the epitome of independence. Instead of me being disappointed in Him for not straightening out my path, I marvel at how He is not disappointed in me for not straightening out my prayers and accepting the topsy turvy times that lead to His arms, love, and grace. I am living what was once my worst nightmare but has always been His path for us: 100% trust in Him. I am a single mom to a child with CHD, and I have more love for my son and my Savior than anything else. I could not have imagined anything better (or more difficult) for myself. Charlie and I are on the path towards heaven. Who could ask for more?
If you find yourself in a place where you feel God is not answering your prayers and giving you what you want from Him, stop for a second and think about what He wants from you. Abandon fear, embrace hope. Let go of control, and hold onto faith. Love with all your heart-Him first, and others second, but never at the cost of your well being and safety. Sacrifice. Give more than you take. Be prepared for hard work and loss. Bow your head anyway. Open yourself to suffering so that you can feel the all encompassing comfort. Remember that you’re never alone, and happiness can be found in even the darkest remote places, if only you remember to turn on the light. Every single crook and cranny is a place your spirit strengthens and awakens. Let go of straight. Take His hand, and dare to dance along your crooked path.