As I sat in my father in laws hospital room last night, I looked around at the faces of the most significant “characters” in my story minus my mustached man child. In true Stuart fashion, he was working overtime.
I realized at that moment more than any other time in my life, that Garth Brooks was right. Some of God’s greatest gifts ARE unanswered prayers.
I started thinking about my backstory. My teenage years and the “loves” of my life. I’m sure that you all remember your first love. I had a few. Each of those relationships shaped and molded me through laughter, lessons learned and much heartbreak in the end.
As I was strolling down memory lane, I had to pause and smile at the memories that I ran into. The county fair, the Texas Rose Hall, an FFA barn, and an old sand pit. These are just a few of the pits stops I am choosing along the way. I swear I could smell the funnel cake at the fair as we strolled hand in hand. I could feel the floor under my feet as we danced to Silver Wings. To this day I get a chill when I hear Merle sing that anthem of my teenage years.
As with all first loves you think, “this is the one.” You naively pledge your lives or longer to each other and then get up and got to school the next day. I’m not saying this kind of love story doesn’t exist. My daughter and her husband are a modern day Noah and Allie from The Notebook. There are a few others I know that married their high school sweet hearts. For the most part, I’m betting you are going to identify with my “this is the one” narrative.
If you identify with my narrative, then you will also recall the pleas to God when your perfect love story went awry. “God, please grant me this one wish” echoing the words of Garth, “I’ll never ask for anything again.” All too often it felt as though those midnight cries of desperation fell on deaf ears. Come on now, you know what I’m talking about.
The midnight cries were not ignored.
As I looked around the room, I started wondering how many late night, tear soaked requests it took to get us here, in this moment. Each of us connected to the next in a glistening , dew soaked web of unanswered prayers.
I looked at my children, adults now, and thought how each is a handiwork of my prayers answered and not. It wasn’t a misstep that brought them to me. They are a product of divine intervention all of those years ago.
I know a few of the details of my mother in laws first love. I let my imagination fill the pages of her story, all the while imagining how the paragraphs page after page would have been written with different characters if not for unanswered prayers. Prayers that I imagine she murmured through a tear soaked pillow when she suffered her first heartbreak.
The pleas I made on my sister in laws behalf when her heart was breaking as she mourned a love lost. If answered, her chapters would have been so different. No Abbie, no Eric. Her prayers if answered, no Abbie. No Eric.
I came back to my own unanswered prayers, the genesis of my reminiscing. My heart skipped a beat as I thought about Stuart. He too had a first love. He too had his own midnight pleas. He told me about her early on. They didn’t see eye to eye on matters of salvation. He prayed that God would open her eyes. I am sure that she prayed sentiments along those lines on his behalf with her beliefs at the forefront. As I thought about her, a lump formed in my throat as I realized that she could have been the main character in his story.
Each person in that hospital room was there because of their own unanswered prayers or someone else’s.
If not for these prayers unanswered, the pages of all of our stories would be written in a different tone with different characters.
Our moments in time are not a coincidence. They are being carefully written. Pages filled with doors closing. Opportunities lost. Heart aches and love lost. Scars. Doors opening. Opportunities gained. True love. Healing. What beautiful stories we have. Each unique to the individual.
Sometimes I thank God for answered prayers. Today is one of those days.