when prayers don't work
I watched her when I was a little girl. She knelt on the worn pale green leather kneeler in church, deep in prayer with her hands clasped firmly, eyes closed and her chin resting on the space between her crossed index and middle fingers. I knelt too in prayer to the man hanging high on the cross on the alter in front of me. I looked from his life-size form to my grandmother. I wondered what it was she prayed so hard for. I closed my eyes too and rested my forehead on my hands in prayer. I knew God listened because my grandmother told me so.
I thought of that this week. The memory so clear in my mind. It has been a challenging, difficult, awful seven weeks as L and I tried to improve our lives with something we both so desperately wanted. I prayed Novenas (prayers said for 9 days) in five cycles so far. I called the cloistered nuns and asked them to pray. Our friends prayed. We all prayed, some to God, some to saints, some to people we loved who have passed on. Friends dropped coins in fountains and several gave their birthday wishes to us. And we believed so strongly that it would all work out.
Yesterday, we got the news that our prayers weren't answered. We were shocked. We were so sure that yesterday would be a happy day that we never even considered that it wouldn't work. God listens to prayers. I prayed to my grandmother, a devout Catholic woman so dedicated to The Virgin Mary, to help us. In my hotel room, at home, on a plane, in my car, I prayed so fervently.
I read "The Secret." I have always believed that the Law of Attraction will bring things to you if you put that energy out there. We made plans around the fact that everything would work out and then we got the simple text message "Sorry." That was it. All the plans came flying apart.
After a tearful FaceTime conversation with L about what went wrong, I sat quietly and just sobbed.
Life is just random.
On Thursday night when I doing homework at the library in Cambridge we heard sirens that went on so long that we all started to worry. It was later that night that we heard it was a 9 alarm blaze that had killed firefighters trapped in the basement. I am sure their wives prayed when they heard their husbands were called to a fire. Their prayers failed.
The families of the passengers on flight MH370 have been praying for weeks, hoping that their family members survived the crash. Their prayers weren't answered.
So, why bother praying when things will happen, regardless if we pray?
I couldn't sleep at all last night. I laid awake staring at the ceiling and I wondered if everything was just random and would things happen exactly the way they do, whether or not someone pleaded, prayed or sent out positive energy?
It's interesting how as humans we want to make sense of things. We rationalize. We want to make ourselves feel better so we say things like:
"It was out of your control."
"What's meant to be is meant to be."
"God has something better planned for you."
"It will all turn out."
These platitudes feel good to the person saying them but for the person who is going through a situation and hearing this, it is like salt being rubbed into a wound. These are all phrases we heard when we lost our daughter. It stings and it took everything I had not to scream "There is NOTHING better than what I just lost!" but I knew that these friends and family members loved us and really, what else was there to say except "I'm sorry and I love you."
Last night, I was angry. Angry at God for letting me down again. I said to him "There is only so much a girl like me can take. I've been dealt some heart-wrenching blows. I need a win sometimes. WHY DID THIS HAPPEN WHEN I PLEADED WITH YOU?"
I wondered "Did God even exist?"
As soon as I had that thought I felt terrible and laying there in bed I apologized to God. I realized that I was feeling like a petulant child. I realized that prayers are like saying to your parents "I'd like a pony" when you're ten years-old. You may want it with every fiber of your being but your parents know what's best for you. I closed my eyes and prayed. "I'm sorry for thinking that because I didn't get something I wanted that you didn't exist, that you didn't hear me." I felt ashamed. I wondered when I die and we sit down together (Me, God and my Guardian Angel-- this is how I see it) and review my life, will this be the moment that I turn away, put my hands over my face and cry, ashamed that I doubted God's love because things didn't go my way?
I realized that you can put your prayers out there, tell God your hopes but in the end, things will happen according to plan. I imagine all the prayers that get raised up to God during the SuperBowl. Yet both teams can't win. One will say "God heard our prayer!" The other will say "God didn't listen!"
God listens but sometimes his answer isn't yes but "Not now" or "I have something better for you."
In the clear light of day, 12 hours after the news, my heart still hurts. I am baffled and sad and it will take a couple days for me to get over it and get back out there. I know that God has been with me my entire life. He gave me the best grandparents, he led me to my husband and to our dog. He gave us the gift of our baby, even for just the short time we had her. I have survived being struck by lightening and a terrorist threat to my plane. I made it through a knife attack and a car racing at me going the wrong way on the Mass Pike at 2am. God has had my back.
So, yes, after this difficult seven weeks that left our life much differently than we hoped, I can either choose to believe that God doesn't listen or I can remember that He and my Guardian Angels have watched over me since the moment I was just a speck. I have to trust that what is happening is exactly what was supposed to be. I have to believe that.
Maybe I will never know why things played out like they did. Maybe someday I will be grateful that this happened. I doubt that but life is sometimes incredible that way.
Today, I feel like I have lost in the seventh round of a fight. I feel bruised and tender but like the spring after a brutal never-ending winter, there comes a day when the blossom can't help but raise its face to the sun.
I'm looking forward to that day.