Ever been down on your knees just praying through tears that God would provide? That he would give you the desires of your heart? That he would answer your prayers just this one time then you’d never (fill in the blank) again. And then you waited. And the answer never came?
When I was in India, a retreat leader shared with me a parable of an old woman that went something like this:
Great rains were coming and homes were being evacuated, but this one old woman prayed to God and chose to stay in her home. Neighbors came by offering her rides as they evacuated, but she stayed steady proclaiming loudly to anyone who’d listen, “I’m a believer. My God will save me.”
The rains came and along with them heavy flooding. Soon the woman had to move to her second story. Rescue workers canvased the neighborhood bringing those who remained to safety. She wouldn’t budge. “My God is good and gracious. He will save me.”
As the flood waters rose, she was forced to her roof. A rescue helicopter came dropping her a life line. “I’m a believer. I’ve prayed and prayed. I know my God will save me so I’m not leaving,” she told the emergency personnel.
And then, she died.
When she reached heaven, she asked God why he didn’t save her. Why he didn’t answer the desires of her heart after she’d prayed so fervently. “My daughter,” he said, “I came to rescue you three times. And three times you denied my help.”
WOW. Powerful, right? How many times does God answer our prayers but it doesn’t come in the exact package we’d envisioned, so we push it aside, discounting it?
For the past year, I’ve prayed for the man I will marry - my next partner. I thanked God for his past and the way it has shaped him into the man he is today. I thanked God for his future and the way in which he’ll love me. I thanked God for his courage to ask for what he needs out of our relationship and for his bravery to stand up for himself and us in all situations. I prayed for the way he’ll treat me with respect, love and kindness. And I waited.
Then recently I ventured back into the world of dating. Low and behold, along came a pretty phenomenal guy. A couple months in, some issues came up with his kids that needed his immediate attention so he asked for some space. WHOA. Talk about a blow to the ego, right? Wrong.
I prayed about it. The conversation that followed went something like this:
God: “I answered you.”
Me: “Wait, what?”
God: “That’s right. This man asked for space. He had the courage to ask for what he needed. That’s a quality you wanted. Now you know.”
Me: “But God, I wanted that in my partner and this guy just broke things off…how is that answering me?”
God: “Can you give him that?”
The question became, could I give him that? Could I show him God’s love through me? Could I allow him to be fully present with his children while dating me took a back seat. With a little patience and a lot of grace, the answer became a full body YES.
Not because we’re getting back together. But because that’s the capacity from which I hope to give love - even if it’s platonic. God answered me. He showed me what a man asking for what he needs looks like so that when my partner does come along, I can recognize that quality. And, he showed me that I can love in the way my partner will need, returning the favor and honoring him. Whether he needs space, money, encouragement on a project or a guy’s night out, I will be fully capable of loving with my whole heart because I trust that the man I am with is a gift from God. God used this gentleman to show me what I wanted, but more importantly to show me what I am fully capable of giving AND receiving.
Next time you think God hasn’t answered your prayers, take a step back. Gain some perspective. Question everything. How has this scenario worked FOR you, not AGAINST you? What is God’s message he’s delivering? Because I promise you this, sweet friends, he’s present. He’s working in you and through you at all times. Do you even see it?
Have you ever received answers that came in unexpected forms? Or am I the only one? I’d love to know below.
PS…to the guy I was dating, you know who you are. Thank you for teaching me. (and I kinda feel like T-Swift right now. :P )