Monday, December 5, 2011

Unanswered Prayers

(For my atheist friends out there - read if you dare. And don’t bother to complain about subject matter if it offends you. This is MY personal journey…and journal…not yours).

I am a Christian and it’s a fact that I don’t really bother to hide – if you were to ask me about it. You won’t find me watching BibleTV, proselytizing on the street corner, or trying to convert co-workers in the breakroom during lunch (none of which is really my style), but I am a Christian nonetheless. I have my own share of faults. I do things I shouldn't do, say words I shouldn't say, think thoughts that I shouldn't think, listen to secular music, etc. Being Christian does not make me perfect – instead, it often serves to remind me of just how imperfect I am. Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty imperfect. I’ve been feeling petty, bitter, heartbroken, and forsaken. Why?

The one thing I pray for without fail, most of the time before I even begin to pray for myself, is that God will bless my family and friends, that He will guide them through their days, but most importantly that He will keep them safe and in good health. It’s a prayer that gets repeated nearly word for word every night, somewhat out of habit but mostly because it’s important to me that God watches over the people that I love.

But lately, I’ve felt as though the telephone line between God and I has been snipped:

-I prayed for my grandfather, that God would take away some of his pain and let him spend his last days resting peacefully in his easy chair at home. In March, he died alone in bed at a nursing home in pain from multiple myeloma and metastatic cancer.  It was an ugly end to a kind and gentle man.

-I pray for my parents.  They're almost always first in my line-up, because they're without doubt the most important people in my life.  I pray that God will keep them safe, happy, and healthy.  Not even that worked out in my favor, when in April my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, most likely due to underlying (and previously unrecognized) Lynch syndrome.  That gave birth to several tense and thoroughly unpleasant months for all of us.

-I prayed for my brother, that he would find happiness, that he would love someone worthwhile and be loved in return, and that he would realize how special he truly was. In July, Chandler committed suicide.

I feel abandoned sometimes. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't even a little angry. A small part of me looks at these requests and thinks, “How simple these requests are! You walked on water, You allowed the blind to see and the lame to walk, You turned water into wine, and You brought the dead back to life…and yet You can’t take away pain? You can’t prevent cells from going haywire? You can’t save my brother? What in the H-E-L-L? Where have You gone? Why are You turning a deaf ear to my requests?”

I am slowly coming to understand that it is not that God is ignoring my prayers and it is not that God is standing impassively by as bad things happen in my life. He listens and when these things occurred I believe that He hurt every bit as much as I did (and do) – maybe even more, if that’s possible. But most of all, I am coming to understand that every request cannot end in a resounding “yes.” I am beginning to understand that “no” is an answer, too. When I pray, “no” is NOT what I want to hear – it is NOT the answer that I am expecting to receive. Yet when I hear this word it makes me angry. I want...I want...I a hear YES. So why should I turn away in childish resentment when His answers do not meet up with my expectations? I claim to have faith and yet my faith is so very small and pitiful when my earnest requests are denied. It is not that there is something wrong with God, it is that there is something wrong with me and my impatient need for instant gratification. What kind of person am I, to forget what kind of King I serve?

My God is a God that creates beautiful stories. He writes masterpieces, composes magnum opuses, and paints surreal landscapes across the blank canvas of human life. He alone understands how one missed note in a chord, one absent color in a sunset, and one misspent word can ruin a work of art. Artwork requires both light and shadow, baroque music has its moments in minor keys, and even the best of novels requires a villain now and again. Without the less satisfactory elements, the entire piece of work would be woefully lacking. It occurs to me that perhaps my life functions the same way – without the tragedy, triumph would be much less sweet. I am trying my best to remember, especially on my bleakest days, that my story is far from being finished; it is a work in progress. I cannot see the story of my life but I trust that it is a work of art that is never far from God’s capable hands. And though it is currently difficult I must trust that even something beautiful can arise from this mess.