If you’re a Garth Brooks fan, you recognized the title of this post immediately, and perhaps even starting humming a few bars of the song. It’s a great song, about how this guy and his wife run into his old high school flame at a hometown football game (that’s a rhyming lyric right there, in case you missed it). She wasn’t quite the angel he remembered her to be, and basically he can see that she thinks he’s a chump, too. They tried to talk about the old days, it was awkward, and he walks away thinking, ‘Dang my wife is totally hot.’ And then he thanks God for unanswered prayers, because if he had had his way, he’d be married to that woman instead of his awesomely perfect wife he has. So basically, way to go God! And the chorus ends with “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”. Prime country music goodness, I tell you what.
The reason I bring this up is because I had my very own unanswered prayers moment this past week. I ran into an old friend/ex/who knows what, a person I had a long history with, who disappeared from my life when he got married at a young age. I did not have enough married friends at the time (heck, I didn’t have ANY married friends at the time) to realize that this happens when a friend gets married and you stay single, and it was hard to wrap my brain around it. This of course was before the days of facebook and blogs, and so for decades I wondered what had happened to him.
And then I ran into him in the most unexpected of places, and I was so in shock at seeing him that I was literally speechless. And the meeting, it was awkward. Epic in the awkwardness, y’all. My husband wasn’t with me, so I couldn’t introduce the two of them, but I went home and greeted him like he’s never been greeted before. My husband is the most awesome thing ever. And while we have our ups and downs like most folks, I can’t imagine my life happier with anybody else. Thank God for unanswered prayers.
But it’s easy with 20 years of space and experience to look back and recognize the wisdom (or folly) of the paths we took, and God’s plan for us. It’s much harder in the interim to be grateful that things aren’t going the way we hope or want or expect. The prayers I uttered as a lovestruck teenager aren’t the only ones in my life that have gone unanswered, and I feel like lots of them are much bigger than praying for a date for the homecoming dance (which may or may not be categorized as a righteous desire. I suppose it depends on the dress?).
So what does that mean for a believer when our prayers go unanswered? Does it mean that God has something better planned? Maybe. Hopefully. That’s hard to see, though, when the prayer is for healing, or blessings, or miracles, or all of the above. Who doesn’t want a miracle? And most people I know who ask for miracles don’t do it lightly—they do so because something big is on the line.
Maybe that’s what faith really is. Moving forward even when our prayers go unanswered and the path is unclear. To know that God is listening, even when you feel like your prayers are fading into unresponsive air.
Some would also say that faith is NOT listening to country music, but I’m telling you, Garth Brooks is the man. Okay, so the song loses some of its punch because he ended up leaving his wife for Trisha Yearwood after years of infidelity, and, okay, that makes him kind of a douche (am I allowed to say that on a Mormon blog? Sure hope so, because there are other words I have that I guarantee you are worse), but the man sure can sing.
And I also wonder what 20 more years of space and experience will teach me about what I wanted vs. what was best for me. I’m looking forward to it, actually.
How do you handle unanswered prayers in your life?