Mis-Answered Prayers? There’s No Such Thing!

Two major lessons that I’ve learned in life are that God is ALWAYS listening and that He has a pretty good sense of humor.  I have shared many of my fears, thoughts and desires with God throughout my life and I suspect that He has heard more than I have ever told.  I have asked for direction and I have been given a path.  I have asked for comfort and I have been given the arms of a friend to hold me.  I have asked for forgiveness and I have been redeemed.  I have actually lost count of all of my prayers that He has answered.  Now, that’s not to say that He answered them in exactly the way that I had hoped, or that He even “answered” all of them at all.  Indeed, as Garth Brooks sings, “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”  I have received this gift from Him many times over and I have always been incredibly grateful when I realized that He answered based on the bigger picture that I could not yet see. 

As I said, many prayers were not answered in the exact way that I had hoped, but those were the answers which reveled to me what, I believe, can only be described as His sense of humor.  I think He enjoys it when we ask for something really broad or vague; it’s as if He then has total leeway to interpret our prayers in the way that He sees fit.  For example, it is like when you are carrying something really heavy and you ask someone to give you a hand and they start clapping.  Technically, they gave you exactly what you “asked” for, just not what you “meant” for. 

When I left South Carolina to move up to Cleveland, I decided that I wanted some things to change in my life.  I felt that I had taken a leap of faith by moving to South Carolina in the first place and that I had worked so hard to create a home for myself. Granted, I had lived on my own before, but I never really felt like I had built a home; I had built a home in South Carolina.  To me, a home is not just the four walls that you sleep within at night.  A home is the one place where you can be truly yourself, where you belong.  A home is a place where who you are slowly starts to seep into the walls around you.  The pictures portray those who have changed your life and, by extension, have changed you.  The knick-knacks tell the stories of where you have been and where you have left pieces of your heart behind.  The books quietly reveal how you see yourself, how you see the world, and all of the things that you wish to know.  The very existence of your belongings suggests what you desire most in your life; order, adventure, chaos, security.  And, if you do it right, a home is a place where someone can enter and simply by taking in their surroundings, get a glimpse of the real you that you sometimes struggle to hide when you are too afraid to reveal who you truly are. 

When I lost my home in South Carolina my heart was broken in a way that I had never experienced before.  It is impossible to explain to people what such a tragic loss feels like when, from their stand point, it was all just “stuff”.  It was never just “stuff”, it was my home!  I remember sitting in my empty apartment in Cleveland and looking at the bare walls, the empty cupboards, and the complete lack of color and expression.  If someone had walked in at that moment they would have seen what I was seeing, which was my own emptiness being reflected on the world around me.  Enough!  I shook my head and had a stern conversation with myself where I said, “This is not you! This is a corner, a very tiny corner of who you are, but this is not YOU!  Pull your shit together, figure out what you want, and let’s carry on.”  And that’s exactly what I did.  I thought long and hard about what I wanted and I came up with four things; a man who loves me, a ring to show his love, a home, and a family of my own. (Don’t read in to this, I didn’t exactly mean babies.  A family is still a family even if it is only a family of two.)

I asked God for those four things and then went about my life while I awaited His response.  The year began to fly by with one adventure after another with a group of amazing friends who welcomed me into their worlds and accepted my invitation as I welcomed them into mine.  I still thought of what I had asked for from time to time, but usually only in the quite moments right before I fell to sleep. 

The seasons changed and before I knew it, it was Memorial Day weekend.  A co-worker whose company I enjoyed, but whom I had not yet become friends with, asked me over to his house to celebrate the weekend with another friend.  I gladly obliged and, as they say, the rest is history.  In fact, looking back now, I can’t seem to pinpoint when we went from being casual friends to being the inseparable trio that we became.  It kind of feels like it just happened overnight, that we went from spending one weekend together to spending almost every day of the week together.  We went everywhere and we did everything as a team.  When people said things like, “What did you do this weekend?” They were referring to the three of us.  When I was invited somewhere, we all were invited somewhere.  We would meet up at five in the afternoon and reluctantly go home at five in the morning, feeling like we could have hung out for much longer.  We had “Family Dinner Night” once a week where each one of us was responsible for a different part of the meal.  We would hold hands as we said grace and I would thank God for bringing us together.  And that is how almost two years whirled by, with one adventure and one late night after another.  He was responsible for so much of my laughter during that time.  He taught me more than I ever thought one person could know.  He introduced me to things that I never would have tried.  And day by day, week by week, he reaffirmed the feeling that I had that I had made the right decision to move to Cleveland.  There was a part of me that hoped our story could go on forever, and even a part of me that actually thought it would.  But, just as the tide bids goodbye to the shore or the leaf loosens its hold on the tree, everything has a season, and so did our story. 

It was right before Christmas last year (horrible timing on his part) when he told me that he had taken a job transfer and was moving a million miles away.  Well, maybe not exactly a million, but it was further than my arms could reach so it mid as well have been a million.  I cried that night for a lot of reasons.  I cried because I loved him and didn’t want him to go.  I cried because, while our other friend was still going to be here, I knew it would never be the same; we were a trio and it would always feel like we were trying to make up for the missing piece.  I cried because his house had been our home base and we had made so many wonderful memories there and I knew that driving by it every day and knowing that it no longer belonged to us would be heartbreaking. 

The next month was filled with tension, hurt feelings, and frustrations.  Looking back, I think none of us really knew how to simply say what we were feeling, which was that we all loved each other and we weren’t entirely ready for the story to be over, especially since we knew that it would never be the same again. The icing on the cake was when he informed me that our friend was helping him move and that they were both going to be gone for my 30th birthday.  Fantastic!  I guess the plus side was that we both had a ton of packing to do so we had a lot of space during that time.  He told me one day that he wasn’t going to sell the house and that he wanted me to have it.  I had been renting a duplex month to month and could easily move out at anytime.  It was weird to shift our relationship to that of a landlord/renter but I think we did it in the least awkward way possible.  He made out because he had someone whom he trusted living in his house, and I made out because he cut me a break on the rent and the house was a complete upgrade from where I was living and it meant that I got to keep all of our memories carefully held inside. 

The day before he left I went over to his house so he could give me the official “landlord walk through”.  I had been to his house a thousand times before but we discussed where the fuse box was, how to add oil to the gas for the lawnmower, and what day the trash pick-up was on.  The entire house was empty except for a small box of things in the sunroom.  He told me that the box was for me.  It had a few random things that he thought I would like, a collage picture frame of the three of us and one tiny other present.  He held out his hand and said, “I don’t know if you’ll remember this, but I hope that you do.”  And then he placed a ring in my hand.  My eyes filled with tears.  Six months earlier we went to an antique shop and I was trying on rings while he was looking around at other stuff.  I found one ring that I really liked but I was really broke so I took it off and kept looking around the store.  Apparently, when I wasn’t looking, he bought it for me; not for Christmas, not for my birthday, just because it was something I liked and he wanted me to have it. 

The next day, after he had left, I opened the front door to what was once his house, but what is now my home.  I sat on the floor in the middle of the room and looked at my ring and cried.  The week seemed to crawl by.  I received post cards from him on the road, but they only served to tell me that he was getting further and further away.  My other friends and family went into overdrive to make sure that I still had a great birthday, which I did.  I finished moving all of my stuff in, turned in my keys for the old place, and started a new chapter in my life. 

Today, exactly one year since he left, I found myself thinking back on our time together.  I burst out laughing when I realized what God had done.  Touché God, touché.   While it wasn’t what I “meant” for, God had given me exactly what I “asked” for.  For the time that the three of us were together we were a family and there is no doubt in my mind that he loved me.  Of course, when I asked God for a man to love me, I had meant in a romantic sense, but he decided to respond with a best friend instead.  When I asked for a ring, I was speaking of an engagement ring, but I actually think my ring is better.  An engagement ring comes with expectations, commitments, and sacrifices; my ring only came with love.  And a home?  Well, my friend could only give me that by leaving.  I fully expected for the answer to my prayers to be intertwined, and they most certainly were, just not in the way that I imagined.  They were, however, intertwined in a way that was better than I ever could have imagined.  Today I still miss my friend, but I love him so much for being the answer to all of my prayers, even if he didn’t realize that that is what he was doing. 

A man who loves me, a ring to show his love, a home, and a family of my own; I am forever blessed. 

This post is brought to you by the song “Home” by Phillip Phillips:

 

 

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