As a child, one night in 1974 in the middle of winter in Beaumont, Texas, as part of a YMCA Father Daughter Indian Princess group, we closed the meeting with a prayer for snow. My father worried on the ride home and talked about how sometimes the answer to our prayers was “No.” because it NEVER snows in southeast Texas. However, the next morning, it snowed. It covered the ground, it closed the schools, it was thick enough for our neighbors to make a decent sized snowman even if he was speckled with leaves and pine needles and their yard lay bare and brown as a result. That night the weathermen on the news said he couldn’t believe it.
In 1984, after graduating from high school, I stood at the railing of our family’s beach house and in a half whine, half prayer aloud I wondered to God if I would ever meet someone who would love me just for me. I saw my future husband the first day I was dropped off at college, and began dating him on the third day.
A few years later, a college friend was battling cancer. She asked us to pray for a miracle. Amongst those witnessing her suffering from afar, a debate emerged with the discussion being, “Should we be encouraging false hope by asking for a miracle?” “Should we be limiting our prayer?” The discussion got a bit tense, if only because none of us wanted our friend to die. Her family told us that a miracle had happened, in that she was able to say goodbye to all of her family, to those she loved, rather than drift out without that one last beautiful smile.
But the argument stuck in my head, “If you can’t be unreasonable with God, who can you be unreasonable with? Who to ask for a miracle but God?” And recalling the potency of God’s responses to my high school summer prayer, to snow and others, it was hard not to feel awe even though the outside world would say, there was no miracle or the answer was “No.” because she died. The logical and sometimes cynical part of me tried to argue the point but I couldn’t shake the deep knowledge in my heart that the answer to all our prayers is always, “Yes beloved.” and that this was a “Yes beloved” even if it took time for us to discern how.
More recently, in 2001, I remember taking assessment of my adult world and praying, asking God to help me find friends; not casual people I liked saying “Hi” to in passing, but real solid friends. That year, I met one of my first long term friends in Maryland. We talk. We spend time laughing as we trip over each other discussing common loves like books, food, education, Catholicism, our kids and our kid’s school and dissecting and debating Washington politics and seeking hard truth. She was and is part of the beginning of an answer to a prayer and a reminder to me, to be unafraid to speak my heart’s desire; to do otherwise, is to lie to myself and God and others. Four other women who are dear in my life have been what I would call immediate responses to prayers to God for a broader community, for friends. All of them have been like mana in the desert.
Miracles happen daily, small discreet ones that we blip over in the midst of trying to get through all that needs to be done in a day and dramatic gorgeous ones that ought to be proclaimed for the outrageous acts of love and courtship of our souls that they are. These gifts from God, be they a much needed job, a healing of a relationship, a solving of a problem, or an unexpected pleasure are just that, gifts given freely by God. They are given to us not as proof, not as a show, not as a means to win the lottery of life, but because we are fallen and we are broken. Some days, we need that lavish outrageous extravagant generosity of God to shine through and pour over us and coat the world like snow or a lifetime beloved spouse or a friend. When sin and despair and suffering threaten to rob our daily life of joy, love, beauty and truth, miracles are God’s love rendered in an unmistakable worldly visible manner. And I think of my friend’s goodbye smile, of the endless patience of my husband, and of all the steely friends I treasure.
Jesus tells us to ask and we shall receive; our children ask us for countless things on any given day because they remain secure in the knowledge we love them. They ask for drinks, for food, to go out to a park, to go to a movie, they ask, ask, ask, ask and they are not ashamed of asking. And all our answers, yes, no or maybe, if we are parenting correctly, if we are not asleep at the switch, are a “yes beloved.” even if we deny them the actual requests. They do not cease asking, being children, and perhaps that is God’s means to remind us that neither should we.
Most of us fear asking God because of what God’s response might mean for us or require from us; or wait to ask until we think the time is right, or we’ve built up sufficient lag time from our last petition of God, as if we can somehow balance the scales of when we ask and keep God from crashing into our lives too intimately. Sometimes we play mental games with ourselves about God, opting not to ask for ourselves because we know there is so much more than what we have here that matters; this is vanity. We don’t want to ask because we sin and we are sinners and we fear being otherwise. Inviting God into your life so intimately is hard. It cannot not mean something profound, to be willing to ask. Asking will by it’s very nature, asking must invite healing and forgiveness and the opportunity to be closer in communion with God. Jesus heals all ten lepers, not just the one who returns to give thanks. He says “Yes beloved.” to all ten. All ten souls have the chance to return and none lose the healing that took place for not returning to say thank you, thank God.
The truth is, we need to ask more than we need not to; a humble innocent heart asks, a penitent heart asks, a loving heart asks, a fearful heart asks, a hopeful heart asks. God considers who we are here no matter where here is, infinitely valuable, infinitely of importance, and He answers every prayer from every heart; “Yes beloved.”
Copyright 2010 Sherry Antonetti