My son, Gus, will be turning five next week. He has been looking forward to his birthday for several months. He is excited about the party, the cake, the presents, and even that turning five means only two more years until he will be old enough to prepare for first holy Communion.
A couple months ago, he and I had the following conversation about his birthday:
G: Mommy, how long is it until my birthday?
M: It’s going to be in about three months.
G: That’s a long time. Can you make it so it’s my birthday tomorrow?
M: Sorry, Honey, Mommy is not able to make time go faster.
G: Oh, I know! I’ll ask God. He can do it!
M: Hmm … well yes, God could do that, but I am pretty sure He won’t. Skipping three months would be bad for a lot of other people, even though it would give you what you want.
G: But Mommy, everyone loves it when it’s my birthday, and we will have a really fun party!
M: That’s true, but God knows what’s best for everyone involved. And sometimes God doesn’t give us what we want because He sees consequences we can’t see.
I’m not sure he quite understood what I was trying to tell him, but he moved on to another activity. I, on the other hand, sat and pondered this interaction.
Praying with a four-year-old’s foresight
I pondered how often my prayers are the adult equivalent of skipping three months to get to my birthday faster. When I pray for my sister to get the job she applied for, I indirectly pray that the other applicants don’t. When I pray for the end of someone’s suffering, without realizing it, I may be asking God to take away opportunities for the growth or conversion of any number of people that person’s life touches. We humans simply cannot see all the threads woven into God’s plan.
Missing the bigger picture
There have been several times in my life when I called on St. Jude to intercede for me. For a while, all my prayers through him were answered both swiftly and exactly as I had hoped. After two years of unexplained infertility, I became pregnant immediately after seeking St. Jude’s help. I started to think that all I had to do was say the word, and my buddy Jude would take care of all my desperate cases.
Soon after that miraculous pregnancy, though, I came to realize that my husband’s increasingly volatile temper and difficult behavior were related to his ever-increasing alcohol consumption. So, of course, I hit up my buddy St. Jude. I fully expected a miraculous cure within a few weeks.
Here again, though, I was praying like a four-year-old. Sure, the end of his alcoholism would be a very good thing, but there are many threads that extended from his disease to me that I couldn’t see. In dealing with this difficult situation, I found wisdom and spiritual growth. From my experience, I gained new compassion and empathy that has made me a better nutrition counselor. By parenting in my situation, I discovered a new level of efficiency and selflessness I never knew I could reach. I am not even sure I would be writing for CatholicMom if I hadn’t had this struggle.
Those are just the threads that extended to me. I can’t even imagine what other threads God has extended to others in the beautiful tapestry of His plan.
God always answers prayers
I have heard people say that God answers prayers in one of three ways: yes, not now, or I have something better planned. It is hard to see how God is answering my prayers when my life seems to be unraveling at the seams. I may never understand all His answers in this life.
So, perhaps that is the way I need to pray like a four-year-old. To know that there are things I don’t understand and trust that my heavenly Parent will take care of me. To know that my God is capable of anything, but won’t give me everything I want, exactly when I want it, if that’s not what is best. After all, God is good, not overindulgent.
Copyright 2019 Monica Portogallo