I don't think I have spent my life praying for the ridiculous or the absurd, but I admit that I have often prayed for divine favors that are just not going to happen. I've been like an insolent, selfish child making demands for things that I want, but that I guess, as I walk away with head down and shoulders slumped, I don't need.
My prayers too often sounded like this:
"Lord, please take away the parts of life that are hard."
"Lord, please keep our family perfectly healthy and happy."
It's not that I think God isn't listening, but I think, and especially recently, that sometimes God's answer is simply "no". I imagine that, just like I know my answer to my kids' pleading for extra cookies just before bedtime is not going to be what they hope, He listens to my pleadings patiently, knowing all the while that the answer is no. He knows about the plan for my life, and even though I still think I'm in control, it is the selfish child in me who wants to orchestrate the plan alone...and starting with my pleadings.
Lately my prayers have been even more specific:
"Lord, please make this pain go away."
"Lord, please give me a clear and distinct sign about what you want me to do with my life."
Today was arguably one of my worst days in a while. I anxiously anticipated the MRI report from my doctor. I wanted to know the information so that I could start making plans to make myself better. It wasn't the report that I had expected, and some things are going to have to change in my life. My back is not in good shape, and some of what is wrong, cannot be treated. I have two bulging disks and a number of mildly herniated disks., indicating a condition I have likely had since childhood. The MRI did not take pictures of the upper part of my back, but the report suggested that in all likelihood I have similar herniated and compromised disks higher on my spine.
"So, what does that mean?" I asked.
"Well, it means that when you exercise strenuously, you are going to hurt, and you are suffering from a flare-up with your bulging disks."
"Oh, I could have told you that, but we can make it stop hurting right?"
"The pain can be managed, but it is dependent upon what sorts of things you do, if you are ever going to be without pain," she looks at me knowingly.
I sit quietly for a minute.
"So, I can run right?"
"You can, but it's probably not a great idea. Swimming would probably be good for you. Walking. Yoga. And try to avoid anything that you have to twist because that is going to make you hurt the worst."
I make mental notes of the things I do that include twisting: soccer, hockey in the basement, golf, tennis, aerobics.
I cried my way home, talking to my family about the fact that I am not going to be the golf/tennis playing senior citizen that I had hoped. Beyond that, I know that I can no longer keep trying to do the things I have always done.
My mom pointed out that I have writing to fall back on if I cannot do what I love to do physically, and I reluctantly agreed. The physical and the philosophical are both such important parts of who I am, that I don't want to give up on either.
I think to myself, "well, maybe this is the sign I've been looking for as an answer to my question about what I should do with my life."
Then I came home to find rejection letter number two for my book proposal.
Ok Lord, so your answer about an easy fix to pain relief...no. A clear sign about what to do with my life...no. But I know in my heart of hearts that God's answer does not end there. I know he is whispering..."not now, but I'll tell you what you need to know later. Just trust in me."