Recently, I was telling my friend that I have difficulty “hearing” God when I pray. Often finding it difficult to make decisions in my life, I will turn to God in prayer and ask Him to show me His will, to let me know what He wants me to do. I pray sincerely and then I listen … I wait and I listen some more. Sometimes, I don’t “hear” anything at all, but most of the time I hear conflicting answers in my head. One “voice” says, “Yes, do that,” while another says, “No, don’t do that.” And I’m left confused, with no clarity, with no sense of what God wants me to do.
As an example, I told my friend about my nephews’ last high school soccer game of the season. I really, really wanted to go, but I had been doing a lot that week — a family party where I sat upright for far too long, several trips to Manchester, including one on the morning of the game — and I was tired, with sore muscles. Just the thought of keeping still for the van ride, maneuvering my chair over a bumpy field, and sitting up for nearly 3 hours altogether was exhausting. I prayed about it, and, as usual, received no clear direction. Thinking it was reasonably best for me not to push my body too hard, I decided to stay home with my mother, and my father said that he would go and record as much of the game as he could. When I told my friend this last part she said, “So you did get to see the game. That was your answer, Christina.”
I replied with a slow smile, “My dad is often the answer to my prayers.”
My father, mother, sister, my friends and family, my caregivers — they all live in my life as answered prayers, providing assistance, support, encouragement, and life-giving care whenever I am in need. And God knows that I am daily — hourly — in need. He does not leave me helpless.
Love is the greatest answer to every heartfelt prayer. And I know that, no matter what, no matter how sad, lonely, or more severely limited my life may become, God will always give to me the gift of Himself. God and I will always have the intimate reality of our shared love — love that is exquisite, terrifyingly beautiful, and profoundly good; love that is the very essence of joy. Love that nothing can ever destroy.
Love is the greatest answer to every heartfelt prayer.Tweet
Around the ninth of November, my family remembers a fervent prayer that we sent up in 2015 as my father underwent open heart surgery. My father, who was washing second-story windows just a few days before a scheduled cardiac catheterization, was told by the doctor who performed the test that he had at least five arteries more than 75% blocked, with several over 90%. He needed immediate coronary bypass surgery. “Really?” my father asked, greatly surprised. We were all surprised. He was a slender, active, non-smoker who never had any chest pains. He felt fine. Yet he was ordered not to leave the hospital — not even to leave his bed in the hospital — for the entirety of that weekend, before they could crack his chest open on the ninth.
We all prayed.
Someone told me that my father was going to be fine, she knew, because so many people were praying for him. But I don’t believe that prayer works like that. There are many good, faithful, fervently praying people who do not receive the answer that they so desperately, sincerely desire. Why should my family be any different? There is no reason that we should be any different, no reason that we deserved to have my father come successfully through septuple bypass surgery (that’s seven arteries bypassed) and recover fully. But he did. Thanks to his overall health, thanks to the warm feeling in his chest as a sign to talk to his doctor, thanks to early intervention, thanks to the skill of the doctors and surgeon, thanks to the care of the nurses — and, so, thanks be to God.
What would my life be like now if my dad had not survived? I shudder to think about it. Yes, I know that God would always give me His love and spiritual courage, but would I be able or willing to fully receive it? My mother, sister, and all my loved ones would have each other, we would support, love, comfort, and help each other through, and I know that my amazing mother would continue to be “miraculous,” as one of her sisters has called her. But she has great physical weakness herself. Even just practically speaking, we would be devastated. I would not be able to live my daily life the way that I do now. Not only would I miss my father and one of my best friends, my life would be drastically changed.
It was God’s will, apparently, for my father to return to us. Although, at first, he was shockingly weak, he was always in good spirits and made a full and speedy recovery. Thank God!
The fragility of life is frightening, something that we would rather forget. There are moments, however, when we are confronted face-to-face with our dependency upon one another and the reality of our loved ones’ mortality. Remembering this, and grateful for my dad, I’m sharing a poem that I wrote about that fearful time and the hope of my prayer.
outlines of the bare limbed oak
against a darkening sky
like a heart against the gloom.
My father’s arteries blocked,
the flow of life’s blood about to choke,
masked by robust leaves for so long.
The shock of winters and of x-rays
reveal the fine, breakable vessels and twigs of life.
I want my dad as strong as a green oak
firmly struck into the earth,
thick, grasping roots that keep him standing tall,
safe in sleeping and restored in waking,
so that I may seek the loving support of his open arms.
I ask to feel the sun-drawn comfort of his living shade again,
ever thankful to receive.
© 2019 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.