If I were straight and young, I would be a Garth Brooks groupie. Seriously. Alas, I am neither so I will be content with listening to him via Alexa along with his other gazillion fans. One of my favorite country western songs he wrote and performed has the catchy title Thank God for Unanswered Prayer. In this particular hit tune the singer and his wife have a random encounter at a high school football game with an old flame of his that stirs a memory of the intensity of the passion he felt for this ex along with the fervent prayers he uttered to God for things to work out with her back in the day. As you might imagine from the title of the song, he concludes his life is much better without her and that some of “God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”
My theology is suspect. Because I was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist environment in the 1950s and 60s, I developed serious misgivings about my place in the hereafter; but I’m not wrestling that old demon today. Instead, I was reminded of a few of my own unanswered prayers when I heard Garth’s song.
A funny flashback came to me of a deep-sea fishing trip off the Oregon coast when I was in my early twenties. A couple of the older women I supervised at Brodie Hotel Supply in Seattle invited me to go with them and their husbands on a salmon fishing adventure early one cloudy Saturday morning. To make a very long fishing tale short, I have a vivid memory of praying to God from the boat’s only bathroom where I spent most of the day as grown men pounded on the bathroom door – begging me to please get out. The captain’s apologies to me for the roughest seas he’d sailed in years from the other side of the bathroom door mattered not. I begged him to contact the Coast Guard to send a helicopter to rescue me from the wretched or retched boat and I promised God if She would just get me off that boat I would never bother her again with prayer from the open seas. The prayer went unanswered until the eight-hour fishing expedition was complete. Too little, too late. I counted it unanswered, and I was not thankful.
Regardless of my faith and its well-documented decline in my later years, I confess to again praying for specific outcomes in situations that were desperate at moments during the vicissitudes of life. On one particular occasion I believed I wouldn’t survive the loss of an eighteen-year relationship that ended when I was fifty-four years old. I was undone, drowning in a different kind of sea with very rough waters. I fervently prayed my relationship would survive, although my psychiatrist at the time wasn’t encouraging during our sessions. She did, however, prescribe fabulous drugs
But just like Garth Brooks in his song, I thank God for that unanswered prayer twenty years ago. Pretty became my personal Coast Guard that rescued me from the depths of my despair with her laughter and love as she breezed passionately into the core of my existence. Pretty is the spicy salsa for the rather tortilla chip person I’ve always been, and her rescue gave me hope for happiness. We have had that happiness – and then some. We are not strangers to struggles nor immune to heartbreak in the years we’ve been together, but the joys comfort us when we are called upon to share the sorrows.
As the world around us tilts on its Covid-19 axis today, I confess my fears for all of our futures. I spoke to an old friend from Texas last night who reminded me we had been through and survived many health crises during our lives including polio, HIV-AIDS, smallpox, the bluebonnet plague – to name a few. Pretty and I laughed so hard about the bluebonnet plague when I got off the phone that I called my cousin Melissa who lives in Texas. She was equally entertained and added that the bluebonnet plague was definitely seasonal which caused Pretty and me to laugh uproariously all over again.
Share a laugh, stay sane and safe wherever you struggle today.