A Prayer Experiement, Part 2
As I mentioned in part 1, I couldn’t avoid talking about prayers that have gone unanswered. The Lord is not a genie who grants our every wish if we just say the right words or writes everything down, so there are bound to be prayers that seem to go unheard. As we’ve mentioned to several of our friends and family members, Matt and I have been praying for open doors to move out of the area. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area is simply too expensive for us. If we ever want to buy a house (especially if we want a yard), it’s not going to be here. Honestly, that’s just as true for renting a house. So, as we look ahead to the future, we’ve been praying for job opportunities and nothing has materialized. It’s been frustrating and discouraging.
In the meantime, I’ve continued to pray for provision. Money has been very tight since I felt called to stay home with Thomas. My continual prayer is for money to stretch, but it hasn’t. As I told a friend, “It’s like we’re hemorrhaging money.” We’ve had several unexpected bills, including one very big hassle last week.
As I was driving home from a meeting last Wednesday, I heard the telltale thump and felt the jerky slowness that can only come from a flat tire. I pulled off the road and parked on a side street, my heart racing. One look at my tire told me there was no way it was going to be a simple fix. It was completely shredded—a blowout. However, that was only the beginning.
I looked in my trunk and surveyed my emergency supplies. When I tried to take my jack out, I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing in this car. I called Matt to see if he could come and help me, hoping someone could watch our son, since the only carseat we own was sitting behind me. No dice. No one else was home. Thankfully, I have emergency roadside assistance, so I called them. They said it would take an hour for help to arrive.
I sat in my car, waiting. I tried to pray, honestly feeling like that moment seems like the perfect time to pray, but nothing came to mind. I was just in too much shock, feeling vulnerable, and just wanting to be back on my way home. Perhaps 30 minutes into my wait, an old, white pickup truck pulled into the spot in front of me. I watched the driver expertly parallel park and as he stopped, I noticed his license plate frame. I could only see the top around the tall bumper, but the first word was enough…
“JESUS” it said.
I felt tears well up in my eyes and I was so embarrassed that I turned my head, afraid the man might see me crying. Suddenly, I felt even more vulnerable, but I couldn’t hold back my tears. I couldn’t stop staring at that word: “JESUS”. Relief. Embarrassment. Exposed. A mix of emotions swirled around my head. When that truck pulled in, I felt like Jesus had sat down right next to me in my little car and was silently waiting for me to talk to him and tell him I was afraid and didn’t know what to do. I just needed to show up and be honest.
When help arrived, things went from bad to worse. It turns out that the spare tire I have doesn’t match my car, so we couldn’t put it on. Instead, my car had to be towed. As I stood watching the driver finish securing my car, I peeked over to see what the rest of the frame said. JESUS ES EL SENOR, “Jesus is Lord.” I smiled a wry smile. “So that’s the lesson,” I thought, “Jesus is still Lord when the something-something hits the fan. Jesus is Lord when my prayers go unanswered. Jesus is Lord when I don’t know what I’m going to do because there’s nothing I can do. Jesus is still Lord.”
Remarkably, more importantly, this Lord is also present. In the midst of my sadness and fear, he came to sit beside me when no one else could. He didn’t fix it, but he walked with me through it. That was the miracle. Not the one I prayed for, but the one I needed that night.
Prayers will go unanswered. Life is unfair like that. The good news is that Jesus is unfair, too. He’s unfair in that he shows up before we could even turn to him. It’s unfair that he offers grace and forgiveness when we don’t deserve it. It’s unfair that we receive the Holy Spirit to live in us and walk with us through those awful moments of longing. The Lord is unfair in our favor.
My prayer is that when each of us walks through seasons where our prayers seem to fall on deaf ears that Jesus would show up. I pray we’d see him and hear him in powerfully personal ways, reminders that even when we think we’re alone, he hasn’t abandoned us.