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When the answer to a prayer is ‘wait’

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By Tracy Simmons

I’m many things, but patient isn’t one of them.

Right now, please, I want a promotion at work, for my bills to be paid off, to be in better shape, for my house projects to be finished.

I just want to get there already, even if I don’t really even know where “there” is.

Sometimes the restlessness sneaks up without me even noticing. It’s not until I’m lying sleepless in bed or continually fidgeting while visiting friends that I realize I’ve once again become impatient.

That’s when I have to pause and remind myself of what I learned growing up: Sometimes the answer to a prayer is “wait.”

I’ve written before about my dad. He and my mom divorced when I wasn’t quite 2 years old, and then he fled. He didn’t say goodbye, or call, or send a note – he just vanished.

I thought it was my fault, or my mom’s. I created a specious world where I idolized my dad. I imagined he was a tough and cool cowboy who missed me like I missed him. And in this world, my dad was coming back.

Life would be better when he got here, I thought. He wouldn’t be so strict with me, we’d live somewhere nicer, we’d go fishing, play catch.

I daydreamed about our reunion. Would it happen at school? Or would he show up to soccer practice? I imagine we’d hug and cry and be a family again.

I prayed for this every night, sometimes sobbing because I wanted it so badly. I was taught that God listened to us through prayers, that he knew the desires of our heart and, if we were obedient, he would give us those desires.

So I followed the rules, did what I was told and said my mealtime and bedtime prayers. Why then, was God saying no?

Eventually my dream faded and I stopped venerating my dad. I wanted to meet him and wondered about him often, but gave up hoping for a reunion.

Then, when I was 19 years old and a freshman in college, it happened. I got a call, not from my dad, but from his oldest daughter – my half sister – who had tracked me down. Soon I was on a plane to Texas to meet them. I was scared and angry. I knew this reunion wouldn’t be like the one I had dreamed about.

“It’s nice to meet you,” I said when I met my dad at the airport. I offered him my hand, not a hug. I refused to let him help me with my suitcase and listened to him with reservation.

He was sorry, he said. He promised to do better this time.

And for a few months he did do better. We talked on the phone and wrote letters, but it became less and less and eventually I lost him again.

That’s when I realized that I met my dad when I was 19, and not a minute sooner, because I hadn’t been mature enough to handle the letdown. As a child I had everything hanging on him being a hero, so him rejecting me – again – would have devastated me.

I don’t mean for this to be a sad story. I think the timing of meeting my dad helped me find compassion and forgiveness for him, which I wouldn’t have been capable of finding in middle or high school.

My dad, Ronnie, died a few years ago from COPD. I’m grateful for the few conversations we did share. When I feel myself becoming restless, I think of him and the invaluable lesson he taught me: Wait.

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Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons
Tracy Simmons is an award-winning journalist specializing in religion reporting and digital entrepreneurship. In her approximate 20 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti. Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas, Connecticut and Washington. She is the executive director of SpokaneFāVS.com, a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes for The Spokesman-Review and national publications. She is a Scholarly Assistant Professor of Journalism at Washington State University.

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Maimoona Harrington
Maimoona Harrington
5 years ago

You are so right! We humans are so impatience and we never realize that it has to be God’s wills or His blessings in disguise something we cant see and we do not know in all the matters of our lives! So “wait” is the key and then if we add “acceptance” to what we get in life from Him, we are on the right track!

spokanefavs
5 years ago

Thanks so much Maimoona!

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