Playing badminton in a friend’s backyard I go long for a birdie, loose my footing, and land in a rosebush. While my friend veils an attempt to compose herself, I look to the heavens with disdain. What my friend does not know, is this bush is an answer to a prayer. Just a few weeks before, I was lamenting to my mother the three things my life lacked that I was sure would bring me happiness – a boyfriend, a job and a car. My mother suggested I pray for them, “it couldn’t hurt’ she added. Little did she know, as I rubbed my knee that had come in contact with a hidden cement block and pulled thorns from my hands, I was thinking she could NOT have been more wrong.
The advice to pray at all seemed so odd coming from her in the first place. She is someone I’d never seen pray before and as a family we had only attended Mass on Christmas, Easter or when associated with our religious education classes. Unsure on how to go about this ‘praying for them’ task; I turned to a woman I had seen pray often, my best friend’s mother. Whenever I was spending the evening at her home, I’d notice around 9 pm she’d excuse herself and retreat to a softly lit corner in their parlor. In that space were a flowery winged-back chair, a round side table with a bible, prayer cards and a rosary upon it, behind the chair was a simple standing lamp. One such evening when she emerged from her prayer sanctuary, I timidly approached with my dilemma. Without a word, she returned to retrieve something from her pile of items stacked neatly on the side table.
Before handing me the mysterious item in her grasp, she shared a verse from the Gospel of Matthew (this practice was also very foreign to me). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8). This seemed like a good deal, rub the magic lantern and out comes my genie with the three wishes. Got it! She then handed me a 2 x 3 prayer card with a young nun on the front and a prayer I was to recite each morning before 11 for 5 days in a row. She referred to it as a Novena; though I had grown up knowing those to be something I did for 9 days. As a girl with AD/HD, I was excited to get this abridged version!
So with the promise and the prayer, I returned to my friend’s room encouraged by the possibilities to come. A boyfriend, car and job – any order would work for me Lord. This next morning I began the 5 days of successive prayer; it was the afternoon of the 5th day I found myself mangled and entangled in the rosebush. My angry glance to heaven came when I remembered what the prayer card giver had said, ”St. Therese always answers our prayers with a rose.” Fabulous, I mused to myself. What could St Therese be possibly trying to tell me by landing me in a ROSE BUSH!
Curious, I went home and pulled out my red covered, thin papered, barely used Bible I received in Confirmation class the year before. I found Matthew’s Gospel and read again the passage previously shared with me, as well as the next line. “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).
Now, I was thoroughly confused. I felt like I had presented a simple request to God, my Father. I wanted love plus a means to support and transport myself. In these, I saw peace, comfort and freedom; all seemingly good things. Things I would assume a loving parent would want for their child, especially if it brought them happiness. Instead, I get tossed into a rosebush. What was I missing!
Hindsight is such a magnificent gift. Thirty years later, armed with a better appreciation of both prayer and scripture, the response makes more sense, though I may always wrestle with the answer. First, neither God nor St. Therese threw me into that rosebush – my horrendous badminton skills and overly competitive spirit did! In the end, the true answer to my prayer was peace and it was exactly what I really needed. As St. Paul teaches us in his letter to the Romans, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” ( Roman 8:26-27).
The Spirit clearly ‘repackaged’ my prayers for what was best for me. A few days after the rosebush incident, I remember thinking to myself maybe I just need to get over this obsession with those things I believe will make me happy and focus on the things in my life that are presently bringing me joy. Then, coincidentally or not, within 2 months I had all three. The boyfriend (whose first gift to me was a single rose), has since become ‘the husband‘; however, unlike him, the car and job have been swapped out many times since!
All Rights Reserved, Allison Gingras 2017