One of the many things that I’ve learned along my journey of Faith is that the answer to a prayer seldom, if ever resembled what I’d anticipated that it would. There have been many times over the years when I thought that one of my prayers had gone unanswered, only to discover upon deeper reflection that not only had it been answered, but answered in a such way and with such a result that I never could have imagined either. That’s how you know that it’s the real answer to your prayer!
Some people of faith explain this phenomenon with the overused and by nature little understood words “God works in mysterious ways” while secularists in all of their wisdom use a similar but different “Be careful what you wish for…”. Either actually works for me as long as it’s understood that I truly believe that nothing of goodness, love and compassion occurs on this earth without the express knowledge and permission of God.
For uncounted months and years now many of my daily prayers have had to do with the present and future course of our great nation. The continual negative tone of our political discourse and the violence and suppression of free speech that’s been occurring with ever increasing frequency has had me extremely concerned and increasingly pessimistic. I personally found myself beyond tired of seeing scores of nameless, faceless black-masked and armed cowards destroying public and private property, while assaulting the occasional innocent who had dared to show their own face and to disagree.
I’m old and wise enough to remember a time when there was a general sense of pride in our country, her history and especially of her people and their accomplishments. We could disagreed with one other on topics of great import while always coming together in the end for the common welfare and the good of all Americans. Our national pride in being Americans coexisted with our own celebration of our own individual heritages. They were celebrated and displayed without guilt or complaint and patriotism and all of its accoutrements were always universally on proud display.
In the past, whenever I prayed for God to cure our nation’s ills and to bring us back together as a people, I always had something of a utopian vision of how I thought that that might look. I always assumed that God would find a way to help to bridge all of our divides and to heal our wounds so that one day we would all learn to settle our differences peaceably.
In reality, the answer to my prayers for unity and direction has the outward look of destruction, fear and carnage. With the terrible suffering and loss in Texas from Hurricane Harvey and the promise of worse to come with Hurricane Irma in Florida and across the Caribbean, God has indeed changed America, nearly overnight as it turns out. Our problems and the many things that separate us still exist, some as strong or maybe even stronger than ever. The difference now is that with many of our fellow Americans in danger and suffering, our priorities are now back in line with what’s truly important in this life. We have rightly set everything aside for now – there are people in need.
I’m sure that there will be many more iconic and moving images coming from the disaster areas but I have four that tell me everything that I need know about America and my answered prayer. The first photograph shows Houston Police officer Daryl Hudeck carrying Catherine Pham and her sleeping 13-month-old son Aiden to safely through the floodwaters. As inspiring as the bravery and courage on display with the adults is, I see the innocence and optimism of the sleeping child as even more spiritually meaningful.
The second image is not a single photograph but actually a collection of countless similar images. These are pictures of endless lines of pickup trucks, hauling personal flat bottom and air boats towards the disaster area in order to help rescue people. The ‘Cajun Navy’ as they proudly call themselves, left their warm, dry and safe homes to drive, at their own expense, towards the people in need. No one person asked that these heroes gather to do this, it just happened.
The third notable from my list is also not a photograph but rather a video. The footage of Victoria White’s acapella gospel music in a Houston shelter is both beautiful and inspiring. In the midst of a group of people who no one would blame for being dejected and bitter, they found strength and hope in the praise of God.
The final picture that I’ll keep with me whenever I think back on these times is the photograph of a true hero – Sgt. Steve Perez, 60, a 34 year veteran of the Houston Police Department. Sergeant Perez died in his car during the flooding, on his way to help others. Apparently Perez’ family had asked him to stay at home that day because of the flooding but he declined – his reply was “We’ve got work to do”. This is what a hero looks like!
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends