This is an adapted excerpt from A Chance of Awesome: How Changing the Way You See Changes Everything, which is currently available as a free download. I made a few tweaks here to address our current situation.
I’ve heard that God always answers prayers. Sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes, he says yes in ways that seem like a no.
During a family vacation in the Pacific Northwest a few years ago, one of the things I wanted to see was an orca.
We heard stories of a mama and her baby being spotted in Puget Sound. We kept our eyes peeled on the ferry ride to Victoria. Our vacation home was on a bay on the Olympic Peninsula and every wave in the distance seemed like it could be a killer whale in the process of surfacing.
We never saw one. We could have booked a sightseeing tour, but time and weather and the ages of our kids conspired against us. Maybe next time.
As I have reflected on this minor disappointment, and through the act of creating this painting, something occurred to me. God knew I wanted to see an orca, but because he knows me so deeply, he also knew why I wanted to see one before even I did.
I had to stop and ask myself, why did I want to see an orca in the wild?
I wanted to experience God’s creation in a powerful way.
I wanted to see something I’d never seen before.
I wanted to have a remarkable experience with my children.
I wanted a neat encounter with an animal.
As it turns out, I did all of those things, and I never saw one orca.
I marveled at the breathtaking vistas of Hurricane Ridge.
Our vacation home was on a beach filled with thousands of crabs. Never saw anything like that before.
Between our mountain hike, the ferry rides, the view from the Space Needle and a spin on Seattle’s Great Wheel, there was no shortage of remarkable experiences to be shared with my kids.
And feeding some harbor seals with a $2 bag of fish heads was a pretty neat animal encounter.
I didn’t get what I asked for. But somehow, I still got what I wanted.
Time and time again in my life, I didn’t get things that I asked for.
I thought I wanted to marry a brunette. God knew what I really wanted was a beautiful, smart, and thoughtful wife who believed in me. He also made her blonde.
I wanted to use my art to make a living and shine light and goodness in the world. I asked for it in the form of being a professional syndicated cartoonist. That never materialized. But here I am, using my art to make a living and shine light and goodness in the world in a way that I never could have imagined but I am excited to say is even better.
This crisis, this pandemic that has impacted the whole world, has wrought terrible devastation. There is no doubting that. But I also believe that, at the same time, it is an answer to prayer.
In a weird, unexpected, surprising way, can you see how it might be an answer to one of yours?
Did you see the orca hidden in the painting above? Sometimes we miss the answer to our prayers because we’re looking in the wrong place.