Dear Pope Francis,
The spring I turned fifteen is burned in my mind, for a variety of reasons, but one of the most important is that I learned a foundational faith lessons that continues to profoundly shape my spiritual life. It’s this: that God always answers our prayers, sometimes it’s not in the way we want or expect.
I learned this in the context of the death two of my grandparents, both in the spring of 2005, one in April and one in June. In both instances, I prayed for a miracle, by which I meant that they would make a miraculous recovery. Instead, they both passed away reasonably quickly. At first I was angry because God didn’t answer my prayer. But as my mother pointed out, God did. I didn’t get the miracle I wanted, but I got a miracle in that neither grandparent had to suffer, which likely would have been even more painful for everyone involved.
This lesson has been reinforced in every season of my life over the last ten years. Every time it humbles and scares me because it reminds me that ultimately God directs my steps and the events of my life.
This isn’t to say that I become an automaton, and blindly follow what God tells me to do. I can choose whether or not to follow God’s direction, and generally speaking, I know from experience that following God is good idea. It is in moments when I’m either discerning where God is calling me, or struggling to choose to follow God, that I pray that I will desire what God desires for me and from me.
But that prayer, to desire what God desires, is huge, especially when I remember that what I expect from this prayer may not be what God actually responds with. For instance, right now my prayer is centred around next steps, and asking God to guide me to where he wants me to be. I have ideas about where I would like that to be, maybe closer to my parents or staying where I am because I’m settled here. But this doesn’t mean that God isn’t going to call me away, outside of my comfort zone. As Benedict XVI reminds us, we weren’t made for comfort, but greatness.
But even though I know it’ll probably be a little bit uncomfortable, I keep praying that God will grant me the grace to desire what He desires for me and from me. Trust me, it’s a grace that I can genuinely desire that His will be done. To be totally open to His will is simultaneously the scariest and most liberating prayer because it means I need to strip away my plans in order to be open to God. I like being independent, in control, and deciding my own path, but in order to be open to God’s will means that I need to be open to whatever comes, whether or not I think it’s what should happen.