This was my hastily whispered prayer three years ago when my eleven-year-old son sat down at the piano to perform in the spring recital. He was playing a difficult piece – one that he had been working on for months. I knew he was nervous. I held my breath as he began to play.
Despite my plea to God, there were several noticeable mistakes in his performance, including one heart-stopping moment where he seemed to lose his place in the music before picking it back up again. My heart fell. My son is a deeply sensitive boy and a perfectionist. I knew he would be devastated by these mistakes. And he was. No matter how many times my husband and I told him he did a great job and we were so proud of him, he would not hear it. With choked back sobs and tears of frustration, he could not get past it.
He wasn’t the only one who was frustrated. I had a bone to pick with God. “Come on!! It was a simple request! You can move mountains and part seas! Was it really so impossible to help a boy get through one piano piece?!?” I felt rejected and a little bit betrayed. I couldn’t understand why God refused to say “yes” to this simple prayer.
Fast forward two years. We were back at the same music studio for another piano concert. My son had chosen an even more challenging piece to perform. He knew it by heart and he was ready. Before he began to play, his teacher got up to say the following words about my son: “When he chose this piece to learn, as his teacher my first instinct was to talk him out of it, because I thought it would be too difficult for him. But he was determined and he worked hard. And he taught me a valuable lesson. Never again will I tell a student what they can’t do.”
The lights dimmed as my son began to play. He did a beautiful job…his fingers flying over the keys as the melody filled the room and my heart. His performance wasn’t perfect. There were some wrong notes and another prolonged pause as he tried to find his place again. I sighed deeply. So close! I guess we’re in for another rough afternoon.
When the recital was over I rushed over to my son to give him a hug. He hugged me back, smiled, and shrugged his shoulders. “Did you notice I lost my place for a few seconds there?” To my surprise, he wasn’t upset. He was ok with it. What a difference from the wrecked little boy of two years ago! My mind jumped back to that moment when I believed that God had denied my prayer. With sudden clarity, I realized how wrong I was. This was God’s answer. This year, this moment, this beautiful evidence of growth in my son. God had been holding him and shaping him and working in him all this time.
I understood. God didn’t say “yes” to my prayer that day. But he didn’t say “no” either. Instead, his answer was “grow.” A lesson in faith to be learned not just by my child, but by me.
God is always loving us and working in our lives, even if we can’t always see it in obvious ways. Think back to the “unanswered” prayers in your own life. Was God really saying no? Or was there a greater plan He had in mind for you?