Through a Lens Darkly
"Seven Chances" and Answered Prayers Unrecognized
Yet this dangerous misdirection is a profoundly human trait. So actively and so insistently do we pursue those things we desire that we often find ourselves responding as Jimmie did when confronted by the multifaceted bounty of God's Providence. How easily we lose sight of why exactly God is giving us something, overemphasizing the things we desire the most in that which He grants us, ignoring what is most valuable for the sake of lesser goods, and missing the point of His generosity altogether. We humans are not just in the business of looking gift horses in the mouth; we want to turn them into unicorns.
True, this failure stems from our understandable lack of omniscience in comparison to the One who makes the gift in the first place. But it is worth remembering that our prayers (and expectations of what their answers will look like) are often shaped by our own desires rather than by an understanding of what we truly need. Time and again, we find ourselves disappointed by His response to our requests because we fail to properly distinguish the things vital to our salvation from the things we want (but do not need). And so, when He showers us with His blessings, we turn away from them in frustration.
As in the Garden, we are plagued by the conviction that we are like gods; by the belief that we know what is good and what is evil, particularly as regards our own happiness. But we are rarely more ignorant than when considering our own lives; many an answered prayer is tainted with bitterness as a result of its failure to meet our misguided expectations.
Rather than relentlessly asking for what we think we need, we must begin by beseeching Him for the humility to recognize our own ignorance. For it is only then that we will be able to see the answering of our prayers for what they truly are: the best, most fitting response possible, and the path to salvation we would all desire if we could simply see it with the clarity of His vision.
(Seven Chances is available through Netflix's Watch Instantly service.)
Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. He blogs at Crisis Magazine, where he also contributes feature articles on a variety of topics.