My foray into the world of prayer began in earnest when I entered my teen years, with most of my time spent uttering this simple, yet heartfelt plea:
“God, please help me to GROW!”
A not-so-surprising request given that I’d achieved a mere 47 inches in height by the age of 12, and had already faced a good bit of ridicule because of it. Couple that with a traumatic move from Nashville to Houston and a powerful outbreak of teen acne, both occurring just before my entry into 6th grade, and my prayer seemed reasonable, even vital, for my well-being. After all, my confidence was thoroughly shaken, and what little self-esteem I possessed was rapidly plummeting. Some divine intervention was certainly in order! But, even with my fervent, oft-lifted prayers, it soon became clear to me that God was completely ignoring my appeal for growth.
My suspicions were confirmed during my 6th grade year – I could detect no changes to my vertically-challenged condition and taunts about my stature intensified, becoming a bona fide sport for children and adults, alike. Laughter flared when I entered my 6th grade classroom for the first time and a student bellowed, “Sorry, you don’t belong here – 1st graders meet down the hall!” Later in the semester, peers snickered during P.E. class when I fell quite short of the mark (no pun intended) while attempting a standing broad jump, thus dashing my hope for a Presidential Physical Fitness Award. During a school field trip, jeers rose and fell… rose and fell… rose and fell… as my classmates enjoyed endless rides on Astroworld’s rollercoaster while I warmed a concrete bench below them, the lone victim of the amusement park’s minimum height requirement. Even school administrators unwittingly joined in the merriment when they assigned me a top locker, making it impossible for me to store my school supplies with any measure of grace. And when one teacher chided me for not standing while giving an answer to a question she’d posed, then chortled loudly, I realized the teasing was likely here to stay. Why, you might ask? I was standing!
Despite the indignity of it all, I pressed on, hauling my school materials with me from class to class. Tolerating the mockery that seemed to greet me at every turn. Resorting to self-deprecating humor cleverly designed to beat my critics to the punch. I frequently recited a verse of Scripture I’d learned as a child: “Good people suffer many troubles, but the Lord saves them from them all…” I imagined God proudly observing the tenacity I displayed in the face of great torment, then rewarding my perseverance with a miraculous, instantaneous, 10-inch growth spurt! Sadly, my height lingered around the 4-foot mark, the ridicule endured, and I concluded that my suffering mattered not to the Lord.
The pinnacle of my suffering came in college, when one of the most popular boys in my dorm invited me to his fraternity’s formal, an event held annually on the night before the Texas / OU football game. Matt, who was tall, dark, handsome and funny, bore the nickname “The Star” given his habit of excelling in everything he attempted. Frankly, I was more than a bit shocked when “The Star’s” invitation came my way but didn’t dwell on it too long, my elation overriding my bewilderment. The days prior to the formal found me shopping for the perfect outfit, coiffing my hair into an exceptional bob, and celebrating my good fortune with friends who would also be attending this soiree. Upon arriving at the venue where the formal would be held, Matt – ever dashing and so very polite – asked me if I’d like to dance. I said yes, of course, so he led me by the hand to the middle of the dance floor. It was on that dance floor where I came upon a chair – a chair that had been strategically placed at room’s center by Matt’s fraternity brothers, and on which I was asked to stand. The implication was clear – on my own, I simply didn’t have what it took to measure up to “The Star.” I would need some help to reach his lofty level. The crowd seemed to understand the implication of that chair, as well, and burst into laughter – laughter that transcended the music reverberating over the speakers. I laughed, too, an effort to hide the hurt and embarrassment I was feeling. I even climbed onto the chair and began to dance with “The Star,” lest I be labeled a poor sport. As we moved to the music, I squelched that all-too-familiar prayer, understanding at long last that it would be a request left unfulfilled.
The passage of time and the gift of wisdom accompanying my ever-advancing age have conveyed to me a startling conclusion about God: He always answers prayers. I know, I know. In describing to you my past experiences, I might have implied I’d come to believe quite the contrary. Time and again, I’d bemoaned the fact that my impassioned prayers had been left, unanswered. But the truth is this: God did hear my pleas, and He did answer my prayers. Perhaps not in the way I’d hoped or imagined, but in all the ways that mattered. God used the anguish I endured to shape and “grow” me – not physically, as I’d hoped, but spiritually. Those bygone experiences, such a noteworthy part of my early years:
cultivated within me a deep understanding of a word or deed’s ability to heal or harm; to strengthen or sadden; to inspire or incapacitate;
expanded my compassion and empathy for others; and
taught me that joy can be found when I rely upon the One who created me; the One whose plans are always superior to my own.
These days, to trust in God, to rise up for the underdog, and to stand tall for those enduring the cruel blows that this world can dispense, means infinitely more to me than my statuesque, 58-inch frame ever will. That’s right, people. 58 inches.
Everyone suffers. Although the details of your situation may differ from mine, I’m certain that you’ve dealt with torment. Does it seem as though your prayers for relief are going unanswered? Does it appear as though God is not listening or, worse yet, that He just doesn’t care? Consider that maybe, just maybe, God has already heard your pleas and answered your prayers. Perhaps not in the way you’d envisioned, but in all the ways that matter. Trust in God’s plans for your life, because with those plans comes a most incredible invitation: a chance to encounter the one true “Star,” Jesus Christ. Best of all? You won’t even need a chair to reach Him.
"Christ is the Morning Star, Who,
when the night of this world is past,
brings to his saints the promise of the light of life,
and opens everlasting day."