This blog as well as la dolce vita I experience each day has been temporarily interrupted by too many things going on at the present time. My job continues on at a break-neck pace (what recession?) and we found out yesterday that my wife has the Type A flu virus. So in between helping her, work, and sharing doses of Tami-flu with the kids, I seem to have found very little time to be creative. Instead things now appear to be all about mere survival, at least for the time being. A bout with the flu coming on the heels of my recent round with Epstein-Barr is hard to imagine, but it is what it is. This is not a rant on the unfairness of life - in many ways I find it amusing when I think about it and in fact have caught myself laughing hysterically at sundry times over the course of the past few days. Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius. (Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.)
As I’ve mentioned before, sickness, frailty, problems, what ifs and if onlys – it was never supposed to be that way. The human species was meant for so much more than what/where we find ourselves in this present world.
So in the interim I pray. And I am patient about it when I do so because you can’t always be cognizant of how those prayers will be answered – He knows so much more than we do and operates on a much higher level than we can ever comprehend. Case in point : something that happened when I was ten years old that continues to baffle me even to the present day whenever I think about it - today being one of those times.
Deep in the woods behind our house back then was an assortment of wrecked/ruined vehicles. It was mostly old trucks my dad rebuilt as a hobby, but there were a few classics thrown into the mix. One particular vehicle was a rust bucket 1950’s-era pink Cadillac with huge tail fins in the back. At some point, the car had been lifted onto its side and the axles had been removed, probably for a home-made trailer application. One day one of my close friends and I decided it would make a perfect fort, if only it was knocked over into an upside down, inverted position.
It seemed to be precariously balanced there, and it looked as though a good push from the both of us would carry it right on over to the desired orientation. We were small, but it should have been doable, at least to our young minds. So we pushed, we kicked, we pried with a 2” x 4” – all to no avail. How long we continued our effort on that summer day has been forgotten by me, buried deeply in the sands of time passed by. But I can recall that eventually we understood our plans for a great fort were going to go unrewarded despite the maximum effort we had put into the project.
Finally, my friend, who attended Sunday School regularly with me (his mom taught the class) brought up the idea that we should pray for G_d to help us flip the car. We knew He could – it was only a matter of attracting His attention long enough through a fervent prayer beamed up by two pre-teenaged boys. We knelt by the car and prayed; it was a prayer that would have made the most dedicated evangelist jealous with its honest intensity. Once we finished the prayer, we got up and pushed against the car one more time, certain by this point that our goal was within reach. Nothing happened. The car would not budge. Our prayer had not affected the outcome in the least, or so it seemed to us as the sun became a fiery red glow in the west.
It’s important for me to mention here that we never doubted G_d, despite our prayer going unanswered. We just figured He was too busy to worry about two little boys and their so-called fort project. Just about the time we were ready to move on to other things, in much the manner boys are known to do at that age, we heard a noise. My dad was returning on his tractor to the barn from a Saturday afternoon he’d spent cultivating his garden. He stopped and asked us what we were doing, in a good hearted way, and we explained our desire to reconfigure the car into a fort. Reaching behind his seat, he removed a chain, fastened it to a door handle, and pulled the car over for us. Just like that, our prayer was answered.
Was it an answer to our prayer? Or was it a merely a coincidence? Dad was bound to go by there anyway, as he had to pass by on his way back to the barn. On the other hand, a minute or two later and we would have already moved on to other things and would not have been around to ask him to help us. He could have been too busy as well; adults have been known to be like that from time to time despite their best intentions. But the truth of the matter, to me anyway, is that things happened in just that sequence after we prayed a sincere prayer, never doubting with the trust of children that it would be answered.
Sadly, there have been very few times in my life since then that I have prayed with the same amount of faith and trust as I had back on that day with my friend. Our prayer was a prayer that had no room for doubt, and was not tempered by logic or scientific facts on the matter. We thought little of it; it was something we knew G_d had the power to answer and that was enough for us. The prayer also went beyond religion or theology as we were too young to know about such things. It was honest and erstwhile; a simple request asked of a Heavenly Father from two little boys that simply believed in Him. And I can’t help but believe in my calloused and jaded heart that there is a lesson to be learned here, still, even after all these years.
James writes: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” I’ll do my best to remember that little-boy prayer when I feel as though I’ve lost la dolce vida, and life becomes a job or responsibility instead of what it was originally meant to be.