I once heard the profound thought that God answers our prayers in one of three ways:
- Not right now.
- I have something better for you.
When we pray and beg and plead for the deepest longings of our hearts, we just want a solid “yes” from above. It’s hard to recognize #3–I have something better for you—as an actual answer in the moment because it doesn’t feel like an answer at all; it feels like a disappointment.
We can usually only recognize this type of answer in retrospect.
One of the most monumental blessings I have ever received began as a monumental disappointment.
To share this disappointment-turned-miracle, I must take you back to the not-so-glamorous classroom setting of my high school nutrition class.
I sat a few seats behind a very attractive, Greek god-esque, quiet and mysterious and heart-throbbingly intelligent boy by the name of Brad. During our joint high school experience, we had a total of one class together, one real instance of eye contact, and one conversation.
It was about potassium. I’ll remember it always.
So while daily interactions did not transpire, I did stare at the back of Brad’s head for an entire trimester. I guess that thick head of dark hair was enough to convince me that someday I would very much like to marry him.
This is the closest thing I could find to the high school version of the back of Brad’s head. See what I mean about the Greek god thing?
High school graduation took us on separate paths, and they didn’t cross again until six years later.
I was wrapping up my student teaching experience, figuratively sprinting toward the finish line actually, because I was beyond ready to be a real teacher. It just so happened that the school where I did my internship was hiring, and I felt I was the perfect candidate.
I knew that school inside and out. I’d walked those halls for months, tutored those kids, interacted with the administration. I was well-versed in the district curriculum, I understood the school policies, I knew the faculty. How could they not give me the job?
*SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t get the job.
I was confused and crushed and even a bit hysterical. I locked myself in my room and questioned God and asked why and cried tears of the Amazon rainfall intensity. Not only was I denied my dream job (I know, I’m quite dramatic sometimes), but I felt suddenly insecure about my performance as a teacher, or at the very least, my effectiveness as an interviewee.
After about 72 hours straight of feeling sorry for myself, I decided I needed to take some action. I needed to get my life on some alternate course and do something.
Handsome pants Brad was on my mind because I had run into his friends a week earlier at a grocery store of all places, and they mentioned in our quick chat that Brad was their roommate.
I also had this Cafe Rio gift card. It was given to me as a graduation gift, but it came with a challenge scribbled on the accompanying note: “Find a nice boy to help you use this.”
So I did the only real BOLD thing I’ve ever done and I asked Brad out. The message I sent went as follows:
“Brad, I ran into your roommates the other day. It got me thinking about how I haven’t seen lots of cool people since high school…including you. And let me just preface this by saying that I NEVER do stuff like this. Like, ever.
“I recently received a gift card to Cafe Rio for graduation. It came with a challenge: Find a nice boy to help me use it. So I pick you.
“Because this is totally out of the blue, I’ve provided some simple options for you to choose from.
“Option 1: ignore this message. I’ll totally understand.
“Option 2: Reject my offer and I’ll move on with my life.
“Option 3: Meet me at Cafe Rio so we can order $30 worth of food and discuss all that post high school life has offered us.
“Talk to you soon . . . Maybe . . . . . “
I’ll be forever grateful he picked option 3!
We sat at that table in a nearly deserted Cafe Rio for five hours. He told me his life story, and I told him mine. He described that one time he ate 13 mangoes all at once and I confessed my insecurity over my alarmingly long toes. We talked about the Gospel and what we wanted in life and our families and everything from Tom Petty to joshua trees. While I can’t necessarily claim I loved him on that first date, I knew I was going to fall in love with him.
And I did. Like lightning-speed fast.
In hindsight, I am overwhelmingly grateful I didn’t get that first teaching job for which I applied. I’m not sure what would have happened if I did.
Would I have been too content to even desire to be in a relationship at that time? Would I have hit rock bottom in an alternate way, enough so to finally act on my feelings for Brad? I simply don’t know. But this I do know:
That initial disappointment became the catalyst to my own personal happiness, to the literal fulfillment of my ultimate dream.
Sometimes life can feel like a series of disappointments that happen upon our life haphazardly with no purpose, but let us remember these words from Steve Jobs: “You cannot connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward.”
That means that we have to TRUST. Heavenly Father sees the whole picture, and He can orchestrate something beautiful that will lead to unimaginable happiness.
He really did have something better for me and that something—that someone—was Brad.
I am so unapologetically in love with this man. Our marriage isn’t perfect, but I believe we’re perfect for each other. He is patient and understanding and kind and every other noble adjective I can summon. He strives each day to make me happy.
And happy I am. I’m thankful for an all-knowing Father in Heaven who didn’t give me exactly what I thought I wanted. I’m eternally grateful for my #3, that He had something better for me in mind.