The Answer to Prayer is Always “Fish”

She was old enough to be my mother, the holiest woman I knew, and she sat in the front row of my Bible study class. We could not have been more different. She was in her forties, I in my twenties; she was quiet and serene, I was the alligator mouth; she was deliberate, I impulsive; everything she ate flew to her hips, and I was tall and … well, I have always been too thin, everyone says, but Georgia never made uncomplimentary comments. The solitary thing we shared was a total abandonment to God.

She began sending me cards in the mail, cards of encouragement and friendship, a very humbling experience for a young Bible teacher, because although I was full of myself, I couldn’t for the life of me see why she wanted to be my friend. To be honest it was a little disconcerting that I struggled to feel the connection she so freely acknowledged, so when she called me one morning at 4:00 am to tell me her only child, her 20 year old son Kevyn, had been killed in a car crash after having fallen asleep on the way home from a Christian concert, I fell to my knees in fear.

With little satisfaction coming in other areas of her life, Kevyn was my friend’s only worldly treasure. Every morning of his elementary and high school life, she got up at 4:30, her only free time, to get in an hour of prayer before she cooked him a full breakfast. Then they would head off to whatever school he attended — at which she always worked as a teacher’s aid to stay involved.

Obedient and sweet, with a deep respect for his mother, Kevyn had begun making his first forays into the local college and with girlfriends, and Georgia had suddenly become gripped with flashes of fear for his safety that drove her to her knees, to the Psalms, and to fast for his protection. It was with this intimate knowledge that I received her terrified words and that I asked God that fateful morning, “How could you do this to her?” I will never forget His answer, so definitive, so still, so absolute.

I was totally ignorant, having no experience with death, and still in the “I don’t go to funerals” stage of youth. She never asked me to come be with her, and I was afraid to go. What could I possibly say or do to help in any fathomable way? My husband, with a strong gift of mercy, simply said I should, and since I had no idea at all what to do, I went with great trepidation and reluctance.

I rarely said anything at all as she plodded through the gauntlet of making arrangements, had a wake and funeral. Not only was I inept and utterly helpless, but God’s words boiled in my mind and heart, both full of accusation: “What father among you, if his son asked for a fish, would hand him a snake?”

Although I suspected I was simply immature and obviously missing something, I failed to see how the death of this precious woman’s only child could be anything other than a striking viper spewing the nastiest, deadliest poison. She had been praying and fasting for Kevyn’s protection for months, and now he lay unrecognizably burned in a casket, her 20 year old baby’s face closed to her for all time. A mother’s terror.

I watched her go through everything in peace, even joy at times, between the deepest tears of human sorrow and complete loss — the valley of the shadow of death and grief. It only made me more shocked at God for his meanness. She had always credited me with inspiring her to follow God, and look where it had led her? And yet, 10 years later, Georgia blessed me by saying it was okay, that God had answered her prayers, that she could see why, and that what He had done was not only right, but good. I was stunned, but so thankful for both our sakes.

Years later, Georgia and I became separated by circumstance. I had been homeschooling my nine-year-old son for 3 years, when we began having difficulties in Math and in some other areas of responsibility. A passionate teacher, I know that when someone is not “getting it” it’s usually because you’re not communicating it well, but our daily struggles were still irritating, and our relationship had become defined by them.

I spent painful time soul searching, I had his learning style evaluated, and we began to make significant progress in Math, but my critical spirit had isolated us from one another somewhat and I could not recover my mother’s footing with him. I knew the problem lay with me, but could not find it or fix it, and all I knew to do was pray desperately for help.

Then one Christmas morning, my son had a devastating accident, requiring emergency transfer to a larger city, ICU, and major reconstructive surgery that left him flat on his back for four long, arduous months. Armed with Georgia’s experience and my pitiful fish, I fought back the debilitating fear and pain of our family and clung to the absolute knowledge that this was my answer, and it was the best I could receive.

After many months of painful wailing and gnashing of teeth by everyone in our family, my son hobbled to the bathroom on his walker and, from the kitchen I heard him say, “Mom, I’m kinda glad I had my accident.”

My heart almost stopped. God had mercifully shown me the beautiful product of our family’s recent suffering, but I dared not breathe out loud, into everyone’s barely healed wounds, what sounded cold and callous even in my own ears.

Without breathing, I asked, “What do you mean?” in as normal a voice as I could gather, and his little boy’s voice, so sweet and innocent, uttered,

“Because God brought our family closer together.”

The writing of those precious words profoundly humbles me, because it was through his sacrifice I learned that when we pray for fish, dear one, what we get is a fish, no matter how much it looks like a snake.

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