My daughter, Chelsea and I were looking at birthday cards the other day. She started laughing and handed me a picture of a sad little girl all dressed in pink. Underneath the picture, it said, “You have EXACTLY 30 seconds to produce a pony or this @!#$ing party is OVER!”
Just a few days earlier I was telling Chelsea about my first “crisis of faith.” I was seven years old and lived in Grand Island, Nebraska. I went to Sunday School faithfully and my teacher had told me that “God answers all your prayers.” This sounded pretty cool to me. There was nothing in the world that I wanted more than a pony, and not just ANY pony. The neighborhood kids played Cowboys and Indians (Hey it was the early 60’s) and I always wanted to be the Indian. Most of the kids wanted to be cowboys, but I thought Indians were way better. In my mind, Indians wore soft leather fringe, rode bareback, used bows and arrows instead of guns and best of all – rode paint horses instead of boring brown or black ones.
My parents pooh-poohed my request for a horse (some nonsense about us living in town not in the country) so I decided to “pray” for one. I was quite specific in my prayer. There was no way God could misunderstand. I told Him we would be in church on Sunday morning and that when I got home from church, I expected there to be a paint horse there. I even told Him to put the horse in the garage for safekeeping. All through church, I was atwitter with nervous anticipation. You can imagine my profound disappointment when my dad opened the garage and there was no horse. I didn’t mention my disappointment to anyone because I didn’t want to disillusion them that either there was no God or he didn’t answer all prayers.
I grew up (without a horse), married, had children and took them to Sunday School. I can remember standing in the back of children’s chapel and the leader telling the children that “God answers all prayers.” I wanted to scream, “No He doesn’t or not in the way you think.” At the time, the mother of one of my daughter’s classmates was dying of cancer and I knew the middle-schooler was praying as hard as she could for her mom to be well. I did the same when I was 21 and my mom was dying.
All the world’s religions and philosophers have dealt with these questions and I don’t pretend to have the answers. As we mature, most of us come to our own personal understanding of how the universe works, but I think deep down, we’re still seven years old and hoping for a paint horse in the garage.