A couple of months ago my son lost his little "CTR" ring (CTR = Choose The Right). It's a ring that he got from his Primary class teacher for his birthday, and it is a nice reminder (a la WWJD bracelet) to make the right choices. Of course, for this five-year-old child, it started out as a reminder of - "Cool, I have something to play with on my hand!"
It was no surprise, then, when he lost his ring somewhere upstairs in our house, probably in his bedroom or playroom. We looked for a while, and then I decided this was an opportunity to teach him to pray when he is in need. So I told him about my experience (recorded in an earlier blog) about when I lost my wedding ring and found it after praying for help. Together he and I said a little prayer about how he wanted to find his ring so that he could wear it and remember to choose the right. And then we set out again to look for it. As we continued to search in vain, I kept saying a silent prayer in my heart to please answer this little boy's prayer, so that he will remember that he can always turn to prayer when he needed help. What happened instead, though, is a thought came to mind of another teaching opportunity: the "better idea". After all, how else can you explain to a child about prayers that don't seem to be answered? And besides, it seemed like an important concept for him to understand, just in case his prayers of "please help Mommy get better" don't quite turn out as hoped.
I sat my son down and explained that Heavenly Father always hears and answers our prayers. Always. And he always loves us and wants us to be happy. Always. Sometimes when we pray for something, we get exactly what we pray for. Sometimes when we pray for something, we have to wait a while until we get it. And then sometimes...Heavenly Father has a better idea. He knows how to bless us and help us even better than we know, and so we can trust in the better idea, even when things turn out differently than we wanted.
There have been some heartbreaking situations among our family and friends lately, including devastating miscarriages and stillbirths, and another cancer diagnosis. These are times when prayers have been heard and answered, but in ways that we didn't want or understand. These are times to trust in the better idea. We never know what's around the corner. We never know what opportunities will rise out of the ashes of our disappointment. We never know how our experiences will shape us and lead us toward an unknown destiny. All I know is that the overall plan is one designed for our happiness and for the realization of our ultimate potential. There is a grand plan, and I know that if we were able to see things with a higher perspective, we would understand why even our most devastating moments are still times to "doubt not, fear not".
Losing a child (born or unborn) doesn't seem like a "better" idea than having a live, healthy child. Being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness doesn't seem like a "better" idea than getting a clean bill of health. Taken individually, these incidents are heartbreakingly worse than the alternatives that were prayed for, and they are worthy of sorrow and grief. However, the grand plan is the better idea, and it is a source of trust and hope in the midst of affliction.
My son did ultimately find his CTR ring. It happened differently than we expected, and it took longer than we expected, but he ultimately got what he needed, and he learned some important things along the way. Hopefully each time he notices the ring on his hand he will not only remember that he has a cool thing to play with, and that he will not only remember to Choose The Right, but that he will also remember about "the better idea."