“Be careful what you ask for because you might get it.”
In 1969, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced the world to her theory of the fives stages of grief in her groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying.
I was 10 years old at the time, high as a kite because my favorite baseball team, the New York Mets, had won the World Series. My prayers had been answered. All was right with the world.
Kübler-Ross’ five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – were as foreign to me as grief itself.
Joy, however, was all around me, and I devoured it with the reckless abandon of a wildfire hungrily consuming everything in its path, without question, without fear, without guilt, without regret.
Then, suddenly, I wasn’t 10 years old anymore. Overnight I became a teenager, a young adult, a grownup.
And the joy I once experienced at the gifts God placed at the table of life before me became burdens, joys I didn’t deserve. Guilt entered the picture to further suck the pleasure out of the gifts that I had once accepted without question.
Life became serious. Sadness entered the picture as people I once considered invincible and immortal left this world to continue their spiritual journey.
It’s as if grief had swooped in and snatched the joy right from under me.
I still believed in joy, in answered prayers, but I got used to not having those prayers answered. I think it happens to most of us. It’s part of the human condition we come to accept as we “grow up.”
We are still disappointed when we don’t get what we ask for, but not as disappointed as we had been when we were children and our expectations were higher.
But what happens if, as adults, we pray for something and we do get it?
Now we’re entering into let’s go batshit crazy territory.
Instead of accepting it as a gift from God, we often reject it. Sometimes we cautiously open the gift wrapping, peek inside the box, and shut it closed.
Is it because it seems too good to be true? Is it because we’re guilty that others don’t have what we are given? Or is it because we don’t think we’re good enough to deserve the amazing gifts life places before us every day?
Could there be five stages of accepting the answers to our prayers … even if those answers are not what we expected? Or worse! They’re better than what we expected!
Stage 1: I want this. Please, God, I want this more than anything else in the world, and if you give it to me, I’ll never ask for anything again.
Stage 2: I got what I asked for – Ooops, God answered my prayer. What do I do now?
Stage 3: Guilt – I don’t deserve this. “Hey, God, take it back. I feel worse now because a gift like this should really go to someone who is like, say, Mother Teresa, not someone like me who sits in front of a computer all day editing copy and writing random thoughts in a blog.” (OK, so maybe this blog entry is just a bit biographical.)
Stage 4: Sabotage – “You know what, God? I’ll sabotage your gift to show that I’m not a selfish person. I know you gave this to me as a test to see if I was humble enough to deserve it. So, here, take it back. Did I pass the test?”
But no matter how hard we try, the gift doesn’t seem to go away. In fact, God keeps wrapping it up and giving it to us over and over again, no matter how many times we reject it.
That’s because God’s gifts are unconditional. We don’t have to do anything to deserve them. And if those things for which we pray are in line with Her Will, if they will further Her love, then we only have one thing left to do when She answers our prayers.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Don’t judge the gifts. Just say “Thank you,” and move on.