For Laura’s birthday this year, I asked her close friends and family to send cards, hoping to celebrate with a surprise card party on her special day.
I even wrote to Mickey Mouse, her favorite Disney character, asking him to send a postcard. (He supposedly does that, you know.)
While I was at it, I sent an email to Sylvester Stallone. Laura loves Sly, (though she sometimes struggles with separating her adoration for Rocky Balboa from the actor portraying him.)
Truth be told, I felt sillier writing to Sylvester Stallone than to Mickey Mouse. I know he probably receives thousands of emails and fan letters each year, so I doubt his brown eyes even glanced at my little note.
I felt sillier writing to Sylvester Stallone than to Mickey Mouse.
Still, I sent it because what a great surprise it would be for Laura to receive that stack of cards, and among them to be a birthday greeting from the Italian Stallion.
Over the next three weeks, the mailbox presented wads of lovely cards, but nothing from Stallone. What was I even looking for? An envelope with a boxing glove on it? A card that said, “Yo, Laura”? I seriously would have settled for an autographed dirty gym towel.
A week before her birthday, I started praying; a few days later, I asked other people to pray.
At one point, I squeezed my eyes shut and implored, “Please, oh please, oh PLEASE!!” Maybe if I pray harder, I thought, something might happen. Maybe if I put a little desperation behind it, Sly or God might hear me.
It was more difficult than I had counted on, waiting day after day for an answer I had no control over and could do nothing more to produce. I couldn’t write Stallone again to urge the process along. I couldn’t drive to California to ring his mansion doorbell. And though I wanted to tap on his gym window with a reminder that Laura’s birthday was in just a few days, there was nothing I could do but leave my request to his benevolence (or, more accurately, to the benevolence of those sorting his fan mail.)
Maybe if I put a little desperation behind it, Sly or God might hear me.
In the time between sending my note to Sly and celebrating Laura’s birthday, I started following him on Facebook and Instagram. We also watched the Rocky series, Rambo: First Blood, and Oscar. As we watched, Laura gladly shared her stockpile of Stallone trivia collected through years of being one of his most ardent fans.
His face is partially paralyzed because the doctors misused forceps when he was born.
He once traveled across the country with a dog that wouldn’t poop until they got to their final destination where he crapped a mountain.
His mother is a psychic.
His father rang the bell in Rocky.
Without ever hearing back from the man, I learned his life story and liked him more for it.
On her birthday, I gave Laura a stack of over 50 cards, but not one from Sly (and, in his defense, not one from Mickey Mouse either). Though we talked about how awesome it would have been to have Sly’s card in that stack, we moved on, life as usual.
All along, my eager waiting for mail from Sylvester Stallone felt familiar—like a metaphor for something deeper. And I finally figured it out.
Waiting for Sylvester Stallone to answer my email felt a lot like waiting for God to answer my prayers.
Do you, along with me, ever struggle with knowing the purpose of prayer? Do you ever wonder, If God already knows what I need and knows how He’ll answer, what’s the use in asking?
I make my request to God, ship it off into the dark abyss of faith.
Just like with Sylvester Stallone, I make my request to God, shipping it off into the dark abyss of faith. But I can’t march up to His door. Can’t tap on His window to let him know I need the answer and soon. I can do no more than what I’ve already done to get a response. Yet the waiting leaves me feeling antsy—like I should be doing something else in the meantime.
And, of course, I should. In fact, most of the time I have missed the point of prayer entirely.
Oswald Chambers said, “The purpose of prayer is that we get ahold of God, not of the answer.” Yet so many times my faith is obsessed with acquiring the answer to my prayer, not with relying on God’s goodness in the meantime—and in spite of whatever the answer might be. I forget that the greatest privilege in life is not receiving answers from God but being able to ask Him in the first place, to address the Creator of the universe and know that He hears.
God promises to withhold no good thing from us, and He’s aware of our needs before we ask for them. How clear it becomes, then, that He knows we need nothing quite so much as to know Him. And in the waiting, we can do just that—just like I got to know Sylvester Stallone better while I was waiting for his response.
Unlike Sly, however, God’s silence doesn’t indicate that my email bounced, that it got lost among the other millions of prayers hurtling toward heaven’s gates. And it certainly doesn’t mean that He’s too busy to respond. His silence is sometimes simply an invitation to trust Him, and, in trusting Him, to know Him more.
Who knows? Maybe someday we’ll open the mailbox to find Laura’s autographed birthday card. There’s still reason to hope. But in the meantime I plan to watch the Expendables, maybe Daylight, and the Rocky movies (again).
I think I’ve learned my lesson about waiting—on God and Sylvester Stallone.