For years, I stalked this house. I’d fallen in love with it by accident when I was exploring that matrix of streets surrounding Frederick Douglas’ estate, which sits high on a monstrous hill and looks down on a smaller homes not quite as grand but still beautifully historic. Like so many others in the neighborhood, my house—because, in my mind, it was already my house—bore the wounds of neglect and the bruises of age. I didn’t care that it was a little tumbledown. I adored it anyway.
When the suckishness of apartment living grated my last nerve down to the nub, I’d find respite in fantasizing about my first home. I envisioned how I would renovate and decorate it, contemplated adding another bathroom, wondered where my guests would park when I hosted my housewarming. One Sunday, I was so wound up in the spirit after church that I took my bold self up to the porch and held hands with my daughter to pray that the property would someday be ours. She was probably on the other end pleading the blood of Jesus for the very opposite thing. Whatever. I sealed my supplication with an “amen” and a won’t-he-do-it first pump and left the Lord to his work.
Sometime at the end of last year, I slacked up on my impromptu drive-bys. The next time I cruised past, my heart dropped: there was a sale sign taunting me in the yard and the telltales of construction scattered by the fence. Someone un-abandoned my abandoned home. Someone else saw its understated potential. It was just a house that didn’t know who I was, but it gave me something to work towards and dream about, especially in a time when I had been broken by a breakup and downsized out of a day job. It may seem silly, but it felt like another loss. God had declined my prayer request, and I mourned something that was never mine in the first place.
All my naming and claiming, believing and receiving—for a relationship I just knew would mature into a marriage and for a gig that provided security while I chased my dreams—failed to give me favor I could see. Now, the house that was the object of my real estate affections and the inspiration behind my enrollment in the first-time buyers program wasn’t on the “no” list too. And when God says “no” there ain’t much wiggle room for argument.
There’s vulnerability in the act of praying. You open up your deepest; most private desires to have an intimate conversation with the Lord. Even if you never vocalize a word, you allow yourself to think and express, hope and feel around it. When a prayer centers on a dream, the most personal, most precious thing you can have, a rejection handed down from on high is especially cutting. And it’s not like you can just get a definitive answer as to why your request was denied like, “Hey my child, this is your Father. I didn’t do what you asked because it would’ve boxed you into a miserable situation/ruined you financially/been more that you were ready to handle and by the time you could, you wouldn’t have wanted it anymore.” That clarity would make it a little more OK.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a job you’ve been wanting, a promotion you’ve been expecting, a relationship you were sure was going to flourish—sometimes, if you’re not dreaming your best and biggest dream, asking for less than what He wants for you, God will say “no.” When we recite Matthew 6:10 and say, “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” it can’t just be to show off your ability to rattle off scripture by memory. If you’re really willing to submit to His plans and His direction, you have to be ready to accept a nay. Mourn that loss, accept the disappointment and then dream even bigger than before. Just in case.
I still go by and visit The House. Whoever bought it is putting in a new roof and windows and outfitting it with siding that’s temporarily protected by unsightly white plastic. I know when it’s done being made over, it’ll be gorgeous. There’s something about majestic, old Victorians and colonials that’s easier to make spectacular again. But I stopped feeling cheated because I won’t know the joy of living in it, at least not right now. When you entrust God with the desires of your heart, you have to give Him room to be creative, even resourceful and strategic in the execution.
I know that, even though it sounds and seems so cliche after the “no” has been handed down, what He ultimately has in mind is my vision times ten. I’m just praying for the patience to go along with the wait-and-see manifestation of His handiwork.