Until the day he died, Daddy had one prayer about his children that he prayed constantly. Probably every day of his life.
He did not, like many parents, daily beseech the good Lord to protect us or to give us wealth or happy lives. Instead, his most diligent prayer was always, "If any of ‘em get to flyin’ too high, oh Lord, just clip their wings. Teach ‘em a thing or two, dear Lord if they fly too high and forget you. Let ‘em fall so they’ll find you again."
"That is the most ridiculous prayer I’ve ever heard of," I’d say repeatedly during those days when I was foolish and immature. "What kind of parent could possibly pray such a thing about their children?"
Now, I know. It is the parent who is determined that his child will be humble, kind, hard working and compassionate. A parent who knows that worldly achievement or wealth falls more to the blessed than the deserving. A father who knows that one person is not better than another, regardless of the fortune that might smile on one but overlook another. A father who believes that a person without book learning can be wiser than one who has a dozen degrees.
That is the smartest prayer I’ve ever heard of, I now believe.
Oh yeah, God heard Daddy’s prayers. All of us got our wings clipped from time to time and after enough times of falling to earth, it gives you a different perspective on things.
I have a friend who, like most of America, has gone through some extremely trying times. She once was at the top of her profession but hard times came and she tumbled to the bottom, not for lack of talent, worth or initiative.
She stayed there for quite a while, too. Years, in fact. There were times when she was downright pitiful and my heart went out to her, completely and totally.
She sought God in the most humbling manner and she turned to me daily, sometimes several times a day, for encouragement and prayer.
I remember one day when I sat down on the step of the stairway in the foyer, took a deep breath, and tried to find new words to encourage but it all seemed so gloomy. Even I was starting to doubt my own words.
One door after another closed and for well over a year, it looked hopeless. She was like a baseball player who is in a slump and pressures himself for a home run. The harder she tried to get a hit, the more strikeouts she got.
When I answered the phone one day, she railed angrily against me for my constant admonishments to stay positive and believe. She exclaimed that prayer wasn’t working, that God wasn’t listening. "Admit that I’m right!" she demanded briskly.
"OK," I sighed, tired of the emotional battles. "You’re right."
"Thank you!" she exclaimed and slammed down the phone.
I wasn’t angry at her. I understood. She was frustrated and stretched to the max. She needed nothing short of a miracle.
And then she got one. All that long stretch of praying and encouraging, all those times I had said with heartfelt conviction, "The best is yet to come. Your greatest successes lie ahead. God will not let you down," began to show a payoff.
Now, you would think that a person like that would draw closer to a good friend and the good Lord who had seen her through when no one else seemed to care.
Instead, she withdrew from us both, focused on her career and moved on. She no longer had time for either one of us. It broke my heart.
I remembered Daddy’s prayer and understood it fully. For now I know how it feels when someone flies off and forgets you.
Ronda Rich is the Gainesville-based author of several books, including "What Southern Women Know About Faith." Sign up for her newsletter at her website. Her column appears Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/ronda.