The Unexpected Answer
February 2002

“The Unexpected Answer,” Ensign, Feb. 2002, 37

The Unexpected Answer

The term papers I needed to grade were nowhere to be found at home, and I knew I would not be able to rest until I located them. I had no inkling then of the lesson they would help me learn.

My wife was just leaving to take our daughter to sing in a Christmas concert, and I realized that if I went too, I could go by my office to see if I had left the papers there. So I drove my wife, daughter, and three other choir members to the concert hall 20 miles away. Dropping them off, I swung by my office to search for the papers. I found nothing; they were not there either. Before leaving to rejoin my wife at the concert, I said a quick prayer that I would be able to find the papers when I returned home—though I had no idea where else to look—and that all would be well that evening.

On the way home after the concert, it seemed we were alone on the freeway in the dark, snowy night. We had gone about a third of the way when the right front tire on our van blew out. Fortunately, I was able to control the vehicle and stop safely at the side of the road in the slush. It was 10:30 P.M.

Opening the door, I said another silent prayer that all would be well and we could get home quickly. But it was not to be that easy. After working under the van for 45 minutes, I found that our jack would not fit in place with the tire fully deflated. As I worked, I made a silent observation to heaven that help would be welcome. A bit of bitterness swept over me when I finally realized that I was going to have to walk for help, soaking wet, through the night’s cold to a service station a mile and a half away. Surely someone in one of the vehicles that passed us might have been prompted to stop—but it didn’t happen.

I walked to the station and called a tow truck. On my way back to the van, a highway patrolman picked me up and gave me a ride, and after the truck came and the tire was changed, I felt grateful at least that the tow truck driver had charged me a fair price for his help.

By 12:30, my wife and daughter and I were at home getting warm, and I began to look once more for the lost term papers. I felt prompted to look under a stack I had checked before. There they were!

Why, I wondered, had I gone through this experience? It would have been so much less stressful, so much more efficient if I had found the papers when I looked earlier.

Then suddenly in my mind’s eye I saw my wife walking alone in a dress and heels down a dark, snowy freeway at 11:00 at night, having left four children alone in the van. Tears filled my eyes as I realized that perhaps Heavenly Father hadn’t immediately given me what I had asked for, but rather what I would have wanted in my heart. I would have wanted to be there for my wife in that situation.

I had prayed for relief from immediate difficulties. Instead, I got what I really needed: the peace and assurance that comes from knowing that Heavenly Father is aware of and watching out for my family and me.

  • Thomas Partridge is a member of the Parkway 10th Ward, South Jordan Utah Parkway Stake.

Illustrated by Richard Russell