burn the ships

This is a story about a prayer God didn’t answer. Spoiler alert: there’s no twist where I realize the answer was there all along. Or that God had something better in store.

(I mean, He does, but I don’t know what it is yet so the story isn’t over.)

After my most recent breakup, I was initially glad. I knew he wasn’t leading me toward holiness, and I want someone who will. I knew this was a good thing. But as time passed, the voice of my human pride whispered that I had lost again at a game I’ve been playing since college. The “When Will You Find Love: 27th Edition.”

So like any good Catholic girl, I hit the novena circuit just in time for the St. Anne novena. St. Anne, mother of Mary, grandmother of our Savior. Now there is a woman who knows the power of a strong family life. Which is why this prayer to her has become the battle cry of single women everywhere:

St. Anne, St. Anne, find me a man as fast as you can.

Luckily for me, as most novenas do, this one came paired with a story of a woman who said this very novena and on the ninth day (the final day) she met her husband. And I knew that would happen to me, too. Because somewhere along the line, it became the unspoken fine print that if you say a novena faithfully and for the right amount of time, on the final day you will get your answer.

I prayed hard. I said my daily prayers with conviction and discipline. I asked friends to pray it for me. I was determined.

And on the ninth day . . .


I told you from the outset, this isn’t one of those stories. This is a story about the moment I realized that God doesn’t grant wishes. God invites us to be active participants in our own stories. And that doesn’t include Him giving us what we want when we check in with Him once a day (me).

So I didn’t get a husband delivered. In fact, I got the opposite. A text from my ex. There are many dangers in casting God into the role of wish granter but one of the most threatening is that our desires can lead us to tunnel vision that seeks only confirmation bias. Meaning that in this mentality of that we get what we want just because we asked for it, we can start to build our own narrative where we answer our own prayers.

And that’s what I started to do. I thought, Was this random text my answer? A sign that I wasn’t meant to find the perfect man but to create him out of the clay of a past relationship?

(Another spoiler: No. It wasn’t.)

I called my friend Jen and laid out my confusion. How do I determine what God is saying without His voice being drowned out by my own?

Her husband chimed in and said:

You have to burn the ships.

Which neither of us understood. He went on to explain that in order to secure the certainty of victory in a new land, Captain Cortez ordered his men to burn the ships they arrived on. Thus giving them no other choice but to stand and fight.

God won’t wave a wand to give us what we want, but He will do something much greater. He will fight for us, but we need to allow him to do so by burning the ships that give us an out. The ships that are our own voices and securities and ideas that keep us from advancing into the place God has prepared. And it’s not going to be without a struggle. But we can only choose to move forward towards our call or to run away scared and clinging to what we wish was our call. There is no other option. And if we burn our boats, the only remaining option is victory.

Author: Erin

striving for everyday grace

4 thoughts on “burn the ships”

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