Prayers not answered on a schedule

This the second in a three-part series: When Marguerite Beck was 5, she prayed for God to make it snow. Though infrequent, snow in the foothills of La Crescenta wasn't unheard of. She awoke the next day to a blanket of white covering her neighborhood. Raised by a devoutly Catholic mother, Marguerite prayed often after that.

"Mass every Sunday," she told me. "No meat on Fridays, confession at least every two weeks and usually daily mass during Lent. All major church holidays were attended in full regalia."

Even beyond the rituals, Marguerite felt a special connection to her god.

Her parents' marriage lasted 50 years, something she attributes to her mother's religious faith. Though it wasn't "Ozzie and Harriet," Marguerite looks back fondly, especially toward a mother she calls her "she-ro." Self-admittedly naïve and a prude, Marguerite always strived to do what was right in her faith and family.

"I was constantly afraid of what people would think of me and mostly I just never wanted to hurt anyone. My job in this world was to be the peacemaker within my family and without."

At 20, Marguerite fell in love, married and set out to become the best mother she could be, just like the woman who raised her. She describes her life in the lyrics of a Mary Chapin Carpenter song: "She does the carpool, she PTAs. Doctors and dentists, she drives all day. When she was 29 she delivered No. 3. And every Christmas card showed a perfect family. Everything runs right on time, years of practice and design. Spit and polish till it shines."

Yet, there was a stirring under that shine, yearnings Marguerite felt almost all her life, but couldn't explain or express. When she met and grew close to a like-minded choir director at church, those stirrings finally emerged.

That choir director was the rector's wife.

Though she admits to having crushes on both boys and girls when she was young, she attributed the more confusing feelings for girls to being a tomboy. Her Catholic upbringing and conservative Christian family life told her such desires were unnatural and evil. As her feelings for the rector's wife grew, these admonitions haunted her.

"I was swimming in thoughts and emotions of doubt and fear...I was beaten down by my own fears and my own homophobia."

Her husband was obviously shocked when Marguerite told him about her long-dormant emotions. When Christian psychotherapy didn't "cure" her, Marguerite stopped going to church altogether, too ashamed and fearful that anyone would find out.

But what persecution she feared from her brethren was nothing compared to that which she heaped upon herself.

"I thought I would burn in hell...or burst into flames if I stepped inside [a church]," she said.

She felt ostracized and abandoned by the only thing that gave her peace and sanity — her Christianity. Over the next year, she went back and forth, reconciling with her husband, but never able to reconcile with herself. She knew something had to change.

"I witnessed the difficulty of my parents' relationship and of them being stuck. I didn't want that for me and I didn't want my kids to have to deal with seeing that... I just wasn't prepared for the drama or the pain or the hiding or the lies that would ensue."

Faced with the choice of doing what one thinks is best for themselves or best for their children, most parents opt for the latter. So with no other choice as she saw it, that's what Marguerite did.

"I ended up leaving without my children so that [my ex] wouldn't tell them about my homosexuality. I just didn't want them to hate me." And she was certain they would.

Too young to understand such things, her three sons rationalized that Mom left because Dad was mean; an easy conclusion for her oldest son. One night, though he should have been in bed, he overheard his mother crying.

"I'm certain he assumed that if I was crying, his father must be saying something hurtful."

But that wasn't the case.

"I was probably crying from guilt, from indecision, from just not knowing what to do," she said.

There's nothing inspirational or life-affirming to write about the destruction of a family. Nothing to glamorize about divorce. Under any circumstances, it's a tragedy.

With the guidance and instruction of a faithful life, Marguerite did what she thought best; only she knows the feelings inside her heart and soul that would bring her to leave a seemingly perfect marriage to seek peace with herself.

That was 25 years ago. On life's journey, we cry out for easy directions, clearly marked signposts to guide us. Like rest stops, we don't always get them when we want them. Every answered prayer, every destination, directs us down some new road.

Yet prayers are always answered. Sometimes it's "yes." Sometimes "no." And sometimes "wait."

More next week.

PATRICK CANEDAY can be reached on Facebook, at and

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