Even though I eventually made a decision to Run with Jesus, it wasn't that long ago that I was running away from Him, as far and as fast as I could. I hope someone out there reading this can relate, because it could save you a lot of misery. If I sifted out the philosophical junk, I could boil it down to two reasons: first, very bad things were happening in my life; second, the organized religion that I had practiced since childhood was not helping the situation in the least.
I'm not going to elaborate on the bad things that happened. Suffice it to say, we all suffer heartache. For a long time I believed that my particular pain was uniquely unbearable; no one else had ever suffered like I had.
If I could give a piece of advice here, don't do this. Put the violins down. You will only succeed in becoming even more miserable, and you will eventually alienate everyone. Enough said.
So after I was left all alone, I could only sit and wonder where the heck was the God that I had grown up believing in? How could He have let this all happen to me? I had gone to church weekly, made all the sacraments at the appropriate time, even threw a few dollars in the offering basket each week. Yet, when Patrick showed signs of having a serious neuromuscular disease and I turned to Him begging for help...nothing.
Instinctively, I tried to strike a bargain with Him. I think you know what I mean. "If Patrick could just be okay and walk, you can take MY legs. You can make me never walk again." I figured it was a fair trade, no? My legs for his. And being a distance runner who doesn't cope well with an injury that keeps me off the road for only a week or two, this was such a big sacrific I was sure God would be impressed with how badly I wanted this.
Simultaneous with negotiating this leg transfer, I also journeyed to New York City and lit candles in St. Patrick's Cathedral (okay, I live in New Jersey so it only took an hour to get to New York City, but "I hopped on the Northeast Corridor" doesn't reek of holy commitment the same way as "I journeyed"). I ordered holy water from the actual font at Our Lady of Lourdes in France and sprinkled it on Patrick's legs every night and said a special blessing over him. I prayed rosary after rosary and novena after novena.
When none of this appeared to be working, I turned to the saints, begging for their intercession. I traveled the Northeast in my car, Patrick strapped into his carseat, frantically tracking down statues of St. Jude, the helper of the hopeless, and St. Anthony, the worker of miracles, to kneel before in prayer. I even appealed to the Virgin Mary, mother to mother, since she knew all too well what it was like to see her son suffer. Surely one of them could prevail upon God to take pity and let me have my wish!
But Patrick never did walk.
And after about a year of God not delivering, I got good and angry and decided that I'd show Him. I gave up on Him. That's right. I wrote the lord and savior of the universe off as a fraud. Gutsy move, huh? Knowing Him as I do today, I imagine that God maybe chuckled out loud when I did that.
Are you familiar with the story of Jonah? God wanted him to go to Nineveh on some "special God business." Jonah wanted nothing to do with that, so he got on a boat sailing clear in the other direction, to Tarshish. And I think we all remember how this story ended...with Jonah in the belly of a great fish regretting his initial decision to run from God.
I, fortunately, didn't wind up in the belly of a great fish, but I wound up in the nonfishing industry 21st century equivalent. When God gave me an assignment to raise a handicapped child, I decided to run the other way. I didn't want to be the mother of a handicapped child. I loved Patrick dearly, but I didn't want him to be handicapped.
It turns out I had no choice. I ran, God pursued, He cornered me, and now, guess what? I'm the devoted mother of a handicapped child.
It was easier than I ever imagined it would be, seriously, to live in God's will for me. It didn't require any particular sacrifice, didn't cost anything, didn't require me to go meatless on Fridays, or include any particular television preacher in my estate planning. Don't panic, I'm not suggesting you go all Jesus-Freak or anything like that. Just think about admitting that you might not be up to taking care of whatever your particular challenge is in life on your own, and you need His help. Are you drinking more than you'd like? Is your marriage suffering a bit? Do you lust after someone or something? Are you in debt?
Many people have dropped these rocks before God and admitted that they've made a mess that they can't fix themselves. I have, more than once. But if you're anything like me, I'm sure you're reading this and thinking that it can't be that simple. Perhaps you think your problems are too difficult, too complicated, or you're too sophisticated to believe that this could possibly work. I'm not judging. I thought all those things, as well. It does work, though, and it's worth a try. It can't possibly make things any worse, right?
So...what's your rock and why don't you drop it?