Running Away from Jesus

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?

Why Am I Running With Jesus?

I have difficulty with all things technical, and blogging, both conceptually and in actuality, is pretty far out of my comfort zone. I will be amazed if I am able to make what I type on this screen show up on a page entitled, "Running With Jesus." That said, I have admired my friends' abilities to manage blogspots at which they post random thoughts for anyone, or for no one at all. With the hope that someone will be reading this, I felt the need to try it out myself because there's something I want to tell you about.

The desire to create this blog is borne of many long runs during which I have reflected upon my relationship with Jesus and my strong desire for everyone to know Him like I do, especially my friends and family. The difficulty in telling people about Jesus, however, is that soon into a conversation which goes something like me saying, "Hey [brother/sister/friend], Jesus is my savior," the other person quickly excuses themselves in shock and horror, almost embarrassed for me, for bringing that up. They quickly make their getaway, and subsequently write me off as some kind of freak. Which I most definitely am not. Unless you mean of the Jesus variety. Then I guess I am. More than one person has walked away from the annual family Christmas party shaking their head and wondering, "What happened to Mo this year? She's like some...some...Jesus Freak." It's like they're afraid they've lost me.

Well, I'm not exactly sure what a Jesus Freak looks like. Back in the 1970s, I think people thought we shaved our heads and wore white robes to hand out flowers in the local airport. Nope. And I don't know who those folks were, but rest assured, I was leery of them and their creepy smiles, too. If its any consolation to those of you who have never met me in person but were just starting to enjoy reading this, people never seem to guess that I'm a Jesus Freak. I guess that's a good thing. I like to catch 'em off guard!

If people listen very carefully when I speak, though, there are clues to my true identity. For example, I never say, "Thank God!," because, let's face it, everyone says that, right? I say, "Praise God!" which makes people just a little bit uneasy but they still haven't written me off entirely. Sometimes they give me a confused nod and let the remark pass, trying not to read anything into it. And at the end of my voicemail recording, I say "have a blessed day." Unfortunately, I never get to see people's faces when they hear this, for the obvious reason, but my non-Jesus Freak friends have never asked me about it so maybe they pretend they heard it incorrectly. Whatever.

If you're still reading this despite the fact that I might be a Jesus Freak, I'm really, really glad. In future posts, I'll tell you how I became a Jesus Freak, because I wasn't always. In fact, if we can agree that Jesus is the Higher Power, well, let's just say that I used to run with the lower power, if you know what I mean. But this story isn't about me, it's about Jesus, and how He saved me from a pretty horrible existence. And by horrible, I mean horrible. So horrible, that one day it occurred to me that I was probably going to eventually kill myself. And I was okay with that. Anything seemed better than living. another. day.

Why and how I reached this level of despondency will be the source of my future posts. For now, let's just say that I couldn't face my life on its own terms, which included the diagnosis of my middle son with a progressive neuromuscular disease, and the death of my youngest son from that very same disease. Throw in there my father's death after a long battle with cancer and a propensity toward depression and addiction, and you've got all the makings of a trainwreck.

And wreck that train, I did. For almost two solid years, I drove that train off the track, off bridges, and full steam ahead into other trains. And each time, somehow, I managed to get back up, brush myself off, and live to tell about it.

Those days were a long way from Running With Jesus. But you know what? I think He had me marked. When I first started going to Zarephath Christian Church shortly after I got sober, the pastor, Rob Cruver, spoke about being pursued by Jesus. When I heard that, I breathed a big sigh of relief. Maybe I wasn't crazy, afterall. I had a target on my back and Jesus was coming after me. HE was pursuing ME!

Maybe you also have a target on your back. The very fact that you are here, reading this, might suggest that you do; that this morning, or afternoon, or whenever you're reading this, God brought you here, to my newly created blogspot, to hear my story.

Maybe today will be the start of YOUR story!