It’s 8 am in my busy house and my phone rings. Exhausted from an emotional night, I answer the phone. “How’s that boy of yours?” the caller asks. Immediately my body tenses and the wall around my heart grows another layer taller. “He’s wonderful,” I reply. “Thank you.” After a short amount of perfunctory chit chat, the call ends. I carry on with the day receiving multiple similar calls. The wall around my heart grows taller with each one. The day seems long and endless, and I am stuck in a rut that I alone have made.
My family recently attended our community healing service held at our home parish. I put much stock in this service, not having this experience before and also not prepared for the outcome. Our family is a faithful one. We are blessed beyond measure with 8 very special children and a marriage that’s strength is sinewed by God’s grace with the intake of each breath. We open our doors and welcome the stranger as family. We live forgiveness and mercy. Works of mercy are daily acts of living in our home and we offer up our sacrifices for the intentions of those we love and for our own growth and conversion.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
I prepared my heart for this healing service with a Pentecostal zeal. Like a child anticipating her Christmas present desire, I was sure the Lord would hear my deepest desire. I had friends who prayed over me and I opened up my deepest desire and spoke the words out loud to our Lord. Surely, Surely He would give me what I asked for. Expectant. I went with an expectant heart.
The service opened with praise and worship. I marveled as my son, who cannot stand on his own and cannot lift or bend his arms, asked me to prop him up against the pew for support and he lifted his voice and praised Our Lord with all his might. Joy radiated from his body and his eyes and he lifted Our Lord in praise! Those who looked upon him could not help but be raised up higher, could not help but feel His presence as the joy of loving and knowing Jesus radiated from Gabriel.
As the healing priest called out various ailments and we prayed over our son, others joined us. Who could not as my son stood there in two long leg plaster and fiberglass casts holding his bones in perfect position for the next round of surgeries. Who could not pray for this young man whose atrophied arms shook and waved with joy and exultation at how much Jesus loved him? As the crowd joined to pray over my son, one person would ask “You feel anything?” “No,” he would answer, and we just kept praying.
Gabriel looked over at the other groups forming and said, “Mom I want to go pray for those people.” I went to carry him over as his power chair is uncomfortable for him right now. No, I want to walk there. So I support his body as he walks over, a process that is so slow and painstaking yet so admirable in so many ways. Gabriel prays for a woman with bone cancer. He prays for a woman with arthritis. He looks up and finds a young man who is being prayed over and whispers to me, “Over there.” So we go over.
The leader of that group looks up and smiles at Gabe and says we will pray over you in just a minute, buddy.” Gabe says, “I’m here to pray for him.” And so it is with Gabe. He looks up into the eyes of this young man who is so struggling with his own pain and gazes on him with such intensity. The moment is captivating. “See how this young man is holding your hands? See how he is looking at you, unwavering, love, and selfless giving to you.” This is Jesus and He wants you to know him more deeply.” The leader prays. Tears fall from my face as I see my son giving. Selflessly giving.
Gabriel’s turn is next and as we pray over him he is expectant and quiet. Anticipation is keen on my heart. This is it. This is the moment. Please, sweet Jesus. You know my prayer. I look at my husband, whose head is bent in prayer, whose knees are bent and body is laid low with the desire for healing for our son. I see my teenage son who, for the first time in his life, truly believes that a miracle could happen. And yet it doesn’t.
We went in front of the tabernacle and laid Gabe’s body down on the area rug as he was getting so heavy to carry and he wanted to see Jesus. As the music played, we prayed fervently. We beseeched the Lord humbly and earnestly for healing. Just his arms, sweet Jesus. Just his arms, we pray. Looking up into the monstrance where the body of Christ is displayed, I cry out to Him and I see Gabriel look at me. Not this time, Mom. His grown-up understanding eyes tell me. I weep. I weep because He gets it and I do not. I weep because he embraces suffering and I still, after 10 years, struggle with accepting it. I weep because in my peripheral I see my teenage daughter, who is also wheelchair-bound, zipping around praying for each and every person she can lay hands on.
Faith as a child…Oh, if I had faith like a child.
We left that night and I was angry. I was troubled. I did not understand. I could not understand. After all my children were asleep, I kneeled on my deck and looked up to the stars and called out, “Why not Him?” You know my desires, you know them to be selfless and true. Why not him? I found myself weeping and yet at the same time still praising my God for his protection and mercy and providence. There I stayed until the sunrise found me. I lifted up my eyes and began again until the sunrise found me.
I have never really been disappointed in the Lord before. I have been disappointed for sure. But never at my God. Trust and gratitude have been paramount in my relationship with Him and this shift felt so wrong. My only comparison was that of a wife who expects her husband to know and carry out her desire, whether it be for the dishes to be done or flowers to be brought home or a night out and then he doesn’t deliver. What happens then? Does she turn and leave him? No. Because love doesn’t work that way. Love is unconditional and we are taught to look for it in every breath of every day. So we begin again in trust, but I carried that chip on my relationship with the Lord.
The next Sunday, Fr. Sizemore, our parish priest, gave a wonderful homily (listen to it here) on what to do when miracles don’t happen. Actually the homily was more about recognizing the miracles that are happening. I sat and wept as he preached. Where would I be without all the miracles in my life? I am alive and able to be a good mother and wife because of God’s protection and love while growing up. I have had 6 C–sections. My son was born with his legs twisted behind him touching his neck like a pretzel, dozens of surgeries since he was born. I have survived two very dangerous births. My husband just went into kidney failure. Neighbors, friends, faith family, and strangers have supported us financially, spiritually, and emotionally on this journey…I am so much more the woman I was created to be because of God’s miracles in my life. The continued outpouring of love and support, as well as the support of modern medicine, is evidence of the finger of God touching down into our lives. The fresco entitled the Creation of Adam by Michaelangelo is an image of the divine touching mankind. We must realize God is reaching down into our lives at every moment watching, guiding, protecting.
In my quest to lay down my burden with the Lord and to break down the wall I had built around my heart and between my God and me, I have been reading many articles and talking with many friends on the topics of healing and miracles. Where are the miracles? They are all around us. Oh my, how my eyes can see the glory of God! The miracles of every nurse, every doctor, every prayer, every check in the mailbox covering an air flight. How he loves me! Oh! How He watches over my family. Father, forgive me for not seeing You were there at every step. How you gave and I did not see. May I never forget the power of your cross, the power of your sacrifice, and with grateful eyes embrace every miracle with the wonder of a child. Thank you, Jesus.