Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When God Answers Prayer

I was warned that moving can be a stressful time, and although I believed everyone and prepared myself for the worst, I still wasn't ready for everything that comes with moving and everything that has nothing to do with it but comes with it anyway.

For instance, I wasn't prepared for the feelings of hurt and anger when someone criticized our house. I wasn't prepared for the fact that the feelings stemmed all the way to my childhood, bringing back some forgotten hurt and anger when I had been criticized for the way I looked or acted, thus making my hurt and anger harder to control.

I wasn't prepared for the feelings of inadequacy of being in a position having to buy a "poor" house; I wasn't prepared for feelings of embarrassment and shame rather than pride and joy over our new house.

I wasn't prepared for the onslaught of guilt that I felt with every new weakness that I discovered: the pride we had in the home we worked so hard on that no one seemed to like, and the shame of pride that prevented me in not seeing the beauty in the ugliness of our new house we were to move in to.

I wasn't prepared to feel defensive and angry around everyone who seemed "better" than me; the people in my very family. I wasn't prepared to be so sensitive that I couldn't handle any remark or comment that someone made about me personally or the house, well-intentioned or not.

I just wasn't prepared for any of this stress; I wasn't prepared that stress can bring out the ugly hurts that were buried deep within you, and I wasn't prepared to be so weak in a time when I feel like I should be strong.

The great thing about this is all it has done is drive me back into prayer.

My only escape from the constant confusion of my emotions was to focus on someone else. At this time, it was Ben--the little boy that I keep talking about on facebook. He was a vibrant and cute little 4 year old boy who had been diagnosed with a brain tumor this past January. Up until then, he had been like any other active and fun-loving little boy who loved to stand on his head and look for frogs.

In February, his tumor was diagnosed as cancerous and he was given only weeks to live. This is when his mother began her blog, and this is when I, and thousands of others, began to follow it. 

The doctors couldn't do anything for Ben; the location of the tumor made it impossible to remove without instantly killing him. All Ben and his family could do was wait and pray for a miracle. And so it seemed I finally had my mission and distraction from my own problems; I was going to pray for a miracle for Ben.

I had the kids pray along with me; I wanted them to learn that there is more than their own little world and that others--including children--sometimes need our help and prayer. So we began to pray for a miracle for Ben as his mother requested, but I also warned the kids that God sometimes answers prayer in a different way than what we wanted.

At first, it seemed that God might be answering our prayer; Ben had long surpassed the doctors prediction of only weeks to live and we were now at the end of March and the beginning of April. Ben was still very much alive; and although he was tired and sleeping more often, he also was still playing, walking, talking and reasoning--all things that the doctors told his parents would be impossible for him as the tumor grew larger. His mother began to hope that maybe a miracle was happening we all hoped along with her.

And then one day, on his way into his favorite restaurant with his family, Ben tripped. Ben's mother noticed that his left foot was dragging a little, hindering his ability to walk. At that time, our hearts sank and we knew that the tumor was not gone. Not only was it not gone, but it was growing larger and instead of growing up--affecting his speech and reason as the doctors had predicted--it was growing downward, growing against his spine, giving him much back pain and eventually making it impossible to walk.

So while life continued over here, with showings and a house offer and then the disappointment of rejection, Ben's parents helped me keep my sufferings in perspective as I read about how they had little time to themselves as Ben now never wanted to be alone, of how helpless they felt in controlling his pain and irritations, of how they had to carry him to sit on the toilet. Every time I felt myself overwhelmed overwhelmed by own crosses  was to put my measuring stick of sufferings against those of a little boy of 4, and mine always came up short.

My kids began to feel a little hopeless when they learned their prayers weren't "helping" Ben when I told them he most likely was going to die. I began to think maybe it was a mistake to have them pray for Ben--because all they seemed to be gaining from this experience was that God doesn't answer prayer.

I don't know how to explain this next part, how my spiritual life somehow became connected to Ben. It was as though I needed his suffering to get through my own; I felt so drawn to his suffering and my desire to somehow relieve it, to comfort his mother in her grief and yet never have the right words to say. We all ("we" , the people who were following the blog) held our breath over the next few days, as his mother vividly explained what was happening to Ben; that he was celebrating his last birthday, how proud he was to finally be 5 years old, how he could hardly blow out the candles.

A few days after that, Ben took a turn for the worse. His mother titled her update "The eleventh hour" and it was as though you could feel the Holy Spirit calling on all to pray.

I "dropped everything", even though life continued on normally for me. But I prayed all day for Ben. He was constantly on my mind; I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet for the dying, the prayers for the dying, and little invocations for his family in these last hours. Another day passed with no update from his mother and we all continued to pray. Finally, on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, I asked our Lady to wrap Ben up in her mantle and take him home. The next day, Ben's mom updated to let us know that Ben had his new birthday in heaven on May 13th.

I had expected to read a post that was full of sadness and even some bitterness, because there's nothing more sad than losing a child. But what I read was that right after Ben died, instead of grieving over her son, his parents instead put their other children to bed for the night, managed to bravely muster up her courage and sing "Jesus loves me" as they did every night for their children, and save them a night of sorrow so that they might have a good nights sleep. How did she do it??? How did you do it, Mindy???

It was only after their children were sleeping that they allowed themselves to grieve openly.  His parents unselfish love for their children really hit home for me in ways they will never know.

My tears of course were falling as I read of Ben's passing, wondering how on earth I could be so affected by a little boy I didn't even know.

Lucy's tears also fell as I told her that Ben died and she asked, "Why didn't God answer our prayer? Why didn't He let him live?"

I told her:

God did answer our prayer. He let Ben live for months, not weeks. He gave his family more time with Ben other earth, letting him talk, laugh and reason all the way to the last day, giving his family more memories.  He let Ben celebrate his 5th birthday like he always wanted. He freed Ben from his pain and healed him of his tumor by taking him home to heaven with him. It's better this way, God's way is not always our way, but it is better. 

Ben touched so many people's lives; his suffering pulled us out of our little worlds of "me", his measuring stick was always longer than ours, he reminded us miracles do happen, he brought so many  back to prayer. Suffering always unites us if we share it with others. Miracles happen but they are often forgotten; death is never forgotten, it is always remembered and those who have faith through the hard times are like lights in the darkness.

His suffering helped me to look at what I have in my life, what and who I have to be thankful for; work harder to be a more pleasant person, mend relationships that have been hurt, become humbler from my errors. All this from the story of a suffering little boy.

 God answered our prayer, He said "it is better this way."

When Simon was pulled off the road to help Jesus carry his cross, it wasn't for Jesus's benefit alone. It was for Simon--a reminder to him and us that we need to share in each other's sufferings in order to bear our own; we won't always be able to save each other from the cross we bear but we can ease the suffering by walking beside them. We don't have to be alone.

I had a hard time that proved to be difficult for me both spiritually and emotionally; it is no coincidence to me that I just happened to learn of Ben and become a "Simon" with so many others at this time. I heard of everyone's stories--believers and unbelievers, people of all different faiths, coming together to help bear the burden of this little boys sufferings. Many admitted that they don't pray often but that they would for Ben. They became "Simons" and saved their own souls by sharing in someone else's burden. 

God was right, it was better this way. 

So this is how I have learned to get through suffering, to find someone whose measuring stick is longer than mine. Now Ben is gone but alive and happy in heaven and I know he is remembering family in prayer who grieves for him. His mother continues his blog; not a story of a miracle but a story of an answered prayer. I continue to follow along, still amazed and humbled by all this family has gone through but the faith that has made them survive it. All from an answered prayer. 


1 comment:

  1. Becky, you are very deep and god is working with you in a special way!