Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tolerable Blessings

The title of this blog was not lightly chosen. It’s rooted in a difficult acceptance of God’s call to holiness that continues in the lives of me and my wife.

To put things I context, my wife has a genetic disease with which she was diagnosed just one year into our marriage. She was 22 and I was 24 years old. The disease causes the growth of both brain and spinal tumors, particularly tumors that grow on acoustic nerves, that is, the nerves that control hearing. The first year of dealing with this disease was the most difficult, both emotionally and medically. Things were not looking good, but in the midst of it, we experienced amazing blessings that surpass our ability to explain naturally. The following is one such blessing:

At one point in her illness during the first year of dealing with it, she had been in the hospital for six months. Brain tumors had taken away nearly everything. She became, and still is, completely deaf. In addition to this, her eyes were crossing, so she was nearly functionally blind. I had been worrying about Beth feeling isolated within her deafness. On top of this, her eyesight was bad, so she was unable to read her Bible, nor could she hear me when I prayed with her. So it was just her and God.

I always did my best to encourage her, but I knew God could do a much better job. I began praying that He would encourage her in a way that she could really sense. In fact, I specifically requested that it be through a dream, since she can hear in her dreams. I never told Beth about this prayer. It never even crossed my mind to do so. Also at this time I was reading a book about St. Teresa of Avila (a Carmelite nun of the 15th century who wore a black and brown habit) and learning a great deal about her prayer life, one characterized by silence and meditation. In fact, I was working my way through another book titled Conversation with Christ, which is basically an instruction in the method of prayer according to St. Teresa of Avila. These two books motivated me to enter into a new phase of my spiritual life – meditation. Beth saw neither of these books, because I never brought them with me to the hospital.

I began reminding myself of the necessity of being silent. In fact, I would remind myself to pray this way with these words: “I need to be silent to allow God to speak to me.” This, too, was something I did not mention to Beth. It didn’t seem necessary, but approximately three weeks after I began praying for her and meditating according to the method of St. Teresa of Avila, I went to see her in her hospital room at New Orleans. She immediately said to me as I entered the room, “Pull the curtain. I have to tell you about a dream I had last night.” I pulled the curtain, and she said, “I dreamed I was speaking to a nun in a black habit, and I told her that I felt like I was far away from God and that I wasn’t praying like I should. The nun told me, ‘Don’t worry. Just be silent and allow God to speak to you.”

That this was the answer to my prayer was unmistakable.

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