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You are never in trouble walking with Jesus

By  Harry McAvoy, Catholic Register Special
  • May 23, 2008

{mosimage}It’s 2 a.m. It is that time of the day when a man filled with stress lays in his bed staring at his alarm clock. I ask Jesus to help me sleep, but sleep doesn’t come.  

Hope, my five year old, is asleep on the couch outside our bedroom, so the night light is on. I can see a reflection of the “Madonna of the Street” picture off a mirror in on our bedroom. I ask Mary for help. It occurs to me to sit down at my laptop to start writing.

There are probably many men and women lying awake at 2 a.m. wrestling with their life circumstances. I use to think of these night time visitors as demons. But a friend told me they aren’t demons but in fact the crosses we are called upon to carry.

Not too long ago, my career prospects zigged when I expected them to zag. It was nobody’s fault. It is just something that happens in a lifetime. But it is tough to provide for six children when your income takes an unexpected dip.   

Then for some reason my battle with arthritis decided to take a particularly nasty turn. This bit of misfortune certainly isn’t unique to me, God knows. It is still tough, though. You wake up in the morning in pain and you go to bed at night and that pain has been your constant companion.

As I write, I know of four other men, each of them fathers, who are fighting for their lives, three with cancer and one with another life stealing disease. My heart breaks for these men and their families. I pray for them often. Such tragedy has a way of wearing a man down.

When I see someone else going through hard times I wonder how they hang on. I know many people look forward to their annual viewing of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.  There is something comforting about a person having his back to the wall and then finding a way out. 

During the past year when the hard times started to close in on me, I increased my prayers. My talks with Jesus involved a bit more pleading. I also stumbled onto a pocket size version of  Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis.  For five centuries it has been the most popular spiritual book after the Bible. One day I noticed it on the floor in my basement with the cover half torn off. I picked it up and began to read.

In the days that followed, I consumed this little book. Chapter five of book three concludes with the statement, “He that loveth must willingly embrace all that is hard and bitter, for the sake of his Beloved, and never suffer himself to be turned away from Him by any contrary occurrences whatsoever.” The author’s reflection on Jesus’ unceasing love and his encouragement to focus on and imitate the life of Jesus has brought me tremendous comfort. It has helped to sustain me. It has helped me to carry my cross. 

As I think about this book a childlike thought occurs to me. Jesus is the biggest kid on the block, and Jesus loves me. When I was a teenager, I had a good friend who I thought had muscles on his muscles, maybe he did. It seemed like wherever we ventured we were OK because we had Danny with us. Now I am a man with a family to provide for and I have to venture forward whether I want to or not. God bless Danny, but now all my trust is in Jesus, and I know Jesus loves me no matter what my worldly circumstances might be. 

I decided to share this story because I know there are many parents lying awake at 2 a.m., staring at their alarm clocks. I encourage them to get a copy of Imitation of Christ, and, if it helps, remember that Jesus, the biggest kid on any block, loves them more than they can begin to imagine. They might still have trouble sleeping, but I promise, their cross will be a little lighter.

(McAvoy writes on family issues in the Toronto area.) 

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