I was already awake before the alarm clock chimed. Five a.m. Time to get moving. For several months, I had made it a habit to roll from my bed onto my knees and start my day with prayer.
“Good morning, God,” I would begin. But that day I lay there thinking, “Good God, it’s morning.”
I had spent the past two hours tossing and turning with fears that made me shake alternately with fear and anger. They were familiar, but more intense. Bills, the mortgage, utilities, groceries. . . . How would I split the money this month? Who would get paid, and who would have to wait? The car needed repairs—the transmission had just died. There was a $2500 unexpected expense. I had just gotten a nice tax refund and had planned to use it for some pressing, long-delayed needs. Now, instead of having a surplus, I needed to come up with more money.
Adding to the stress were the worries that come with being a father. My daughter and seven sons are wonderful, but two of the older ones were puzzling over their future and considering the military. I had said I would support whatever decision they made, but thoughts of their being killed or wounded would not go away.
Then there was work, which was in a state of transition. New bosses and new procedures had just about everyone in turmoil. There was talk of layoffs. We had recently gone through a payless payday; now the threat of losing our jobs loomed.
No, I did not want to get out of bed. But our family has a paper route that we do seven days a week, and my wife and kids needed my help. I got on my knees, offered my prayers, such as they were, and got dressed.
Heavy Burdened. Arriving at work, I found my department already in chaos. We were short staffed again, having lost a dozen positions over the years, and our workload had only increased. It was up to me and my co-worker to figure out how to handle it. This was a daily burden. Sometimes it felt crushing. But as usual, with everyone pulling together, we made it happen.
That crisis resolved, I turned to an urgent project. Just as I was nearing the end, after meeting with fifteen different groups of people, the electricity went out. My computer crashed, and a lot of work was lost.
By lunchtime, I really needed to get away. I went out to my car, drove to a secluded spot, closed my eyes, and tried to relax. I was drifting into sleep, when suddenly I sat bolt upright. It was like I had been hit with an electric shock. Feeling an almost irresistible urge to drive, I started the car. I had no idea where I was going. Only when I made a left turn at an intersection in town did it dawn on me that I was heading toward the church.
Often in the past, I had stopped there for a quick visit and talk with God. Today I’d had no such plans, yet I found myself pulling into the church parking lot. The day was cold and dreary—a perfect match for my mood—but over at the parish school, kids on recess were running around having a great time. Watching them, I was filled with a sense of loss, a longing for simpler times. But I also had the feeling that this was exactly where I was supposed to be. After a few minutes, almost as if I were being carried by a wave, I got out of the car and entered the church.
Let’s Talk. It was empty and dark, with the dim daylight barely filtering in through the windows. I genuflected, knelt way in the back, and buried my face in my hands. My body was still, but my mind raced, replaying conversations and scenes from work. The night’s fears, the day’s tensions, the mounting demands and frustrations—it all came pressing down like a weight on my shoulders. I forced myself to begin a prayer, the Divine Praises. “Blessed be God. Blessed be his Holy Name. . . .” I didn’t get any further.
Instead I silently began to vent. “Come on, God, give me a break!” Then I let loose about everything that was on my mind, griping, begging for help, and ranting on. Finally, when I couldn’t think of anything else to complain about, I stopped and quieted my thoughts. I noticed that I no longer felt weighed down. And as I raised my head and looked around, I noticed something else.
It was Lent, and the sanctuary had been decorated to reflect the season. In past years, a rough-hewn cross and crown of thorns had been hung above the altar, temporarily replacing the usual huge crucifix with the resurrected Christ. This Lent, though, the arrangement was different. The risen Lord was still in position, directly before me. Off to my left was the log cross with its crown. In between them was the tabernacle.
As I took in the whole scene, I had a flash of insight, like a light bulb bursting into full glow. There in front of me was the whole story. I saw it all in one glance—the answer to my prayers, worries, and complaints: Jesus’ death, his resurrection, and his abiding presence! Not only had he suffered, died, and risen for me; he was right here, specially present in the tabernacle, waiting for me.
I sat back in the pew. “Do you mind if I stay awhile, Lord? I really need to talk.”
“Come to Me.” My thoughts returned to my problems, but now they were like snowflakes falling onto a roaring fire. No, I didn’t know what career decisions my sons would make, but I could trust that they were in the hands of a Father who loves them more than I do. As for the money, my wife and I would talk and prioritize, and God would see us through. After all, he had helped us through even harder times—like when we lost our home to a fire and when a son became critically ill and almost died.
The fear was gone. And in a deeper way, I understood that I can always take my pain and worries to Jesus, whatever they may be. He went to the cross and knows all there is to know about suffering. And because he rose from the dead, he shows me the light at the end of the tunnel. Always, he is waiting for me—waiting for everyone—to come to him and have a heart-to-heart talk. He is always ready to listen, support, and guide me.
I sat there for a while, enjoying the absence of stress and dread. Then, refreshed, I walked outside. It was still gray and cold, but the sun was poking out, and the tops of the clouds were tinted a beautiful blue-green. I got into my car and called my wife on my cell phone. She answered with her usual, “Hi, wonderful husband!”
I began to count my blessings.
Dennis McGeehan and his wife, Susann, have eight children and attend St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Duncansville, Pennsylvania.