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home : opinion : perspectives

2/21/2013 9:00:00 AM
A Good Friday moment

When our six-year-old son, Nate, became ill with meningitis and encephalitis, doctors cautioned my husband and me that Nate might die. If he did survive, Nate would likely suffer some form of permanent disability.

Devastated, I pleaded with God: "I don't want Nate to die, but I can't accept it if he is permanently disabled. I just can't. Please, I beg you to heal him."

After two weeks in the hospital, Nate began to improve. We were thrilled. Surely, he would be OK? But doctors remained concerned: The muscles on one side of Nate's body were now weaker than those on the other. That imbalance indicated damage in his brain. The doctors cautioned us that the damage might resolve, or it could be permanent. Only time would tell.

As the days passed and Nate struggled to master previously easy tasks, I found myself deep within what I call a Good Friday moment: a time when God seems absent, life appears hopeless and Easter seems impossible. I escaped through work, television, alcohol - anything to help me avoid facing my fears of this illness leaving Nate permanently disabled.

A few weeks after Nate returned home, I watched a documentary titled, "Monty Roberts: The Real Horse Whisperer." The program profiled Mr. Roberts' ability to tame a wild mustang using only non-violent methods.

As a youth, Mr. Roberts worked alongside his father, training horses. His father was very brutal with the animals, which horrified the young Mr. Roberts and eventually prompted him to search for a different way to train horses. Yet Mr. Roberts acknowledged that he would never have made the effort to find a kinder, more peaceful method if his father had not been so brutal.

I found my jaw dropping and my heart opening in awe. Mr. Roberts' insight illuminated something about Good Friday that I instinctively understood, but had not been able to put into words: Good Friday is not just a precursor to Easter; it is a necessary part of it. Easter is only gained after passing through Good Friday. Take away Good Friday and there is no Easter.

I needed to face the reality of Nate's condition and enter into this Good Friday moment. I needed to trust that God would take care of my son -and me - no matter what happened. I needed to believe that Easter was coming, even if I had no idea how Easter could arise from my current circumstances. Only by passing through this Good Friday moment could I experience whatever Easter awaited me.

Our journey continued and, after many months, Nate made a full recovery. Naturally, I expressed my gratitude in prayers of thanksgiving. I was thankful for his health, but also for the powerful lesson Nate's illness taught me.

That experience helped me to truly grasp that Good Friday moments are a necessary part of the faith journey, and at those times I need to trust God, believing that Easter will come, no matter how long it takes. When I find myself overwhelmed by life's burdens and losing hope, as I felt during Nate's illness, I remind myself of the lesson his illness taught me: the seeds of Easter can only grow in the fertile soil of Good Friday moments.

(Mrs. Wiegman is a cantor and choir member at St. Kateri Tekakwitha parish, Schenectady.)

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