My Momma believed in miracles and prayed for them often, so why wasn’t she able to pray hard enough for all my struggles and pain to magically disappear?
For the longest time, I wondered why nobody heard me. Why did no one come to my rescue in the dusky glow that summer evening? Where was Jesus in that moment? In the foggy spaces of my memory after the injustice, when I was still a little boy, we went to a spirit-filled little country church: the hand raising, name it and claim it, believe it and receive it, cross on the forehead with vegetable oil, fall out on the floor, speak in tongues kind of church where miracles happen. My Momma believed in miracles and prayed for them often, so why wasn’t she able to pray hard enough for all my struggles and pain to magically disappear?
For years, I believed exactly what this quote by Christine Caine says: “God can do in a second what you have been unable to do alone for years.”
But it only led me away from Christ.
Christine Caine has done some great work, but on this point, we differ. It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Don’t we all wish Super Jesus would swoop in wearing one of Benny Hinn’s white suits, wave a magic hanky and save the day?
We all wish for it, but unfortunately, God usually doesn’t change us or our circumstances in an instant. A friend shared a quote with me that stands out when it comes to this kind of thinking, “Ordinarily God works ordinarily.”
Covered in shame
I was molested at the age of three, but I only began to actively deal with the repercussions of that trauma three years ago. As a teenager and throughout my twenties I overcompensated, masking my pain with humour and good behaviour. Religion and pride and fear trumped healing and honesty. Yet I should have had callouses on my knees from the countless times I knelt and sobbed for God to forgive me, to re-save me and change me. I was covered in shame. When sexual abuse is your first conscious memory, an over-sexualized life is pretty common, so by the age of 13, I was heavily addicted to pornography. I even confessed my sins and filth and addiction to porn to a youth leader. Over and over he prayed and believed for the blood of Jesus to heal me, but no one ever offered any practical steps to teach me how to walk away from such a powerful addiction.
Instead, God healed me ordinarily, through intense therapy, marriage counseling, lots of reading and anxiety medications for a season. When I read something like the quote from Christine Caine, I feel frustrated. The statement gives false hope. Sure, God can magically fix your problems. But usually he doesn’t. He works through friendships, marriages, sacraments, church community, counseling, medication and qualified professionals. Microwave Jesus doesn’t typically save you from yourself.
My Father, the Lion
Shortly after I was molested, when I was shaky scared and didn’t want to be left alone, I had a recurring dream. I call it a dream because a vision for a preschooler seems a bit much, but I really feel certain I was fully awake. In it, I saw an enormous lion standing in my bedroom. Picture Narnia’s Aslan in the second bedroom of a tiny 900 square foot house. My three-year-old awe first presented like terror, but quickly I knew the lion was God, standing guard in my room night after night. The green construction paper above my bed bore my mama’s handwriting in brown Crayola marker, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.” My Father, the Lion, was always there.
The Lion didn’t make me immune to pain or exempt from the experience. He simply stood guard, making his powerful presence known to the frightened little boy on the top bunk.
There’s still a twistedness that impacts my thinking at times, causing me to feel uncertain or insecure. I still refuse to use the urinal in a public restroom, opting to wait awkwardly until a stall with a door and a lock becomes available. I always sit on the end of the church pew because I can’t stand to feel trapped. I always need an escape route in sight.
God remains faithful and present, even in the midst of our darkest tragedies. But he never allowed my pain to be cheapened by sweeping it under the rug in front of the altar. Instead of snapping his fingers and healing me in an instant, he has allowed me to name my pain and has walked through the broken places with me. God has shown me that he is present in the process. I am still uncomfortable with other men, my own peers or in intimate settings, but Jesus lingers with me as he gently restores my soul. And that is a miracle.