That Time I Came Home From Lourdes and Found My Simon of Cyrene

“Jesus Falls for the First Time” from the life-sized Stations of the Cross at Lourdes

My last post left off with me a blubbering mess – sunken into a jet-lagged, hormone- and stress-induced pit of despair from which only medical pharmacology was able to drag me.

Looking back, I have to laugh at myself, while also acknowledging that – yeah, I had totally legitimate reasons for falling under the weight of responsibility.

But here’s the beauty of it – even Christ fell under the weight of his cross. Three times, in fact – showing by his perfect example that we, in our humanity, can only take so much. At the same time, demonstrating the need to seek and accept help, as Christ received the help of Simon the Cyrene in carrying his cross.

I’d already been blessed by so many “Simon’s” – friends, family, and strangers who brought us meals and did my grocery shopping throughout the first several months of Ray’s recovery. Those who watched my kids so that I could be with him in the hospital or take him to therapy; those who provided a cleaning lady so I’d have one less thing to worry about; those who donated to our GoFundMe account or just randomly slipped a check into my hand; and, of course, those who lifted us up in prayer.

But this event last spring was a private cross. Whereas our entire community – and beyond – knew about the initial heart attack and brain injury, I was the only one that knew that I was caving under the weight of that same cross which had been placed on me more than a year and a half before. My family was already helping as much as could possibly be expected. They regularly watched the kids, helped with driving and meals, and more. Ray’s parents lived a half hour away, and the long drive made it impossible for them to help often.

I was on my own.

Only, I wasn’t. Duh.

First, so that I could think straight, our wonderful babysitter Hannah, came over and transformed the house into one I could at least live in. Something so simple, and yet it was enough to help me see through the mess and begin to prioritize. I turned to prayer, and the next day – once the jet lag and the anti-anxiety meds had worn off – I felt more myself. My problems weren’t resolved, but they seemed a lot more manageable.

When faced with seemingly insurmountable problems, the best Christian prayer might be as simple as “God, show me the way.” It’s one I pray often. In the immediate aftermath of that crash into self-pity I prayed, God, show me the way. His answer came in a very unexpected way – an unlikely “Simon of Cyrene.”

Going to Lourdes had set me on fire for pilgrimage. While we were there, I began to dream of being able to take each of my kids on a pilgrimage for their high school graduation. Two days after we returned home, I looked up prices. While it was actually less than the cost of going to Disney World, it still wasn’t something that I would ever be able to afford under our current circumstances.

Okay, God. I have to believe you want my children to go on pilgrimage, because I know they’d grow closer to you. If you want this, please show me the way.

And then I got an email from a pilgrimage company. My name had found its way to their email distribution list when I attended a movie night they hosted a few months before. Their offices are local, and the owner of the company happens to be a parishioner at my church. They were hiring.

A communications director.

The person needed to be a proficient writer, fluent in social media and email marketing, motivated, and passionate about helping others.

Hmmm. Interesting.

But, seriously, God, I’m sure your answer to my problem of being crushed under the weight of responsibility is not that I should get a job. 

So I left the email in my inbox and resolved to forget pray about it.

And then a friend texted me. She’d seen a job opportunity that I’d be perfect for.

Ugh. I guess I really do have to pray about this. 

And so it was that a week later I found myself in a job interview. And afterwards I sobbed because I knew I’d get the job. For days weeks I cried every time I thought about being away from my kids.

But at the same time, new possibilities opened up. Maybe I’d actually be able to pay for a little bit of therapy for Ray. Maybe I could finally hire a cleaning lady. Maybe we could take a family vacation. Surely I’d be able to send each of my children on a pilgrimage at some point in their lives if I was actually working for a pilgrimage company!

For many years, whenever money got tight, I’d pray, God, if you want me to get a job, please make it abundantly clear, and show me the job you want me to have. Every time, money would providentially appear. An unexpected check in the mail, a gift from a friend, a refund I hadn’t known was coming, the food not ringing up at the grocery store and the manager giving it to me for free. Again, and again, and again. But now, God was making it abundantly clear, and he had, indeed shown me the job. Now, I prayed, God, I think you want me to do this. If not, please close this door.

And the door opened wider. Could my “Simon of Cyrene” be… a job?

Stay tuned for the rest of the story…

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