More of Andy's Writing. This story is about his friend, Mike and is called: "NO DOUBT ABOUT IT"
I struggle, as I’m sure we all do from time to time, with doubt. It’s times like these when I start wrestling with God. He always wins but most times gives me a beautiful consolation prize for my efforts.
I initiated our latest contest by posing a question to God that went something like this: “I have been praying fervently, in some cases for many years, for a number of people who need healing, conversion and justice. Not only have I not seen any apparent change but, in some cases, things seem to have even gotten worse. What’s going on? Am I wasting my time? Doing things the wrong way? Or just not praying in Your Will? I know Your plan for us is perfect. I realize You can do anything. I don’t want to test You or seek a sign. I just want to know if You wish me to be doing something different.” God's answer (which quickly ended this contest) came a couple days later, just as I was returning from a “dog walk.”
I live in a very remote area and was surprised to see a van with a heating and air conditioning logo on the side drive slowly by me as I approached my home. As it stopped and backed up, I expected to be asked for directions by a lost serviceman. Instead, a man got out and asked, “Do you remember me?” Thinking for a moment, it came to me, “This was Mike, a man I had not seen in 17 years.” After confirming his identity, Mike began to fill me in on what I had missed since our last contact.
It’s best if I start by giving some background. I met Mike, via mail, while directing a faith-based transitional housing/rehabilitation program for ex-offenders. Mike had written asking for admittance into my program. From the biography he sent, I learned that his parents had died when he was very young and he had lived under foster care most of his childhood. Things had gotten even worse for him as an adult as he had just completed 21 of his 25 adult years living in prison.
During our initial face-to-face meeting, I was truly impressed and felt that Mike definitely had the potential to change, if just given the opportunity and support. The challenge would come in overcoming the cause of his previous downfalls (and five prison terms), namely, his severe crack cocaine addiction. In my experience, this is one of the most difficult and destructive addictions to overcome. But as Mike expressed his willingness in trying to change, I was willing to help.
Mike did well in the program. While he unfortunately fell (used crack) a couple times, he was always very remorseful and repentant. Over time, I came to trust him and ultimately invited him to help me renovate a "fixer upper" mobile home my wife and I had purchased down by the beach. As a reward for his efforts, I promised he could spend weekends at the beach with us. Mike jumped at the opportunity. He worked tirelessly and, enjoying his reward, spent many hours walking our beach. One day a woman, on vacation, passed him by. On her way back, she initiated a conversation that ended up lasting several hours. On Mike’s return from his walk, I could tell something truly special had just happened to him. He related his experience and the fact that he and his new friend had made future plans to continue their association.
One day, after several months of dating, Mike approached me and asked my advice. He confessed his growing interest in this woman but didn’t know how to proceed. It turned out that she was an assistant warden of a prison in Georgia (God’s sense of humor?) and he was nervous about confessing his past background as a professional inmate. After counseling him to let God work it out (which of course He did), Mike’s relationship grew until he announced his plans for an upcoming wedding. I was to be the “best man.”
But tragedy struck! Three days before the wedding, I got a call from Mike’s fiance, about three o'clock in the morning. Mike was nowhere to be found. After calming her down, I went searching, pretty much knowing what I was going to find. Sure enough, Mike had “crashed.” I would have expected the assistant warden of a prison to be more astute in understanding the situation but this was not the case. She was calling the wedding off. After hours of talking with her, however, explaining that the road to recovery is seldom a “never again” experience and that Mike’s fall was the result of the pressure he felt with the prospect of making a life-long commitment (something he had never in his life done before), she relented and agreed to go through with the marriage as planned.
And now for the rest of the story - the last 17 years: Mike now has his own thriving heating and air business with men working/driving three trucks for him. He also owns two beautiful homes (one on the beach) and a big new boat. He has not used drugs since the incident before the wedding. When I asked how his marriage was going he said, “Great!” Not only were they extremely happy but his wife had retired and now spends her time helping the poor. Mike really made my day as he explained that he has also developed a ministry that involves picking up disadvantaged children each Sunday from the outlying area, bringing them to his church where he cooks breakfast and then leads them in a bible study class.
I ended my conversation with Mike by asking, “What was it that finally led to your rehabilitation?” He explained that it was in witnessing the love my wife and I had for each other and, ultimately, his desire for that kind of life/love.
I think God finally let me win one! But was there ever any need for my doubt? I expect that God and I will wrestle again soon (I believe He enjoys it as much as I do) but, until then, I intend on doing the best I can in serving my brothers and sisters with love, through prayer and acts of mercy, but now being even more aware that the witness of my life will always speak louder than my words - and - that I will no longer doubt that God truly does hear and answer the prayers of His faithful.
Secular Franciscan Order
Ordo Franciscanus Sæcularis
Divine Mercy Fraternity
Vero Beach, FL
Term expires: 2/10/2022
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Helen Caldarone, OFS
Mary "Jean" McGovern, OFS
Jack Reddy, OFS
Donna Haro, OFS
Joanne Giordano, OFS
Fred Schaeffer, OFS
Five Franciscan Martyrs