The Night That Jesus Came

By Deborah Danielski

Jesus said he would come as a "thief in the night."

"Be ready," he said, "for you don’t know at what hour I’ll come."

If I’d known he was coming, I probably wouldn’t have baked a cake, but I might at least have hidden the dirty dishes and picked my socks up off the floor. But I didn’t have the chance. He came when I least expected it, just like he said he would.

I’d been ill and in pain for months. Doctors didn’t know what was wrong, or what to do for me. I’d undergone surgery to no avail. I’d read accounts of saints and mystics whose suffering served to draw them closer to God. My own personal pain had not had that effect. I wanted to keep the faith, but I was more comfortable lying down, and sitting through Mass no longer seemed worth the agony. I tried to read the Scriptures and inspirational books, but the pain killers I took made concentration impossible. By the time I got to the third word of a sentence I could hardly remember what the first word had been. Somewhere along the way my prayer life had dwindled to a couple of "Lord, help me’s" a day and once in awhile I’d remember to throw in a "Lord, help my husband, Ed, as well."

Ed had been wonderful, as he nearly always is. But working 45 to 50 hours a week, doing the shopping, cooking, laundry and all the praying for both of us was taking its toll. Keeping the house clean was falling further and further down his priority list.

So there I was that fateful night, laid out on the sofa watching TV, pretty much as I had been about 90 consecutive nights and days before. Ed had gone to Bible Study, another activity I’d long since given up. He hadn’t been gone long, when I thought I heard a car door slam in our driveway. I wasn’t expecting company and Ed wouldn’t be home for at least a couple of hours. Who could that be I wondered? I got up to look.

I was quite disturbed when I peered through the curtain to see Ed and five friends from the Bible Study walking toward our back door. What in the world did he think he was doing inviting people over now? I wondered. The house was such a terrible mess and, though I couldn’t quite remember, I probably hadn’t washed my face or brushed my hair all day long. Was it too late to hide? To run to my bedroom and pretend to sleep? Yes. They’d already seen me. I doubt they’d have gone away anyway. They had that determined look in their eyes.

One by one, Pat, Phyllis, Terry, Sara and Nicole came through the door to receive a rather unwelcome hug from me. Ed just sort of stood by and watched, knowing I’d strangle him if I could. "The house is a mess," I said as though they couldn’t see that for themselves. "Don’t worry about it," said Pat. "Come on in here and sit down."

"Grab one of those chairs," he said to Sara, who picked up a kitchen chair, hauled it into the living room and sat it back down in the middle of the living room floor, not far from my dirty socks. "Oh, no," I thought, as I realized what was coming next. "They’re going to pray for me." I hadn’t wanted their company and wanted their prayers even less. I just wanted to be left alone.

Instead, I was instructed to sit in the kitchen chair while everyone gathered around me. Two of them knelt at my sides and took my hands, Ed and the other three stood behind the chair and laid their hands on my head, shoulders and back. They began to pray for my healing. What happened next was exactly what I’d feared – nothing. I knew this was supposed to be a sacred moment and I should be "feeling" something. But God and I weren’t on very good terms at the time, and the only thing I felt was self-conscious and annoyed.

After a minute or so, Pat left the room, came back with his guitar and began to play. "Will you come and follow me, if I but call your name?" he sang softly. "Will you go where you don’t know and never be the same?" It was then that my eyes were opened, the hardness of my heart melted, and I began to cry. Pat didn’t know, but Jesus did, that He could reach me through music when all else failed. He knew, too, that though I loved Him, I’d been afraid of the unknown and afraid He would lead me there. My illness was very real, but I’d been using it as an excuse to stop following and to hide myself from Him.

Like the disciples on Emmaus Road, I hadn’t recognized Jesus at first. I’d been too caught up in myself. But like the lost sheep that I was, He loved me too much to allow me to wander through the valley alone. He sought me out and He came to me – through my friends -- to pick me up and to carry me gently back into the fold.

I wasn’t miraculously healed that night. My physical healing wouldn’t come until several weeks later when doctors diagnosed the problem and prescribed the right medication. But when I awoke the next day, I made my first morning offering in quite awhile – confidently, no longer afraid. When I turned on the TV, instead of Leeza and Quincy M.D., I tuned to Mother Angelica Live, Life on the Rock and The Way Home.

Jesus had come as a thief in the night -- to steal away my fear. He left in its place a pearl of great price.

Deborah Danielski 2000 (Published in New Covenant magazine, January 2000)

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