My wife, Jacelyn, is a pit bull when it comes to anything she knows is true, right, or necessary. When she looked out the window on a dusty, dirty road in Cambodia and saw–more clearly than she ever had–the vast need in the world, it took less than a minute for her to decide to become a doctor and be part of the solution. When we realized that we should head to China as teachers for a while, she insisted on two years instead of one, so that we could get the fuller experience. Jacelyn doesn’t just adopt, she says, “Let’s look for the ones that won’t get adopted!”. When Jacelyn decided to institute a regimen of prayer, she went full-tilt, getting up for Adoration and morning prayer for an hour every weekday from 6-7am at the Newman Center. Jacelyn is determined, dedicated, and sincere in her commitment to stay intimate with Christ. I don’t know what laurels are, but I’m pretty darn certain Jacelyn would never rest on them.
Then Jacelyn went to med school.
They say that having children changes your whole life, but that’s only true until you compare them to med school. It’s like childbirth versus kidney stones; everybody knows you always choose childbirth. Just prior to Jacelyn starting med school she was expressing her concern about how the rigorous schedule would affect her prayer life and ability to spend dedicated time with God. In a moment that mixed offhanded comment with sincerity, I said, “Well, why don’t I start praying for you?”
“Well, I could always use your prayers…” She said.
“No, why don’t I start doing your prayers? Like, why don’t I do Morning Prayer and Night Prayer in your place?”
“Well…um…can you do that?” She asked.
“I don’t see why not.” I said. “I’m supposed to bear your burdens when I can, right? And for now, you can’t pray as often as you’re used to, so let me pray FOR you. If I’ve learned anything from Samwise Gamgee, it’s that I can’t carry med school, but I can carry you! I mean, I should probably be praying more often anyway.” I should mention that whilst Jacelyn was praying for an hour every morning, I would sleep on a couch at the Newman Center. I should also note, prior to that moment–and I mean from my birth until then–my prayer life was a hit-n-miss hodgepodge of emotion, “feeling it”, and Dave Matthews lyrics. So, it was in even my best interests to make some changes in my prayer life.
Thus began the next 4 years. Jacelyn began learning, listening, and studying a minimum of 14 hours per day and I began specifically and intentionally putting in the hours of prayer that Jacelyn had been doing.
Before you skip to the comment section and unload on me about the necessity of a “personal relationship with Christ”, just pump the brakes and hear me out. I am not saying that one person’s actions can in any way simply be the equivalent of another person’s actions when it comes to relationship with God. If, as Therese of Lisieux famously put it, “…prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love”, then of course there would be no substitute for Jacelyn’s participation the equation.
However, no one’s relationship is ever merely “Jesus and me”. We receive the knowledge of God and His love from others, we learn the depths of that love through the guidance of others, we are encouraged in our own faith by others, and we are told to do the same for others. So, since it is not a solitary faith, merely vertical in nature, we do have it in our power to pick up slack when schedule’s change and be a crutch when someone is weakened. When one part of the body is weak, we are all weak; and if you choose to be strong in someone else’s weak area, they are stronger because of it. We all are, technically.
This is true of spouses to the utmost, in my opinion. My wife is not alone, not in any area of her life, not even in her relationship with God. When I committed myself to her on our wedding day, I vowed to do everything within my feeble abilities not only to strive to provide physically for her needs and to protect her, but also to make sure she is secure in God’s love for her and to act as a blocker in all areas.
Her pre-med schedule afforded her time to be the pit bull, but med school pulled out all of her teeth. So, if our lives are knit together, and we truly are one flesh, then it only made sense that I would be able to run the miles when Jacelyn couldn’t. I can strengthen my grip when hers is yanked free, because I’m not just clinging to God, I’m holding her, too.
Someday, when residency backs off a bit, Jacelyn will most assuredly find ways to re-incorporate disciplined prayer into her life and she won’t need my dedicated efforts in the same way. However, these daily times of prayer have become a fundamental part of my walk with God now, and will remain so until I decide to go to med school. So, they’re not going anywhere.
I can’t express how exciting it was to see her remain strong and steady during what has been the most rigorous and trying time in her life, physically and educationally. Her peace in frustration and grace in discouragement has been inspiring, and it was wonderful to be able to play a part in that.
You can do the same.
Add prayer time to your life for of someone who can’t at the moment.
In this time of Lent, when we trim our lives and prepare our hearts through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, why not pray for someone else, fast for someone else, and give for someone else?
In this Year of Mercy, when we are aiming to make it even clearer to this doubtful world that God is ever merciful and welcoming, why not find ways to stand in the place of the merciless, the ones who, for whatever reason, are currently at a loss as to how to be merciful? Where mercy should be shown, why not step in and show it? Regardless if it’s like paying a mortgage payment on behalf of someone who is in a coma, or more like apologizing for the behavior of a drunk friend, whom you know will be sorry at a later point, why not do it? Do for others what they cannot do for themselves.
And, why not give the breviary a chance, while you’re at it?