Obedience Tested, Obedience Strengthened

Most everyone experiences recurring dreams.  On a recent morning, after a long night at the local Urgent Care with our fifteen-year old daughter, I experienced what has been, for many years now, what I would call a “recurring grace.” Like so many Catholic mothers, I am constantly in dialogue with our blessed Savior who loves us so much as to be both our brother and our King and Lord. He often stops me in my tracks, and, as if in a sort of heart whisper, I hear through His Spirit:

The Lord teaches in all things. The Lord is teaching me something in this.

I am by no means fluent in the classical languages, but I do know that “to obey” comes from a very old word which means “to hear.” It is so simple and good to want to hear God’s Will for our lives. So simple. At times, so hard.

Back to yesterday afternoon and into the darkness of the evening. We pulled up to one of the local grocery stores after my picking up three kids at two carpools. The middle school boys were hungry and wanted Gatorades and Doritos. They jumped out of the car, and then I felt my daughter’s hand press gently on my right arm,

“Wait mom, close the door…”

Her pretty face scrunched up and the tears flowed down as she told me she had been in pain all day. Her right side was a dull throb. The pain had been with her all day.

“Okay, stay calm…” I thought to myself. “I’ll go get the boys to hurry. Be right back,” I said to her leaving her alone in the van with her pain and concern.

She is our middle child, and typical of her birth order, she is the most resourceful, the least “high maintenance” of the three Sullivan youth. Her older sister is only 19 months her senior, and when they were toddlers, I had planned to meet another friend with children the same age at Zoo Atlanta. I was squatting by the front door fastening our older daughter’s shoes and, without looking up, called out in a loud voice to tell our second daughter to go get her shoes so that I could put them on. In no time, I could feel her standing near and bent around to see a little, almost white-haired 20-month old blinking those wide blue eyes and showing me that she already had her shoes on and was ready to go.

My, how our Lord teaches us moms in these moments! Oh my, how much our dear Jesus loves us to give us the privilege of raising these children that we can only give to Him because He first gave us these miracles of His Creation along with all the graces necessary to keep up the good fight. I praise and thank the Father that over and over again, God has given me pause to live in His Presence through the sheer beauty of what it is to raise a family. Moving back in to the evening at Urgent Care, it slowly began to unfold for me that I (again!) had the privilege of accompanying a child of God through a series of “firsts.” Her first blood test; they were checking her white blood cell count for possible appendicitis…her first time to put on a hospital gown and her horrified look of having to leave the dressing room with an open back. I watched, waited and marveled as the nurse saw the look and asked my daughter, “Would you like a second gown to cover your back?”

“Yes, please.” Steady, tired, modest, beautiful. She closed the door to change in to her hospital gowns.

“Has your daughter ever had an x-ray before?” querried the nurse.

“No, she has not really been sick that much, never broken a bone, really not much trouble with her health at all…” and my thoughts drifted to the last time she was at Scottish Rite (now Children’s Health Care Atlanta), to the main hospital in the days before these wonderful interim facilities existed, she was around 19-months old and had contracted an intestinal virus that went from bad to worse so fast that I had put her in the van and in the carseat to drive her to the ER. My husband stayed home with our other daughter. I got us stuck in rush hour traffic going from the suburbs in to town, and she began to vomit blood, strapped in to the carseat with me at the wheel and no one to help.

I was not Catholic yet and was, at the time, in the parish RCIA. In the door pocket of my van there was a yellow plastic Rosary that I’d just been given in the RCIA class on the Mother of God. I grasped this Rosary and asked the Lord to please just “helicopter us out of here” and get us fast to the ER. It is the only time during my earthly pilgrimage thus far that I have seen Jesus in human form. And, I saw Him sitting there in my passenger seat, so calm and strong. I perceived the wave in his mane of brown hair and was flooded with peace and courage as He faded from my peripheral vision.

Last night, as I presented the check-in lady with our insurance card, I had told a shortened version of this occurrence, not mentioning the vision of our Lord. I had said that when we arrived to the children’s hospital that we received excellent care: a quick rectal anti-nausea was administered along with hours on IV fluids, and mercifully our beloved daughter was back on the road to health. I told the lady that had we lived in a less developed area, the lack of IV fluids would probably have led to dehydration and death; and, she then recounted a similar incident of life-saving IV fluids to her 21-year old daughter when she was but three months old. We smiled and were both quietly thankful before finishing the computer input of my daughter’s updated record.

During my morning meditation this morning, I was looking at a verse from the Psalms that I recently wrote in my prayer journal; Psalm 10:5 tell us:

His ways are secure at all times.

On this truth, we can hang our hats. Our children really do not belong to us. We are only temporary stewards of these gifts that we did not create, and we do not merit. Of course, it is normal that, all throughout their raising up, we get anxious about their wellbeing. The secret is to allow God’s graces to go about unknotting the anxieties as they form. To do this is to obey, to listen. We listen to a loving God who became man to accompany us now and into Heaven. Jesus speaks to our hearts, and now that I receive His Body and Blood, I carry Him to others so that they are hopefully not so much with me as with Him.

My husband and I, like all husbands and wives these days, face myriad uncertainties, problems and challenges…but I am listening, Lord. I am listening, and what I hear is that Your Heart, Your Ways are with us in all things. All in the earthly pilgrimage is uncertain but You.

Lord Jesus, King of souls and Lord of my heart, I beg Thee the graces necessary to hold fast to your eternal truths as I strive to joyfully persevere in my vocation as wife and mother. Thank you that this time, again, our dear daughter is well and received prompt diagnosis and treatment. Thank you also for when we are not well and when we are unsure of the future as then we see how fleeting our earthly pilgrimage is and how much we belong to You. Amen. Alleluia!



About Sara Sullivan

Sara Sullivan converted to Catholicism, as a young wife and mother, at age 33. She is married to Jerry over 20 years and mother to Maggie, Joybeth and Jay. She enjoys cooking with her husband, reading, vacuuming and sweeping pet hairs from the family’s six dogs and cats, writing and volunteering as a catechist at her parish. With great joy, she became a member of Regnum Christi in a small chapel in Cumming, Georgia, dedicated to our Lady on Christ the King Feast Day, 2008.
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