After decades of boozing, my father finally found Alcoholics Anonymous and spent the last 25 years of his life sober. And he would never let a day pass without sharing some of his AA wisdom with us, like “Let go and let God.” Easier said than done.
Actually, it got a little annoying listening to him, probably because I preferred to complain about my problems and let them fester rather than turn them over to my “Higher Power.”
He had dozens of sayings and aphorisms he learned in AA about the importance of accepting God’s will. “Get out of the driver’s seat,” he’d advise me when my life seemed to be careening off the cliff because I was driving with my eyes closed and refused to let go of the steering wheel.
Then, he gave me a prayer card that said, “Jesus, I trust in you.” I, however, could say, “Jesus, I trust in you,” a hundred times a day, but at the end of the day, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. You see, I trust Jesus if his will is a close approximation of mine.
I recently realized yet again how miserable I am with “trust” when I had to have a biopsy. I’m ashamed to admit I failed—I didn’t fail the biopsy; I failed the “trust” test.
All my family members, friends and coworkers were praying for me, and several hundred times a day, my personal prayer went something like this, “Thy will be done. Thy will be done. Thy will be done.” Which eventually turned into “My will be done.”
Then, a month later, I had to go to the emergency room when I was stricken with a debilitating pain in my back, which fortunately, or unfortunately, turned out to be a kidney stone.
That night as I was leafing through my prayer book for inspiration, I stumbled upon the “Prayer to Accept Suffering,” along with another one appropriately titled, “Prayer to Suffer in Silence.”
That kidney stone certainly didn’t inspire silence. It inspired loud yelling and, I confess, a bit of cursing. I’d love to have the grace to find acceptance during suffering and sickness, but usually I get into one-sided arguments with God, where I do all the talking, which is pretty predictable and goes something like this:
- “Lord, I don’t think this is fair. I didn’t deserve this.”
- “Lord, a lot of people depend on me. I can’t get sick.”
- “Lord, HEAL ME!”
I told my story to a woman at the rectory when I went to have Masses offered for friends who were sick, and she reached into her purse and pulled out some prayer cards for me. One was titled,“The Divine Mercy Chaplet for the Sick and Dying.” When she gave it to me, she discreetly recommended that I “ignore the ‘dying’ part.”
Another was “A Prayer of the Sick to Our Lady of Lourdes,” who certainly knows a thing or two about miraculous healings. It said, in part, “Lord, help me to see that my illness has an important part to play in bringing me to the fullness of the person you have destined me to be. . . . Though I do not quite understand your way of directing me right now, I wish to let go of any possessiveness over my life. I surrender all the details of my present situation into your loving care.”
That just about summed up everything my father ever said to me about the importance of “surrendering.” Another favorite saying in his vast AA repertoire was “You have to surrender to win.”
The woman also gave me a prayer from Padre Pio’s spiritual adviser, which said, “O, Jesus, I surrender myself to you; take care of everything!” This priest, I thought, must have been in the same AA group as my father. Whoever surrendered his worries, difficulties and problems to Jesus would receive special care, the priest said.
I later learned that the woman who gave me the prayers was suffering from a debilitating illness. You would have never known because she suffered in silence and picked up the cross Christ had given her without complaining.
The amazing thing is that she reminded me of my mother and my father, who both had cancer in their later years and never complained. I’m convinced they were given special graces and a supernatural strength because they knew enough to get out of the driver’s seat and let go and let God.
By Joe Pisani
Joe Pisani has been a writer and editor for 30 years.