"I didn't want anything to do with prayer meetings. My reluctance, I think, stemmed in large part from an unwillingness to listen to someone else, especially when that 'someone else' was my wife and my children."
I came from a family with a very domineering father. He knew how to play wih us when we were children, but he never instilled in us a belief that we really amounted to much. I remember that the neighboring farmer was the first man to ever compliment me, to tell me that I did a good job at something.
As a result, I was determined to prove myself, to make good on my own. During the first years of my marriage I thought of myself as a self-made man, a guy really making sure that my life was going to amount to something, that my family was going to be well taken care of. I thought there wasn't anything, no matter how bad it was, that I couldn't somehow work through. Of course, my constant striving for success really robbed Joan and the rest of my family of my time and attention.
Eight or nine years ago, I started to go to Mass every day. I knew God then as someone to run to when I was in trouble. I also knew him as a God who kept close track of things. I thought I could make up for some of the things I had done, so going to Mass in the mornings was important to me. And God certainly worked through my experience of the Mass. I know he used it to bring me to where I am today.
After my wife's brother David was healed miraculously of a heroin addiction, she became very involved with Jesus through prayer meetings at our church and was really able to make a new and deeper commitment to God. Our oldest daughter Christie was also recomitting her life to God, but I didn't want anything do with their prayer meetings. We even had several disagreements about why I refused to take some part in what they were doing.
My reluctance, I think, stemmed from my unwillingness to listen to someone else, especially when that "someone else" was my wife and children. One night, Joan mentioned that there was going to be a Mass incorporated into the prayer meeting, and that's what the Lord used to draw me closer to him. I was really attached to the Mass, so I agreed to go with her that one evening.
What I experienced at Mass on that first evening was a deep peace within myself. Though I didn't know what it was at the time, I realized something was happening that was different from anything I'd experienced before.
As a result of the peace I felt that night, I joined Joan at one of the prayer meetings within the next week or two. I don't think I've missed one since, except when I happened to be out-of-town. Since then, God has really begun to work new and wonderful things in my life, to change me as a person.
He hasn't so much changed the circumstances around me. But he has changed me. Much to my surprise, he began by using Joan and the children to lead me closer to himself. Who would have figured that? As the man of the house, I had always thought that I had to be the one to lead the family, no matter where we were going—down the block or all the way to heaven. But God showed me through Joan and the children how much he could really love me if I'd only let him.
Over the past few years, he's changed the way I look at life. He took away a lot of that hard-driven need for success the way the world measures it. Yet, at the same time, he's allowed me to achieve things without so much effort on my own part. I'm depending on him now in everything.
He's also taught me how to listen. I can see and hear what's hurting someone else now, and what I've done to hurt them. And he's given me the ability to say, "I'm sorry." It's terrible to look back and realize that there were many years when I couldn't do that. I never told anyone I was sorry, not even Joan or the kids. Now I can say it and mean it. Our family has a much fuller relationship than either Joan or I once thought possible. And we continue to become closer every day.
I'll always remember, not long ago, sitting on the swing in the backyard with Joan. She looked me in the eye and said, "We're making it, aren't we, Jim?" After twenty-three years of marriage we shouldn't have to say that to each other, but I think it's just great that God brought us to a point where we can say it. We no longer take each other for granted, and we know how much Christ loves us.
That's the good news: that Christ first loved us. He is a very different God than I ever imagined. He's a God that really loves me. He loves Joan and every one of our children. He loves every person who comes into our lives, and he continues to show his love to us every day.
Jim of Royal Oak, Michigan
Age 46 (at the time this story was written in 1980)
president of a tool and die company
married 23 years, 4 children
(read the story of Jim's wife Joan)
How Wtness.org heard of this story: Bob Ovies, the long-time deacon of the now-closed St. Columban church in Birmingham, Michigan, shared with Bill Griffin, Managing Editor of Wtness.org, a book Bob had edited titled "New Lives". In this book was the story of Jim of Royal Oak, Michigan, who Bob knew personally in 1979 when this story was written, and knew until his recent death. In 2015, Bill contacted Jim's widow Joan, who still lives in Bill's neighborhood. She gave Wtness.org permission to reprint Jim's story.