October 23, 2009

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Do you think God can use your life more than you can?

Debra Tomaselli“Deb, how are you?”

My friends, Anna and Bill, zigzagged through the crowd as Mass ended, meeting me outside the main entrance to our church.

“OK,” I said, explaining the details of my latest visit to the oncologist.

Months before, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. Since it was discovered in its early stages, the doctors decided to monitor my condition and wait to administer chemotherapy.

In recent weeks, however, my throat hurt, my head ached and I barely mustered the energy to fix lunch for my kids, drive them to school and help with their homework. By the time they were tucked in at night, I, too, fell fast asleep.

So when I showed up for my routine oncologist’s appointment days before I was going on a prayer retreat, I feared that the doctor would prescribe chemotherapy and disrupt my plans. Despite my weakened health, I felt an urgency to attend that prayer retreat.

After listening to my symptoms, the oncologist emphasized that if I got sicker, I needed to call him immediately. I was thrilled when he scheduled my next appointment for several weeks ahead, and I left his office knowing that unless my health worsened, I was free to go.

Outside the church, Bill, himself a doctor, listened intently as I described the recent events. When I quit talking, he spoke.

“While you are away,” Bill said, “why don’t you ask the Lord if he can use your life more than you can?”

I looked heavenward, smiling at the thought of the upcoming trip, then glanced back at Bill as the weight of his words sunk in.

“Yes,” I said, “maybe I will.”

The following week, in the silence of my travels, over the blessing at breakfast, among the crowds gathered in prayer, Bill’s words surfaced repeatedly as I asked the Lord if he could, indeed, use my life more than I could.

I came home thankful for the retreat and prepared for whatever challenges my health presented.

Instead, something unexpected happened. My throat lost its hoarseness. My head quit pounding. I was able to stay awake long after the kids went to sleep. Weeks later, I was rollerblading around the neighborhood with them.

It has taken years for me to absorb the gradual changes that took place, but it happened.

Right within the walls of my own home, I listened more and talked less. Compassion and prayer replaced impatience and selfishness.

At our parish, I started a Bible study, cooked meals for the homeless and organized rosary groups. I sponsored a friend who joined our Church, and addressed young mothers on the importance of raising their kids in faith. I began writing this column.

Throughout the years, I have remained healthy and labored to draw people closer to God in ways that I could never have imagined. The answer to my prayer was clear.

Do you think God can use your life more than you can?

(Debra Tomaselli lives in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Her column appears in several diocesan newspapers. Her e-mail address is dtomaselli@cfl.rr.com.) †

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