Tara was furious with God. And desperate.
How could a good God allow so much suffering in her son?
Starting at a young age, Nicholas has suffered terribly from a variety of mental health challenges. As his diagnoses and prescriptions multiplied, his symptoms only worsened. Small gains from one medication were soon overshadowed by larger setbacks from side effects. Therapy wasn’t working. Nothing seemed to help. After two interventions to save him from suicidal ideations, all while battling her own depression and despair, Tara made a deal with God.
I was so hurt, so very angry. So I did what any petulant child would do, I offered up a deal. Make my kids whole, make them successful, happy, and independent.
I couldn’t make it easy. I had to include my daughter, I had to make it hard for God to fulfill His part, mainly because I didn’t believe it would happen. Then, I would have no obligation to believe in Him if He was impotent in relieving my kids’ pain.
If He could do what I asked, I would be open to negotiations to come back into the Fold.
Today, years later, Tara’s daughter is a happy, thriving, highly regarded business owner. As for Nicholas, he has been medication-free for five years, works in a job that he enjoys, earns good pay and benefits, owns his own home, and has skills and support for navigating the mental health challenges that remain. All of this, according to Tara, can only be described as “truly miraculous.”
Three years into this journey of healing, after both of her children were solidly on their feet, Tara’s deal with God was far from her mind. Until she got a text from an old friend she lost touch with years prior.
“Good morning Tara! Hope you’re doing well… I would love to connect with you again; I have been praying about inviting a few people to meet during Advent to share our lives and reflect on Scripture readings. I thought it would be great to get some old… friends together. I don’t know? Just following my heart… If we just meet for coffee, I would feel blessed.”
The two met up for coffee soon after. That same day, Tara wrote a blog post about her deal with God, and about her old friend’s text invitation, which she quoted verbatim. Her post ended with this:
We met today.
I told her about my bargain and that her message came at a perfect time. It felt like it was time to see this promise through.
This [blog] post, telling the world (or at least my little corner of it) about our pact, was my promise to give voice to God’s role in putting my children’s lives in order.
Negotiations have begun in earnest.
God was stirring.
Who was this friend who reached out to Tara, and what prompted her to do so?
Her name is Pia, and she had just finished a Reach More Training Group from the Evangelical Catholic. In this 12-week experience, Pia and a small group of fellow parishioners learned about Jesus’s Great Commission and their unique role to play in it. Toward the end of the training, each participant prayed about where they believed the Lord was calling them to step out in faith to deepen relationships and to spread God’s love in some concrete way.
“I was hoping to get an Advent Bible Study together,” says Pia. “I had been praying for quite a long time about just how God wanted me to do this, and I felt like he put on my heart to reach out to some of the friends I had done martial arts with years ago.” She hadn’t spoken with these women in years and didn’t know anything of Tara’s struggling children.
Yet, despite her nerves and fear of rejection, she responded generously to what God had placed on her heart. She issued several invitations like the one above.
Every woman said no.
What Pia intended as an Advent small group turned into two years of meeting weekly just with Tara. Tara quickly opened up to Pia about her sufferings, faith struggles, and her desire to consider her end of the bargain. They rekindled their friendship and went deep, still meeting to this day. Sometimes they read and pray with Scripture, sometimes they go to Adoration or Mass together, sometimes they go for walks to exercise and discuss the ups and downs of faith and life. At times they both have been in tears witnessing breakthroughs of understanding, healing, and discovery.
When was the last time you paused to listen—to really listen—to what God is putting on your heart to do? There may just be another Tara out there waiting for your text—without knowing it.