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Sharon Randall: Easter stories, old and new

By Sharon Randall

This is an Easter story. I’ve told parts of it before. But sometimes, to tell a new story, you need to repeat an old one.

A few days before Easter, when I was 4, God sent me a miracle that would break my heart, fill it with joy and teach me things I needed to know.

His name was Joe.

My parents divorced when I was 2, and my mother took up with a man she hoped to marry. But when she became pregnant with his child, he left her, and we moved in with her parents.

Born premature, Joe spent almost two months in an incubator. After he was released from the hospital, my mother was told he had cerebral palsy and might never walk.

“Don’t worry,” I told her, “I’ll teach him to walk.”

“Can you teach him to see?” she said. “He’s totally blind.”

“He can’t be blind,” I said. “He smiles at my face.”

“He smiles at your voice,” she said. “He’ll never see your face.”

I began praying for a miracle, asking God to give my brother eyes that could see. I prayed for years. It never happened.

I also tried to teach him to walk, but he was too stubborn to let me. He took his first steps when he was 5. My mother called it a miracle. But it was not the miracle I’d prayed for.

When I was 10, sitting in church on Palm Sunday with Joe by my side, I heard a preacher say the miracle of the resurrection was not a one-time event. Miracles happen every day, he said, if we believe in them, and expect them.

I looked over at Joe. He was grinning. I was sure I believed in miracles. But maybe I hadn’t expected one hard enough?

“Dear God,” I prayed, “I expect this Easter you’ll give my brother eyes that can see. Sorry I didn’t expect it sooner.”

I expected hard that week. Easter morning, I ran to the kitchen. Joe was patting the table trying to find his Easter basket. Still blind.

I waved my hand in his face.

“Are you sure you can’t see?” I said. “I prayed for a miracle that God would give you eyes….”

“He did!” Joe said, swatting at my hand. “He gave me yours! Can you find my Easter basket?”

Over the years, I have prayed for all sorts of miracles. Answers have varied widely. Some were what I hoped for.

Others weren’t even close, though they often proved to be what I needed.

And for a few, well, I’m still waiting.

The miracle of prayer is not that it always grants what is asked for, but that it changes the one who prays. It turns our fears into hope, our doubts into faith, and our worries into peace.

Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers, puts it far more simply. There are only, she says, three prayers. The first is “Help.” The second is “Thanks.” And the third is “Wow!”

I pray those three prayers often. Especially the first one. I keep asking for help, for myself, for my friends and loved ones, for my country and the world.

Miracles happen everyday, not just at Easter. But this Easter — on a day that celebrates the greatest miracle of all — I’m asking for help, once again, for my brother. Not for his eyes, this time. For his legs.

Four months ago, Joe broke his ankle and spent two months in a rehab facility.

Since then, even with using a walker, it’s getting harder for him to walk.

“Sister,” he said recently when I phoned, “I’d sure appreciate you praying for my legs. They’re not working like they should.”

He fears most of all losing the independence he has fought to keep throughout his life.

“I’ll pray,” I said, “if you promise to call your doctor.”

Easter is an old story that becomes new each time it’s told, in every heart, young or old, that listens and believes and expects.

Here’s wishing you and yours an Easter filled with family and chocolate and miracles.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950 or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.

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