A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


It was a miracle, really, that she was there.

At age 27, she had seen more than her share of the dark side of life.  She hadn’t done it all, exactly, but she had done an awful lot of it in her quest for a life in the fast lane.  At one point along the way she had even turned her back on God, confident that He couldn’t do anything for her that she couldn’t do for herself.

But now she wasn’t so sure.  Her family disowned her.  The men in her life abandoned her.  She lost two children, one to emotional trauma and one to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  She had been unable to find suitable employment to support the two children still living with her, and so she resorted to . . . well, let’s just say her job choice would be considered controversial.

For a while she enjoyed the tax-free dollars and the flexible working hours her “work” afforded.  But before long the horrifying reality of what she was doing to herself and her children dawned on her, and she decided to put her ill-gotten lifestyle behind her.  When her 8-year-old son expressed a desire to go to church, she decided that maybe it was time for her to return, too.

“That is, if you don’t think the walls will crumble the minute I step inside,” she said, only half-joking, during her first meeting with her minister.

The comeback wasn’t easy.  It was tough finding a legitimate job with her limited educational background and that big empty space on her resume under “Recent Employment.”  Former friends belittled her attempt and tried to entice her back into their world.  And her new support system at church and in the neighborhood was slow in responding to her needs.

And yet, there she was – in church.  She looked radiant, albeit a tad uncomfortable, in the modest pastel dress she wore.  She left quickly after the service was over, but not before glancing at her minister and giving the red brick wall next to her a sharp rap with her knuckles.

Yes, it was still standing.

Later, her 13-year-old neighbor approached the minister.  “What was SHE doing here?” the girl demanded, a surprisingly sharp judgmental tone creeping into her voice.

“Well,” the spiritual leader said, “she was . . . worshiping . . . with us.  Why?”

The girl was skeptical.  “Do you know . . . you know . . . what she does?” she asked.

This was a delicate question.  He didn’t want to add credence to any rumors.  But he didn’t want to condone a dangerous lifestyle, either.  So he dodged the issue.

“I’m just glad that she’s here.”  He paused, then added: “Aren’t you?”

“I guess,” the teenager said.  “But don’t you wonder . . . I mean, this can’t be for real.”

Or can it?  One of the best things life offers is the chance to learn from our mistakes.  Although few of us take advantage of the opportunity as much as we should, the possibility of change is always out there with its hidden promise of satisfaction, fulfillment and a better life.

Why is it, then, that the single greatest obstacle to change is often the unwillingness of others to allow us to correct our course?  Could it be that acknowledging the ability of others to make successful changes in their lives eliminates a favorite cop-out (“That’s just the way I am”) when we make similar attempts – and fail?

The fact is, we can change.  We can kick that disgusting habit.  We can eliminate that destructive behavior.  We can stick to that diet, or exercise program, or home study course.  We can become less selfish and more responsive to the needs of others.

And if we can do it, so can anyone else.  All it takes is self-determination, a willingness to sacrifice, a lot of concentrated effort and the support of family and friends.  Mix all of that together and you’ve got the makings of a miracle: the miracle of change.

And perhaps that is the greatest miracle of all.

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— © Joseph Walker

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