by Tory Butterworth
A friend of mine saw a cartoon posted on someone's door. It shows a speaker at a convention of clergyman saying, "And now, let us pray. And for you Unitarians out there, do whatever you Unitarians do . . ."
I was raised a Unitarian. For those of you unfamiliar with the religion, not all Unitarians are atheists, but some of them sure are. My mom and dad were both agnostics, which meant (for them), "I'm pretty sure there's nothing out there but I'm not willing to stake my life on it." My mother's mother, on the other hand, was a tried-and-true atheist. She was damn sure there was no God!
I was taught as a child that Jesus was a great man but not the son of God, any more than we are all (metaphorically) sons and daughters of God. Comparisons with other great men, such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr., then ensued.
But around 30 I began questioning my agnostic upbringing, and after much personal inquiry, decided I did believe in God. And I pray. And I see results of my prayers.
I sometimes pray as the "treatment of last resort" with my clients. What do I find? That God sends answers, but his/her/its ways are still mysterious, and that they rarely work out exactly as we expect.
A case in point.
One woman, very shortly after becoming a client of mine, decided to have gastric bypass surgery (colloquially known as stomach stapling.) I have to admit, I am not able to maintain my usual professional detachment about this procedure. Among my friends, I call it, "surgical bulimia."
Still, it's not my job as a therapist to make a decision for my clients. I merely encouraged her to take her time, allow our work to progress, and consider her alternatives before she engaged in this irreversible procedure.
No go. The woman was going under the knife.
The week before the procedure, she had a big fight with the friend who was taking her to the hospital and said she was going alone (a typical pattern for her.) I spent most of a session trying to suggest alternatives, but she was adamant.
Having used up my other resources as a therapist, I prayed. I was hoping that her insurance would not approve the surgery. But God had other ideas in mind.
Three days before her surgery, my client attended her class in publishing children's books. The professor brought in a speaker to talk about the book she had written on, get this, her own gastric bypass surgery. My client later commented, "Even I saw this as a sign from God."
My client talked to the speaker after class, explaining she was having the same surgery later that week. The author asked who was going with her. When my client said, "No one," the speaker announced, "I'm going with you!"
Whenever I tell this story, people always ask how it "ended." My client completed the gastric bypass, with more personal support than she had anticipated. She lost a large amount of weight (I think it was close to 100 pounds.) This enabled her to get into a very dysfunctional romantic relationship, and she started blaming all her problems on her partner. When I suggested her own behaviors might be causing some of her problems, she ended therapy with me.
Like I say, the ways of God are not our ways . . .
Do you believe in prayer?