I have read A Prayer for Owen Meany four times. The last time I read it in its entirety was during a very difficult time in my life – a period in which I was wandering in the “dessert” – uncertain of my purpose in this life. I was not, at that time, a believer. I was a “physical” Christian, by which I mean that I attended church, talked like a Christian – and, to an unbeliever, I “looked” like a Christian – but Christ did not have my heart. This book, however, spoke to me – deeply – it offered the solace and encouragement that I was lacking. It reassured me – without spoiling the end of the story – that there is a purpose for every life – a Divine Purpose – one that is preordained – and that we must, every one of us, be patient in waiting.
I had not thought about Owen Meany for nearly 12 years – until this day – a day in which I find myself again lost and wandering – looking for clarity of purpose in this life. I am lost because I am out of work – searching for a job – and living in a culture in which we are defined, measured and valued by our work. No work – no value. Of course, I know this is not true, but it is a culturally imposed judgment that anyone who is unemployed – especially the long-term unemployed – experience daily and feel deeply.
We are the new lepers. In the times of Jesus – lepers were feared and shunned – they were misunderstood and thought to be cursed – many feared – contagious. Attempts were made to explain it away; those who were not afflicted could feel exempt, beyond the reach of the afflicted. So too, are the unemployed – everyone fears the loss of their job – some so deeply that they are afraid joblessness is contagious – spread through extended contact. Explanations are created to help define the reason for joblessness – laziness primarily – to make others feel that they are beyond its reach.
So what does this have to do with Owen Meany? His is a story of a life lived in the face of extreme disadvantages – poor family, difficult upbringing, multiple physical deformities – really, no advantages in a world fixated on physical prowess and pedigree. Yet, he knew from his youngest days that the Lord had a plan for him – that there was a Divine reason for everything he endured and his every attribute. He believed, completely and totally, that every single thing about his life had a purpose – he simple needed to be patient, and listen prayerfully, for it to be revealed.
This is true for all of us. The unemployed, poor, hungry, homeless, mentally ill, abused, imprisoned – you name it – so many of us are experiencing hardship that is beyond our understanding. This is made especially difficult, because in the midst of our trials – so many are thriving – experiencing material and other gifts that we can only dream of.
I was thinking about this very thing during my bible study today – when I read the following verses:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 4-7
I read, underlined it and prayed on those very lines. I was feeling discouraged, dejected, frustrated – lost. Then, two hours later I took Owen Meany off of my bookshelf, opened to the first page and saw this very verse – and I remembered the encouragement and comfort I found in the story of Owen Meany. This is an incredible book – an incredible journey. It stands as a great reminder that the challenges of this life serve to forge, mold and shape us, it is through prayer and perseverance that we endure and emerge victorious.
Be Strong. Stay Hungry. Walk Tall.