Friday, May 11, 2012

My Talks With Jesus

by Michael John Sullivan

For most of my 23 years, my refusal to take part in the sparring wars that happened daily at the dinner table had made me an outcast in my own family. I survived many battles by escaping to my attic room, wondering if I would ever truly find peace. I sought the answers sometimes from music, sometimes from a deep dream, many times by praying. When my mother – my protector – lost her battle with cancer and was called home by God, I knew my continued existence in our Richmond Hill house was fragile.

On a cold November night, my father asked me to leave.

It wasn’t long before my more affordable shelter was a subway token and an overnight ride on the E-train in New York City. I continued to seek employment, sometimes landing a job interview, then waiting outside by a pay phone for hours for a job offer.

While riding the trains at night, I reflected on my motives, my goals, and most importantly, my faith.

Who was Jesus Christ to me?

I thought about what He meant to me as I would sit huddled at the end of the subway car, warming my feet. I avoided eye contact with the other passengers whenever possible, embarrassed by my dirty appearance and fighting off the nausea that accompanied the realization that this was now my bedroom.

And I asked the question again: Where are you, Jesus?

On some nights, I pulled a notebook and pen out of my green garbage bag of belongings and started to write. Was there something more to my relationship with Jesus than just my reciting of the Lord’s Prayer?

On New Year’s Eve that year, as I walked through the streets I had biked as a kid, I started to cry. It was frigid and the wind spit into my face. I didn’t want to spend another night on the dangerous subway. I walked to a familiar church in the neighborhood, waited until the last service of the evening ended, and hid in the back under a pew. I waited anxiously for everyone to leave, hoping no one would notice. I felt a sense of relief as the doors were locked.

I was alone. The wind creaked eerily in the old church. The slightest sound echoed loudly, causing my heart to skip a few beats. But was I really alone?

I walked to the front of the church. There was a makeshift manger with the baby Jesus lying in a wooden cradle. I knelt beside it and wrote and wrote. I looked at the innocent baby. His life lay ahead with so much promise, hope, and dreams. I spoke softly, telling the baby how sad I was. I even picked Him up and kissed His cheek. He was so beautiful, the dim light from above shining proudly on His face. I sat there for a couple of hours and reflected. I wondered why my life had become a complete mess without any hope. I wondered if there would ever be a day where I would lie down again in my own bed, under a warm and sturdy roof, surrounded by loving people.

Then I realized who Jesus is. He was there for me whenever I needed Him.

The spiritual conversation I had during this bleak period inspired me to send my characters back in time. In my latest novel, Everybody’s Daughter, the main character, Michael Stewart travels back to the time of Christ when He was preaching. I wanted the main character to witness the Sermon on the Mount. What would Jesus say? How would the main character react? What would he say to Jesus later when they met? How would Jesus address a man of the 21st century? Would it be any different than when He had spoken to people back in first-century Jerusalem? What would it feel like spiritually to look into Jesus’ eyes and say The Lord’s Prayer with Him?

In Everybody’s Daughter, the fictional Michael Stewart is given an incredible gift – a chance to say the Lord’s Prayer with Jesus, an opportunity to speak to Him, a few minutes to visit his deceased wife and ask for forgiveness, and a chance to truly understand why Jesus was walking this same earth with us many centuries ago.

I allow Michael Stewart to honestly express his anxieties, fears, and concerns to Jesus as he struggles with his own faith and the challenges of raising a teenager daughter in modern day America.

Everybody’s Daughter allowed me to heal and regain my faith in many ways. While the fictitious Michael Stewart was taking this trip, I was alongside him for the journey, expressing my thoughts and fears, speaking to Jesus as I had done on that cold winter night inside the old church by the makeshift manger.

Michael John Sullivan is the author of Necessary Heartbreak: A Novel of Faith and Forgiveness. It was published by Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books imprint in April 2010. The Library Journal named Necessary Heartbreak as one of the year's best in Christian fiction for 2010. He recently finished the sequel, Everybody's Daughter, featuring more memories from his young adult life, including the day he walked to Forest Park as he contemplated taking his own life. Only the strains of a song prevented him from doing the unthinkable. Sullivan lives with his family in New York. He is a nominated board member for the Long Island Coalition of the Homeless.

This article by Michael J. Sullivan, author of Everybody’s Daughter, is used with the permission of TBB Media. Any reposts of this article should be credited to Michael J. Sullivan, Everybody’s Daughter 2012.
Everybody's Daughter

By Michael John Sullivan
May 16, 2012/$15.95
ISBN 13: 978-1936558445
ISBN 10:1936558440