In the center of the University of Notre Dame campus, not far from the law school, stands a statue of Jesus with his arms stretched out and the inscription, "Venite ad me omnes" ("Come to me all") on a plaque. The simplicity of those words always filled me with a deep peace back in the days when my only worry was finals. It wasn't until May 12, 1993, the day after I completed the requirements for law school graduation, that their meaning began to take on a whole new significance.
May 12, 1993 was the day that redefined "normal." When Ingrid, not yet five months old, had her first seizure.
But more devastating than any of that, God had not come through and healed her, in spite of our frantic, all-consuming prayers. The laws of nature had prevailed as I feared they would, and I found myself standing over the precipice of a terrifying new reality.
The strange thing about evil is that we all know it's there, but most of the time it doesn't seem real because it stays at a safe enough distance. Theologians write countless books on The Problem of Evil, trying to make sense of it. But when it encroaches on your personal space for the first time, when the knowledge of evil becomes part of the fiber of your soul, explanations mean nothing. The safety rails are off and you realize the magnitude of the stakes. A place called Hell could really exist, because you've been there.
My first reaction when Ingrid wasn't healed was, "So God isn't real after all. We're in this nightmare all alone." I had no explanation--no defense of God. Watching Ingrid having a seizure was like standing by as wild dogs tore my baby apart. How could God allow that? My worldview was shattered.
But I was even more shattered. I started having panic attacks, and darkness hung like a curtain around me. The only way I could get through the day was by leaning more heavily than ever on the God whose existence no longer seemed intellectually credible.
And he was there, more real than ever before. He told me to lay down the burden, to stop praying for Ingrid so obsessively and come. Come without asking for anything except his presence. Surrender everything at his altar. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
I clung to him like never before, releasing everything into his hands--Ingrid, my precarious mental state, and my faltering faith. His light spilled into my life, more powerful than ever, filling me with a joy and peace that could only be supernatural. The darkness that had lurked in every corner fled at his presence, and the panic attacks disappeared and never came back.
A few days later, an untried combination of medications stopped Ingrid's seizures enough to bring us out of crisis mode. And God began to rebuild our family's life.