Dignify and Deploy 36: Friends of God
“’Do you cry?’ he asked John Paul. ‘Not out loud.’”
Enduring papal leadership or creating a global network out of nothing (if it’s Tuesday it must be Nigeria) flowed from deep prayer. Unseen reliance on Jesus fueled John Wimber and Karol Wojtyla. Fatherly warmth exuded from a deep reserve, their gaze on God. No other way to lead: to conceptualize and clarify for others how to lead. Before an audience of One, Wimber and Wojtyla navigated the constant clamoring of people for leadership NOW.
Apostle-sized responsibility demanded independent thought sourced in solitude. Wimber bent over backwards to deny this. His tradition was neither Benedictine nor Carmelite. It was anti-religious pretense of any category.
He tried to be ‘everyman’ for persons who labored (mostly in vain) to secure a ‘secret place.’ He roared from the front: ‘I’ve not had a quiet time in years,’ seeking to assuage the ‘prayer-shamed.’ Carol eulogized her man as breaking fast with fast food after an hour or two of abstinence. John proudly posed as a self-declared ‘fat man going to heaven,’ a bit of a spiritual slob.
John did have a food problem that precluded master class ‘fasting.’ But he prayed without ceasing, always—as he went out and when he sought the Lord alone or with Carol. On more than a handful of occasions, as Annette and I did our part to serve the Wimbers in the last years of John’s life, he would pull us aside quietly and admit: ‘I prayed for you a couple hours last night and…,’ giving us some treasure from the deep. Yeah, some slob. He was fit as a fiddle, ready for Love. Prayerfully rereading the Gospel of Mark revived him, over and over.
Wojtyla cultivated quiet. He needed solitude to write, which he did constantly as priest, bishop, cardinal, and pope. On a small table, he set the Blessed Sacrament; this invited surrender and composure. Host-focused, Wojtyla found a consistent focus for many thoughts. He also loved to walk and pray, rosary-in-hand, and sought out chapels and churches to spend as much time as possible before the One he loved (A Witness to Hope…187, 8).
Two things both men asked the Lord: ‘What is the truth of faith that sheds light on this problem? Who can help?’ Jesus answered in quiet. They acted.
An aid to John Paul described him: ‘He could tune out the maelstrom around him, even during prolonged ceremonies, and refresh himself from some inner well: his eyes then focused into the distance as if into another world from which he derived his inexhaustible energy’ (A Witness to Hope…375).
Both men had the capacity to behold the Lamb in daily life. John’s eldest son Christopher was in the last stages of dying from cancer; John, not far behind him, had endured a host of ailments. Chris tumbled and John couldn’t help. Noting the potential for John’s pain at not being free to help, he responded to Carol, with a look of awe: ‘I see the glory of God, Carol. Think about it. Think about our whole life together. Where has God not glorified Himself?’ (The Way It Was…206)
The man who healed many and taught us all to do the same saw ‘glory’ in suffering, even the humiliation of his son. Wimber and Wojtyla saw Jesus in real life through a life sourced in prayer.
“Jesus, free us once more for the One thing. Invite us into the quiet, into deeper intimacy, into Yourself--the Source of composure, and long expected answers. Thanks for not shaming our prayer lapses but for loving us into more. You are our One Thing. We love You. Your love for us is our only claim.
Come Holy Spirit, liberate what is true and beautiful from what debases us. May we not settle but aspire to the dignity of our sexual humanity. May we grow into ‘mature expressions of the gift’ by helping others do the same. Deployed to dignify, we ‘harness the John force.’”