by Ken Rolheiser
Joy in pain and anger because God is near

At age thirty, after the doctors told her she was dying, and after her husband of five years left her, Jane Marczewski’s brain sent her signals of excruciating pain and panic. Yet she knew that she had met God and that he was at her side.

Marczweski, or Nightbirde as she is known to America’s Got Talent, still sings of her joy and hope, even though she has a two percent chance of surviving her cancer. She appeared on America’s Got Talent with cancer in her lungs, spine and liver to sing of light and hope.

Asked what her story was about, she explained, “It’s about the last year of my life.” She explains her joy: “We are so much more than the bad things in our lives.” “It’s ok, it’s ok,” she sings almost too many times to count. “It’s alright!” she repeats.

Having spent hours on the bathroom floor in pain she says, “Some people can’t see God because they don’t look low enough, and it’s true. Look lower.” God will be there with you. In her pain, Nightbirde has hope. Why? Because that’s when God is nearest.

“You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy… You are so much more than the bad things that happen to you.” God is near. He will crawl into the dirt to be near us and fill our lungs with air when we don’t know how to breathe, Marczewski says. 

Her impact on others is best seen in Simon Cowell. Often terse, blunt and merciless in assessing contestants’ talents, Cowell’s voice choked, and he was moved to tears at Marczewski’s performance. He gave her the gift of hitting the Golden Buzzer putting her through to the America’s Got Talent finale. Two days later her song “It’s OK” was number one on iTunes.

God blesses us with special saints like Theresa of Lisieux and Marczewski. Theresa believed that it was not necessary to achieve great things, but we can scatter little flowers through every little sacrifice, glance or word. These little actions are done out of love.

Theresa died at twenty-four after much illness and suffering, but she too had met God and was close to God in her conversations with him. She vowed to spend her eternity showering us with little favours: “When I die, I will send down a shower of roses from the heavens. I will spend my heaven by doing good on earth.”

There is so much we can learn from those whose special grace it is to convey God’s love and faithfulness to us. Marczewski talks about pain. God gives us pain and does not always take it away. He does give us light in our darkness. He doesn’t spare us thirst, but he brings water. 

When we are “begging, bargaining, demanding, despairing” we have more reason to be hopeful because God is drawing near to us, Marczewski says. “He doesn’t cure my loneliness, he comes near.”

And how do we achieve the seemingly insurmountable goal of finding gratitude while we suffer through life’s trials? Learn a new prayer, Marczewsk says. “It’s a prayer I don’t mean yet, but will repeat until I do.” 

From her bathroom floor where she could “scream and be ugly”, vomit until she was hollow, sob and spit with her head on the toilet, Marczweski has scattered flowers of hope because God is near. 

(577 words)