May 26, 2014
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
Growing up, Jim Murphy dabbled in Christianity. He attended church, said his prayers, did no harm to others and lived a good, decent life. However, he would not commit his life fully to Jesus because he feared losing his personal freedom.
Today, Murphy's proudest claim is that of being a slave to God.
"All of us have a journey, and it's good for us to recount our stories because it reminds us of how faithful God has been," he said.
"I'm sure every one of us from time to time says, 'Oh God, where are you?' It's a natural human tendency. It's good to recall how far God has already brought us."
Murphy, 61, shared some of his personal journey as guest speaker at the Edmonton Catholic Charismatic Prayer Breakfast May 10 at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre.
"As a child I loved God to the degree that I understood God. But to me, God was somebody who was very far away.
"When you were with God for one hour on Sunday, it was wonderful. But when Mass was over, you were pretty much back on your own for the next six days and 23 hours."
Around age 14 he started questioning his Catholicism, wondering more about the meaning of Church and his own purpose in life. He concluded that the greatest human trait was personal freedom. He wanted to do what he wanted, whenever he wanted.
"I wasn't a bad person. I just wanted to be left alone. One thing that encumbers personal freedom is other people," he said.
In order to be free, he strove to keep others at arm's length. To let others get too close, he risked losing the freedom that he valued so much. What he did not realize is that by building walls to keep others out, he was building his own prison.
"If you ever want to go to hell before you die, just become selfish. The coldest, darkest, loneliest place this side of hell is a selfish human heart," said Murphy.
The more he tried to fulfill his philosophy of being free, the more he spiraled into discouragement and depression.
Everything changed soon after his sister Marilyn came home from college one summer. Previously a whiner, she was now peaceful, happy, relaxed and friendly. She helped wash the dishes, and she was excited to visit her grandmother, all with joy and without complaint. Her whining ways had ceased.
Murphy asked his sister about these sudden changes. She told him she had accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Lord and saviour.
He repeated what his sister told him: "We can get into trouble, but none of us can get out of trouble. It takes God to rescue us from the bad places we have foolishly gone."
Murphy liked the idea of Jesus forgiving him for his sins, but he was still unwilling to accept Jesus as his Lord. He wanted to live for himself, not for anybody else.
"Part of me was desperate to have what my sister had, but part of me was terrified to be a slave to God," he said.
The following spring, on Holy Saturday, his parents went grocery shopping in preparation for Easter. He was 17 and alone in the house. At an all-time low, he went into his bedroom and sobbed, feeling broken and without hope.
What happened next changed his life forever. Jesus entered his room.
PEACE AND LOVE
"I couldn't see him, but there was a presence that emanated peace and love. I knew it was Jesus.
"Not audibly, but crystal clear within my heart, I heard these words, 'Your whole problem is you're trying to be happy, you're trying to be free, you're trying to have your life mean something, and it's all about you, you, you. Never once have you let me in.'"
He had a vision of Jesus on the cross. He was ripped, bloody meat, and it was horrific and compelling.
Murphy's response to Jesus' love had been to go to church once in a while, say his prayers occasionally and go through the motions. Sure, he took out the garbage without grumbling, and he didn't torture cats or steal from old ladies.
Now he realized Jesus had given him everything. In exchange, Murphy was giving him a few tidbits.
Still a senior in high school, Murphy decided to surrender his life to Christ.
More than 40 years later, he admits, "I am nowhere near giving back to my friend what he has given to me."
He founded Vera Cruz Communications, which proclaims the message of God's love. The organization hosts training programs, workshops, seminars, mentoring and speaking engagements.
Murphy is the former chairman of the U.S. National Service Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and a member of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service.
He is known for his 6,400-km journey on foot across America in 1992. He carried a two-metre cross in an 18-month pilgrimage of prayer and evangelization.