About five years ago it seemed like a lot of things in my life started to go wrong. My daughter Keziah become very ill with a condition called HSP (Henoch-Schonlein Purpura), my son Daniel broke his leg and my youngest daughter Abigail was diagnosed with a permanent eyesight condition called Nystagmus. Soon after this my Dad got cancer and my wife Diane and I lost a baby. Work was very busy and I began to experience early signs of burnout. During this period I was diagnosed with a degenerative knee problem that would require major limb reconstruction surgery on both legs. Working on one leg at a time, this would involve breaking my leg just above the ankle and below the knee and attaching an external circular frame for a considerable length of time (a minimum of six months). The road to recovery, once the process started, would take about two years to travel.
If you know me at all or have read any of my books, you will know that I am a very active person. I used to love football, climbing and running, all of which acted as stress relief to a very busy and demanding job. I had to stop all of these things.
My faith has been shaken, not just by the state of my knees but also by other events in the last couple of years. As news of my condition spread, all of my Christian friends wanted to pray for me to get healed. Being fairly well known in the Christian world, there were lots of people who wanted to pray. To be honest, I got to the point where I wanted to pretend I had been healed because I started feeling sorry for the people praying for me. When things don’t happen you ask yourself the usual questions. What did I do wrong? Is there some big sin in my life which I haven’t repented of? How will we cope? How will the children handle it? What will happen to XLP?
So many of us have been in a place where life is confusing. We fluctuate between faith and despair. We question God but then feel guilty for questioning him. We wait for a sign, any sign, but when there isn’t one, we feel utterly alone. I find encouragement in the story of the ethicist John Kavanaugh, who visited Mother Teresa in Calcutta, looking for answers on how to spend the rest of his life. Mother Teresa asked him, “what can I do for you?” and he responded that he’d like her to pray that he would have clarity. To his amazement Mother Teresa refused. Instead she said, “clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.” When Kavanaugh commented that she always seemed to have the clarity that he longed for, she laughed and said, “I have never had clarity, what I have is trust. So I will pray you will trust God.”
Why am I launching this website and blog now? To be honest, it’s for two reasons:
- Over the last five years in particular I have been a passionate advocate for the young people we work with. Many of these young people are growing up in the context of poor housing, addiction, unemployment, exclusion and gang culture. We want to call for proper prevention strategies that are long term and not just short term fixes. While I am not as mobile as usual over the following months, I wanted to be able to continue speaking into the issues that I am passionate about. In recent years I have had lots of opportunity to speak about these issues in the media. From the radio, TV and press sections of this website you can watch or listen to me doing my best to speak up on behalf of the young people I work for. There are robust debates on Radio 5 Live on the issues surrounding fatherlessness; on Radio 4 I go head-to-head with Professor James Arthur on the topic of character-based education, and on BBC News and ITV I argue that the UK’s young people aren’t a lost generation. On the International section of the site you can watch videos about some of the most inspirational projects I have visited around the world, from young people marching through the streets of Trenchtown after a shooting, to my wonderful friends at work in Ghana. I have also included a couple of talks from festivals I have spoken at on the Speaking page.
- The second reason, to be completely honest, is that I am going to have lots of time on my hands and I realise I can’t do this on my own. We are designed to be in community and I am hoping to be able to use this space to share with my friends, so we can be on this journey together.
Five years after being told about needing surgery on my knees, my journey starts at 6.30am on Thursday 10th October 2013 as I go in for surgery. I would be grateful for your prayers.
Patrick Regan OBE
Founder and CEO of XLP