Fresh out of medical school, Dr. Michael Norman answered a 2-line ad for a part-time job three days a week in a medical clinic to supplement his fledging private chiropractic practice in Carrollton. He managed all the medical clients and paperwork and his two bosses handled the office management and business accounts.
After less than two years this young husband and father received a subpoena to testify in a civil lawsuit brought by an insurance company against the two owners who were Taiwanese and Russian. Michael soon discovered their connection with the Russian Mafia. Shockingly, the network of multinational and multimillion dollar illegal businesses of check cashing, money laundering, staged auto accidents and insurance fraud involved hundreds of lawyers, businessmen and criminals. Michael’s signature was not only on all the medical documents but appeared on corporate documents as part owner.
He obediently testified against his employers at the deposition with the insurance company. He agreed to gather evidence and testify against his employers to help clear his name. For his cooperation he received a federal subpoena to testify in the hearing of a member of the Russian Mafia. This put him in great danger with the Mafia, but not as great as with the federal agents who soon framed him with a discovery of $300,000 stashed in a self-storage unit close to his own unit and near his private practice. He was further deceived into helping the friendly Secret Service and IRS agents allegedly on his side. They slanted his deposition as a full confession of his involvement in the Mafia crimes and warned him of a forthcoming criminal indictment: The U. S. vs. Michael Norman!
His whole life, family relationships, medical practice, finances, future and emotional stability were in limbo for 28 months in a paralysis of waiting for the indictment. He struggled with confusing choices from self-destruction to fighting back. He explored the spectrum of spirituality from New Age to a multitude of Christian organizations. He purposely avoided the Catholicism of his youth, dismissing it as outdated. At the urging of his wife Laura, he finally chose to visit a Catholic priest. When he did, “Something immediately felt different. A persuasive peacefulness seemed to draw me in.”
During bi-weekly spiritual direction he learned the Catholic theology of suffering and how to accept and carry his cross with courage, strength and dignity. “I learned that through the carrying of one’s cross and the ensuing transmission of grace, it is possible that a heroin addict on the other side of the world will suddenly find the strength to put down the needle and seek help. Similarly, a young woman across town tonight may suddenly find the courage to turn around from the abortion clinic and seek other options.”
He describes his confession after so many years as like that of the prodigal son. His Father ran to meet him halfway home. He found great consolation in daily Eucharist and developed strength, wisdom and guidance in the comfort of God’s presence as he sought to conform his life to God’s will. Once while he prayed the Rosary alone, his wife peeked into the room and saw him surrounded by angels. He clearly realized the thin distinction between good and evil. He faced the world of atheistic humanism, finding it darker than the world of the Russian Mafia. “I was finally entrenched on the side of good with truth and justice as my companions, in opposition to this world of human power complete with its repulsive emptiness.” Although certain he would soon be painfully crushed under the tentacles of the government’s power, he surrendered to the inevitable, if it was God’s will, ready for the persecution to come.
Even through his arrest and detention in jail for three he experienced an unexplainable gift of ever-increasing strength and peace that would permeate his life. This extraordinary gift steadily grew from his “plunge into the sacramental life of Catholicism.”
The hardest struggle was with his choices between accepting a plea bargain with 6 months of prison or fighting the charges and risking ten years in jail. It finally came to decision between, “ten years of honor versus a lifetime of regret.” He asserts that as you surrender even deeper to God’s will – get ready for you life to change dramatically.
The $40,000 in civil lawsuits from insurance companies required legal fees and lawyers brought financial disaster to his family. When he faltered in fighting back Laura would teach him how to stand up for himself. He experienced recurring dreams of courtroom scenes where he testified on his own behalf and calmly spoke all the right answers, resulting in his acquittal. This gave him hope, as very few people in his life were not urging him to take the plea for the sake of his family and his future. He wondered how he could he ever live up to the Michael Norman in those recurring dreams. After five years he had become the person in those dreams.
Clear evidence of divine intervention followed, as God’s grace overflowed through the open door of his life choices to seek and surrender to God’s will. His trial revealed this in everyone in the courtroom from the bailiff, court reporter, judge, jury to the prosecutor who finally threw up his hands in resignation, and in the verdict: “Not guilty” on nine counts with the tenth charge dismissed. “I learned, despite the well-orchestrated and concerted efforts of evil, that light, whenå we choose it and stand up for it, shall always overwhelm the darkness. As one person stands up for the light, others are encouraged to stand up and join the battle.”
He wrote “Unbridled Grace: the True Story about the Power of Choice” about how God unleashed his power in the life choices Michael faced. Deliberate bad choices did not cause his suffering. Not recognizing the evil in the world did. He then triumphed over evil in his good choices made through soul-wrenching anguish and deep surrender to God’s will.
(© 2012 Nancy H C Ward)