Before I began this faith journey and decided to begin a relationship with God, I saw 'religion' as a crutch something to hold people up when times were tough. For several reasons, I see it in a very different way now; this story is just one example.
Three and a half years ago while sitting at the 'Mom's table' at the Cambridge Family Early Years Centre, I met a woman named Amy. Amy was bouncing a baby girl in her arms. I asked how old her baby was and she explained that she was three months and had had heart surgery at just 6 days old.
Flash-forward 8 months, another morning at the Early Years centre, and Amy was beaming as little Brooke was crawling across the floor, just a week or so shy of her first birthday and the cardiologist had given her a clean bill of health and was ready to see her just twice a year. Life was looking good.
|Brooke 3 days before she died.|
"No" I replied.
A small newspaper clipping with her sweet face was handed to me; it was from the obituary section. She had died on Saturday, just 3 days after I had last seen her. I gasped, in shock and disbelief.
Brooke had survived open-heart surgery only to die of complications of pneumonia. They buried her on her first birthday. It just didn't make sense.
The Mom's that frequent the "EYC", as it is affectionately known, are like a family. We all share our frustrations, our triumphs and our questions about motherhood together. This incident rocked our world and made us all face every parent’s worst nightmare. We tried as best we could to support Amy through the grieving process.
What does all this have to do with this blog, our work in Brazil? Hang in there; I'm getting to it.
About a year after Brooke died I approached Amy and asked her if she would like prayer. I have to admit I was nervous asking her, although I don't hide my faith you never know the reaction you'll get when you invite someone into it. But I had nothing to lose and I knew from experience, she had everything to gain.
Amy came to my house and we surrounded and prayed for her. While we prayed, a picture came to me of Amy in a deep dark well, scared, confused and trapped. There was no light in the well and it seemed, no way out. I had the overwhelming feeling of despair.
I also felt that if she were to reach up in the darkness and trust Him, that God could pull her out of that well of sadness, that He desperately wanted to help her, after all if anyone should understand the pain of losing a child, shouldn't He? Amy said that she just couldn't trust God, she was angry with Him, and blamed Him for her daughters’ death.
A few months later, I invited her to Alpha and she politely declined.
Two more years passed, and I saw Amy occasionally when our paths would cross and most times her grief was obvious, her pain was raw and her anger hot.
After I published the first blog I got a message from Amy asking me to call her. When I did she explained that she felt stuck, that she wanted to go forward but didn't know how. She and her husband wanted to try Alpha.
Over the weeks of the course I watched an incredible transformation happen in Amy; the anger cooled, the pain was not as raw, and something incredible, I saw joy in her eyes. A light that had gone out the day her daughter died was beginning to shine again, brighter than ever before.
One of the weeks of Alpha was about hearing God speak, and half way through the evening Amy was bursting with excitement, she said she felt like God was speaking to her, that He wanted her to work with bereaved families, to help other mothers like her. Amy now had HOPE.
After three years of cyclical grief and despair, she had dramatically turned around in three short months. Amy was no longer angry with God; she had beginning to see God working something very good out of her painful loss. The healing had begun.
On the last night of Alpha we prayed for each other, and as I laid my hand on Amy to pray for her, tears sprang to my eyes. The picture I saw when I first prayed for her reappeared in my mind only now there was a light shining into the darkness; a ladder on the wall of the well and a hand outstretched waiting to pull her up out of the pit.
Although a crutch can support you when you are injured, it can't pick you up when you fall and heal your wounds. Having a relationship with God is so much more than a crutch. What I have seen God do in Amy's life and in many other lives as they have opened their hearts to Him is remarkable. He has picked them up out of the depths of despair and set them dancing.
The joy I feel when I see Amy and Victor fills me to over-flowing. It is a reminder of what God is capable of when we LET Him in, because it is a choice. Our God has so much love for us but He is not forceful-no one wants love to be received out of obligation. There are so many broken lives full of pain and suffering in the neighborhood we will work in and I look forward to introducing and inviting them into the unconditional, healing love relationship (not religion!) that God has to offer and see the miracles happen.