Defining Moments

I Met God this Morning

Psychologists often debate the theory of nature versus nurture. Do children obtain their moral and psychological fiber through genetics or from their surroundings? I believe that every person has a series of defining moments that shapes their character and belief system. Defining moments are occurrences in our lives that derail us and demand a reaction. We shape our character by choosing to react with stability or with abandon. I believe this because I see two such moments in my own life.

The first event that shaped my life was my brother’s death. I was 18 when my brother was stripped from our family. There is no explanation, no rhyme nor reason, which can offer comfort at such a tragic time. He was about to turn sixteen. He had such promise. He was so vital. He was gone. I wish I could say that it was my devout faith in God that held me strong. I wish I could say that I never doubted His plan or existence. I can’t say these things. I had always thought of God as someone who rewarded the faithful and judged the sinful. I had heard countless sermons on faithful people who had piously reminded God of their years of faithful servitude and had been rewarded by Him for their faithfulness. That didn’t work for me or my parents as we stood at the grave of my brother.

I longed for release from the anger and violence that was in my soul. I felt that I could trust no one with the darkness that was in me. I continued to go to church four times a week. I sat stone faced through the services. Comfort would only come through brokenness, and I was terrified that if I ever broke I would never be whole again. What I really wanted was to close the door on all of the horrific reality and open a door to any alternative. God knows how close I came to ruining my life forever. I was floundering. I felt like I didn’t know God anymore. He had betrayed me. He had abandoned me when I had needed Him the most. He had turned His back on my family. He had become a stranger and I could not find comfort in His embrace. It was love for my parents that anchored me. They had lost one child to heaven, what would it do to them to lose their other child to sin?

One night, I was alone at home. I lay down in my brother’s bed and I began to talk to God. I did not ask for healing for my soul. Instead, I asked Him why He had forsaken me. I told Him that He had failed me and that I wanted nothing else to do with Him. The room was dark, but it got darker. I felt the air pressure drop. I heard the blinds suck against the windows. For a split second, the room was a vacuum. Void. Complete emptiness. God had honored my request and left me. I thought that was what I wanted. If He was gone, I would not feel obligated to accept this as His will and I could shut off all emotion. Then darkness pressed against my chest and held me to the bed. I knew that without God I was powerless. I could not fight these forces on my own. I began to cry. I asked God for forgiveness. All I had to do was ask. He was there. The darkness was gone.

A few weeks later a man of God approached me. He told me that God had seen me lying on the bed. He said that, like Jesus, I had asked why I was forsaken. God wanted me to know that I was not forsaken and that He had never and would never leave me. These two events turned the tide for me. I had proof now that God was aware of me.

Life did not miraculously get better. But I had learned a lesson. I could not live without my God. I understood Job’s words. If God never smiled upon me again, I loved Him. It did not matter where I fit into his plan, I needed Him. Slowly, I began to heal. And one day in prayer God gave me the wisdom I needed to heal completely.

If you’ve ever lived through violence, betrayal, or the loss of a loved one, you know that grief does not come alone. There is grief at the loss, there is guilt because you have lived and the loved one didn’t, there is hatred, a desire for revenge, a desperate despair. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know which emotion to address first. How could I mourn, despair, and seek vengeance all at once? God led me to the story of the Shunamite woman in II Kings. God had miraculously given her a son. The son died of heat exhaustion. She placed him in the room of her house that she had built for the prophet. She closed the door and she went in search of the prophet Elisha. Two times she was asked by others what her need was (once by her husband and once by Gehazi). Both times she answered that all was well and continued on to where the prophet was. She only told her son’s desperate situation to the prophet Elisha himself. This was where I learned that Godly living does not go unrewarded. The Shunamite would not have had access to the prophet if she had not made a place for him in her life. It was because of her sacrifice that the prophet was there when needed. In this passage, I also found three steps to healing.

First, you have to close the door. Like I’ve said, grief does not come alone. You cannot deal with all of the emotions at once. So shut them in that secret place that you have made for God and bring the emotions out one at a time. Mourn for your loved one. Remember them. Give thanks for the time that you had with him or her. Then you can begin to work out the other emotions. Perhaps you must fight a legal battle or learn to live alone. Maybe you are dealing with depression or guilt. These are strong emotions and they can overtake you. Choose one at a time to work through with strength and prayerfulness.

The second step is to seek Godly counsel. The Shunamite did not settle for the prophet’s servant. She took her request straight to the prophet. Take your pain and confusion directly to God. He understands. He has suffered every pain. You cannot depend upon humanity at such a critical time. The Shunamite’s own husband did not understand why she was going to the prophet. One night I went to my pastor and asked to talk to him. He told me to call his secretary the next morning and make an appointment. He did not know, but I was suicidal. I had sat all through church service with a growing sense of despair and hopelessness. People you have called friends will be too busy, too uncomfortable, to offer solace. Then there will be friends who’s “comfort” will tear your heart out. You must pray and communicate with God for yourself. Not everyone doubts God during grief, but if you do, don’t feel condemned by these feelings. They prove that you do believe in Him. Let Him comfort you and lead you to others who will offer you Godly wisdom and counsel. Don’t settle for the servant when the prophet has the answers.

Thirdly, accept the miracle. Occasionally, comfort will be found. You’ll break through in prayer. A friend will offer solace. Your pastor will give counsel. You will feel connected again. Accept it. It isn’t the cure, but it is part of the healing. Slowly, day by day, your strength will build. The pain will fade and the memories, the love you shared, will shine through again. Do not let guilt rob you of these moments. Some people get lost in the tunnel of grief. They never break through to the sunshine of life again. I believe that it is because they do not allow themselves the simple pleasures found in life. They allow guilt to rob them of the joy that can be found in a sunset, a child’s laughter, a shared moment. That is why you must accept the miracle of healing as it happens. Healing starts slowly – a grimace today, a smile next week, eventually laughter.

Don’t follow a time table. Everyone heals at different rates. For me, it was almost five years. It was not five complete years of depression. Grieving is sort of like losing weight. Little by little the ounces come off until suddenly after six months you realize that you’ve lost 20 pounds. One day you realize that you laughed at a joke. Later, you are telling jokes. Finally, you are remembering your loved one with a smile instead of tears. That’s when you realize – it happened. You made it and your character is forever defined by the faith and strength that sustained you.

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