Last week I stumbled upon a video featuring a talk by Fr. Terry Martin on evangelism (follow link here to video at EDOW site). I listened attentively, hearing much I had heard or read before, including the Stopping the World stories, the ones that had first drawn me to Jake's place, which I later came back to from time to time. My blog began when these stories meshed together in my heart and mind with those of my husband and his family, and the Good Shepherd story he used in a sermon given not long after his mother's funeral. Both struck me as Wounded Healers, in the best sense, and I began to understand Jim in different, deeper way, finally knowing how the man and priest were one and the same.
But last Saturday, during a dark time, was the first I heard these stories told with Terry's face and voice. I listened and the tears started streaming down my face. I heard "in all things God works for good" and "God redeems the most terrible of situations," and all I could think was, "yes, sometimes, maybe for you, but no, sadly no, not for me." It was not a lack of faith or conviction of hope in a global sense, but rather an overwhelming feeling that redemption was over for me, that all that I had been through in life, good and bad, all I had struggled for, had come to nought, and had ended in a flood of despair and heartache that was choking all life from me, so that for me there simply was no hope of redemption - not ever.
This week has been full of turmoil of all kinds. Yet I awoke this morning with an odd realization: John, my first husband, was diagnosed with a Type 4 glioblastoma, had brain surgery to remove a golf-ball sized malignant tumor, was told he had less than six months to live, miraculously recovered, went into remission, and lived another fourteen years. During that time, we resolved our marital differences by separating and divorcing, and I was able to learn to love him again, recall what was best in him, and be there to support him in ways I never could have done had we stayed together.
Jim died suddenly and brutally, each step of the way during his last moments going horrifically wrong, a kind of nightmare scenario from all the medical shows we watched on t.v., which somehow ended up being eerily quiet and heartbreakingly real. In the time since, I have grieved and will continue to grieve much. But I have also come to love him more and to better know the best in him, each and every day, and he has been here to support me in some ways he never could have had we stayed together longer here on earth.
So, maybe instead of cruel irony, despite the deep despair and loss, maybe there is redemption after all. I do not believe that God engineered these events, made them part of his grand design, for the sake of my benefit, instruction, or suffering. Yet I am beginning to see that God has been redeeming this most terrible situation, for me and others. It just takes time, patience, and a willingness to listen for it.
[Note: The link to Fr. Terry's video from his website no longer works for some reason. You can still see his video talk if you go here: http://www.diobeth.org/Ministries/Evangelism/evangelism.html and scroll down to Video-Based Small Group Courses and look for the videos from the Diocese of Washington. Then if you click on the WindowsMedia link next to Terry's name, you can see it from there.]