The Moment

On a return flight from Africa, I started conversing with a man after having to switch seats.  He was a little reserved, but the conversation seemed to flow easily.  There were a lot of empty seats on the flight.

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He asked me if my trip had been for business or pleasure and I began telling him about the training that had been accomplished at the orphanage.  Intrigued, he asked more questions.  Eventually, I ended up sharing my personal story with him.  As always, I included being sexually abused and having an abortion. 

As I talked about my faith, he revealed that he too, was a Christian.

“Can you tell me something?” he asked as he lowered his eyes.  “When did you know that you were forgiven?”

“I assume you’ve been involved with an abortion?” I said, knowing it could affect men just as much as women.

I assumed wrong.

“No…,” he said, “the other…”

My heart immediately knew where the conversation was going.

Reports say that statistically, one in three women has been sexually abused by the time they reach eighteen and one in six men.  If my math skills are correct, that means almost one-quarter of the population has been sexually abused.  That would, in turn mean, that one-quarter of the population have been the abuser…

“You have sexually abused someone…” I whispered.

“Yes…” he said as one tear then another dropped.  “It was a very long time ago.  I’ve never told anyone, not even my wife.” 

He kept glancing at me, fleetingly…, sporadically, as shame enveloped his whole being.  I knew he was looking to see if there was judgment in my eyes.  He didn’t find any.

I had gone down this road with many clients.  I knew it was extremely important that I not stop gazing at him.  His heart would read a message saying, There!!!  See!!!  You think I’m a bad person.  Don’t worry, it’s only a matter of time before my own personal hell totally envelopes me.

“God knows your heart,” I said softly. “He’s been waiting a long time for this moment.  You’ve just confessed.  And He wants to forgive you.”

He closed his eyes as the tears continued to fall.

I asked if it was possible to go to the person and ask forgiveness.  “Although, I have to warn you, she may not be ready to face what has happened.”

“That’s not possible,” he said, his throat constricting as he explained why.

We sat in silence for a few minutes.

“Do you want to ask God for forgiveness?  I know you don’t think He will forgive.  I know you think He wants to condemn you.  But that’s not Him talking…  If He could forgive me of killing my own child, do you think He can forgive you for this?”

Within a few minutes, he asked God’s forgiveness as we prayed.

“We were supposed to be sitting beside each other on this flight,” I said soothingly.

“Yes…,” he said as he took in a deep breath.

Some time passed as he regained his composure.

“Can I ask you something?  Why did you reveal this to me, of all people?”

“Because, after listening to you, I knew you were safe,” he responded.

Looking back at the feelings that I had as I spoke with this man, I knew it was the moment…it was the moment I knew I had totally forgiven the person who had abused me…  I felt no anger or malice, only pity, then total compassion.  That’s why he thought I was safe…

Jumping

Since the death of my husband, Lawrence, a few weeks ago, my heart has felt a pain I didn’t think possible. 

There have been many times that it hurts so bad, I, of course, try to numb it.  But I remember other times that I have numbed pain, which led to decisions that didn’t turn out well…

A few years ago, my two daughters, three grandsons, and I, ventured off to Africa to volunteer at an orphanage located in Livingstone, Zambia.  Along with volunteering, I was asked to speak at a school.

When I finished my presentation, our hosts, Dwayne, Julie, and their children and my daughters, Jodie, Lindsey, my grandsons, and I, went to a place I had previously expressed an interest in going to—the Victoria Falls, one of the seven wonders of the world, and one of the most beautiful spots in the world to bungee jump from.

I thought I would be able to change my clothes, but there we were at the bridge with me in my “speaking” clothes, trying to determine whether I wanted to jump. Standing for what seemed an eternity, I peered into the gorge at the churning river. I asked my family for their opinion. Should I jump? Jodie didn’t have a problem with it. The boys thought it was very cool. Lindsey was not in favor and later confessed, “Mom, I was so afraid of losing you!” But I sensed something pushing me to do it.

As they were putting the gear on me, Lindsey was in tears. Alex looked like he was afraid. They were both praying. The workers asked me if I was scared. I replied, “A little, but nothing major.” As they placed what appeared to be a life jacket over my head, they asked if I could swim. I replied, yes, I could indeed swim. I put my arms out as they instructed me in the “I’m about to jump off this bridge pose.” There was no fear, no trembling, nothing.

I jumped. My eyes were open the whole time. I didn’t scream, nothing. After the first jerk of the rope, I looked around in total awe. I felt fantastic! What a rush!

Two weeks later at home, I did a lot of processing. I said to Lawrence, “There’s something about that jump. Just after I decided to do it, I got this feeling. It did not go away as they put the gear on me. It was not a foreign feeling, I’ve felt it before.”

Never had I done anything like this before, yet I recognized the feeling. I had disassociated myself from my emotions. I had become a robot. I had numbed myself. I felt nothing. It was the exact same feeling before the abortion I had thirty years before.

God multitasked in so many ways on the trip, but He wanted me to come face to face once again with the experience. He spoke to my heart. “Melony, I’m so glad you recognized the emotion. From now on, when you are in a place of feeling nothing, I want you to know it is not from Me. I wanted to take you through the sensation, so you sense even stronger the intense joy I have for you on the other side of it.”

I recognized if you can’t feel intense pain then you won’t feel intense joy either. I have never felt more alive than I did at that moment. And I could tell it wasn’t the adrenaline rush—it was God.

After the jump, as I had walked back still clad in the bungee gear, someone said, “What’s that tab on your life jacket?”

Before I could respond that I didn’t know, someone else said, “That’s the tab you pull to inflate it if you need it.”

No one instructed me how to inflate the life jacket before I jumped.

Painful, traumatic things happen in life.  Many do not recognize they have God's life jacket on, and they end up in a place of "nothingness," unaware that there is a tab on their life jacket to pull.

Does my heart hurt right now?  Of course, it does.  I married Lawrence.  When we marry, God says that we become one.  Half of me is now missing.

Am I still trying to numb the pain?  Yes.  But I'm choosing more and more to embrace It.  When the pain becomes too intense and I feel like I'm drowning, I will pull the tab, and God will be with me through it…

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I wasn't prepared...

Part of what I do involves helping people recognize and move through emotional pain in their lives.  My husband has always been what I would term a “carpet sweeper”.  “You just have to suck it up and get over it,” he would say.

That Monday morning, I received a text from my best friend.  Alden said he was awakened in the night and felt strongly he was to pray for you.  Which he did!  Just checking to see how you’re doing!  My forehead furrowed as I wondered, but I responded:  Well I was awake half the night thinking about our bathroom renos and the fundraising banquet but other than that everything is great!  Something must be going on in the spiritual realm.  Thank him for standing in the gap!

Nothing could’ve prepared me for what was about to happen.

Tuesday evening was pleasant.  We had enjoyed a glass of wine together when I arrived home from the Center, ate supper, and spoke about the day’s events.  We went to bed between 9:00 and 9:30 p.m.

At 11:40, I awoke to the howling of an intense wind that had been forecasted.  Lawrence had spent the day “battening down the hatches” in the yard.  We live on a farm.  This time of year, it is normal for farmers to burn bush piles and field straw in preparation of next year’s crop.  Sometimes you can see the bush piles smoldering weeks later, only to relight after a brisk wind.  The wind that night was more than just brisk.  It was clocking at more than 120 km. 

I just happened to look out the window and saw a wall of flames across the road about half a mile away.  “Oh my God, there’s a fire!” I yelled.  I called 911, only to hear a recording that all lines were busy.  Lawrence got up, took one look and said, “Grab your stuff and get out!”  I called two homes of neighbors, one of which happens to be Lawrence’s cousin Brian and his wife Maureen, who groggily answered the phone to the warning, “Get up and get out of your house!  There’s a fire and it’s coming fast!”  I took another look as I ran upstairs.  The flames were higher and brighter, as they licked at the darkness.  They were hungry.

What do you take when you think your house is about to burn down?  I threw on some jeans, a hoodie, flip flops, and grabbed my phone, ipad which contains family photos, medication, and chargers.

We drove out of the yard and turned to the east.  Brian and Maureen were now safe in their truck at the end of their lane a quarter of a mile away.  We pulled up beside them.  By now, we could see that the fire was going to miss our house, but it was quickly moving east.  Another neighbor was right in it’s path.  “What’s their number?” we screamed.  None of us knew it.  As we drove back to our house to get the number, Lawrence was driving slow.  “Hurry up!” I screamed at him.  “What are you waiting for!”

The glow of the flames was incredibly eerie as they leapt and continued licking at what they wanted to devour. 

I jumped out of the truck, running inside to look for the neighbor’s number.  I didn’t have my glasses on and I kept getting someone else’s answering machine.  We would have to drive and warn them. 

I ran out of the house, only to find Lawrence collapsed at the side of the truck.  Brian and Maureen had just followed us into the yard.  “Lawrence is collapsed!” I screamed.  They both rushed to his side.  Maureen has medical experience and said, “Don’t touch him!” as she felt for a pulse.  “Start CPR!” she screamed.  Brian started CPR as I tried 911 again.  The operator calmly, firmly, and quickly gave instruction.  She had to speak loudly.  The wind was so intense, you could hardly hear her.  Brian was tiring.  I took over.  “Put me on speakerphone!” she said.  My arms and hands were pumping his chest as she yelled, “One! Two! Three! Four!”  The wind howled, blowing leaves and grit, feeding the glow of the fire across the road.  “The ambulance will be there any minute!  Just keep going!” 

“Say it with me!” she said, as I started screaming with each pump, “One!, Two!, Three! Four!” 

The RCMP arrived within a few minutes and took over as we stood watching in horror.  “You can do this Lawrence!” I screamed.  “Hang in there buddy!” Brian yelled.

“Melony…” one of the officers said.  I turned around.  I knew this man.  He is a Christian. 

The ambulance arrived.  They administered the paddles, trying to shock his heart back into rhythm.  They loaded him into the ambulance, asking if he was on any medication.  “Yes!” I ran quickly into the house to retrieve it.  The officer followed me.  As I ran to get Lawrence’s meds, I could hear him praying…

Quickly, I ran back to the ambulance, asking if I could go with Lawrence.  “Yes, but you will have to ride in the front.”  Sitting there for what seemed an eternity, and getting increasingly frustrated, one paramedic said, “I’m an advanced care paramedic.  Whatever can be done at the hospital, I can do here.  I want you to know, that’s why we aren’t moving yet.”  I took a deep breath, hoping beyond hope that there was a chance that Lawrence would be ok and we would be talking about the night’s events while we drank coffee in a few days…

Finally, the ambulance started moving.  Fast.  The wind tossed it around like a toy as we drove the ten miles to the hospital.  As the paramedic worked on him, I kept looking back at Lawrence as I fumbled with my phone, desperately trying to reach all our children.

Halfway there, the paramedic said to the driver, “You can downgrade.”  In my heart, I instantly knew what those words meant, but my mind still hoped.  I looked back.  “He’s gone…” he said.

The days following have been like a bad nightmare that we wish we would wake up from.  We have a blended family.  Lawrence’s children loved and respected him passionately, and even though my children weren’t of his blood, they loved him as though he was their own father…  Me?  My heart beats so fast at times it feels as though it’s coming out of my chest.  And I waken completely startled throughout each night.  I have moved through a lot of emotional pain in my life and I thought it would’ve prepared me for this.  It hasn’t.  But God is present and has shown me signs of His presence:

  • The text from my friend

  • The RCMP officer that prayed that night.  He also prayed for the family as we sat with Lawrence’s body in the hospital afterward.

  • Praying together as a family when we went to view his body in the funeral home.  It was powerful. 

  • A one-hundred-year-old tree uprooted in our yard that night that was in a protected area.  The wind didn’t just break off limbs, it totally uprooted it.

  • The doctor had determined that Lawrence died right here at the end of our sidewalk and not in the ambulance.  He was wearing his fitbit that night.  A couple of days later, I prepared what my heart would feel as I synced it to his ipad.  And when I checked, it was clear that he died at 12:16 a.m.  I hadn’t shared this information yet with anyone until his eldest grandson, Justin Lawrence, asked me what time he died.  I was puzzled as to why he would want to know that.  My eyes and my heart stretched as he said he heard a loud bang on the side of his house that night.  He awoke and looked at his clock.  It was 12:16 a.m. 

Even though we all see God in this, it doesn’t mean that it hurts any less.  We all see him everywhere, and my heart feels a pain I never thought imaginable as I look at the spot where he died and watch the dogs search for him… 

But Lawrence isn’t lost.  He is with the Lord.  And I pray that through all of this, our family’s hearts continue searching for the love and comfort only the Lord can provide. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, you cannot love pain out of someone.  You can walk beside them as they go through it, but you cannot take it from them. 

I’m sorry my love…  We can’t just “suck it up and get over it.”  You are worth it.  Every.  Single.  Tear.  And the flame of love that I have for you will continue to burn brightly as the smoke from the pain slowly wafts its way up to the Lord as a sacrificial aroma.