Several years ago, maybe 12 or so, I stood before the students at my church and gave my testimony. There was probably 100 people in the room; a mix of middle school and high school students along with adult leaders. I spoke with a timid heart and a quivering voice. Speaking in front of crowds was still a new and uncomfortable venture for me and the subject matter was rough. I told them of the heartache I endured when my dad left. I shared the pain of watching my mom descend into depression. And my tears fell hot as I told them of her suicide.
But I also told them of God’s faithfulness. I told them how the tears still fell sometimes and that there were days when the pain was so heavy that I wasn’t sure I could take a breath under the weight of it all but that God would remind me how to breathe. I told them that I believed there is no pain in life so great that God hadn’t felt; that he understood grief on the deepest level because he watched his own son take on the sin of the world as he hung on the cross.
While telling my story was hard, I had a burning in me to make people understand that it was more than a sad story. It was a story of healing, ongoing as it may be. It was a story of hope because God didn’t let me die in my grief and abandonment.
When I finished I was met by kids and adult who hugged me, assuring me that telling my story was the right thing to do. They thanked me and reminded me that God wasn’t finished with me yet.
And then there was one. A lady from the back of the room waited for the crowd to disperse a bit. Her face was tight and she had a forced half smile. She walked up to me and took my hands and told me that I needed more faith. She told me my tears showed my unbelief and that if I could only find it within myself to trust in God he would take away my grief. She said that if I really believed my mom was a Christian then I should be rejoicing that she’s in heaven and no longer suffering from the mental illness that Satan put upon her when my dad left.
And it is only because I stood there with my church employee name tag declaring me Tamara Lexow – Student Ministry that I didn’t claw her eyes out.
Along with other areas of healing, God has worked on my anger since then.
I think about that woman a lot. I especially think about her on days like today. This morning marks twenty years since my mom died. Twenty years is a long time to hurt and it’s a long time to heal and yet here I am, doing both.
This week has been particularly hard, with this anniversary falling on Holy Week, a week that generally wrecks my heart anyway. But this morning I can not help but think about those followers of Jesus. The men and women who had been faithful believers that he was really was the Son of God followed him for three years. They’d hung on his every word, allowed his touch to heal their bodies and their souls, and witnessed miracles like they’d never seen or imagined before. They listened to his stories, learned how to pray, and shared God’s promises coming to fruition before their very eyes.
And then they watched him die.
Did anyone walk up to them and tell them that if they’d only had a little more faith he wouldn’t have had to die? Did they question all they knew; all they had seen? I can only imagine the pain, the frustration, the exhaustion they felt on that Saturday between. The abandonment, the confusion, the loss was surely hanging over them like a wet, wool blanket. He had told them he would rise but did they get it? On that Saturday, as they sat in their pain, did they have faith?
What I wanted to say to that woman that morning that I couldn’t say because my anger was choking me was that it is only because of my faith that I was standing before her, allowing her condescending words to pierce me. It was only because God’s love for me was so great that I could stand up and tell of his goodness and his healing. It was only because His Spirit would sometimes whisper, “Breathe, Tamara” that I could take my next breath when ignorant people like her wanted to tell me what my faith should look like.
On that Saturday, one day after they watched him die and yet one day before they would realize that death could not hold him, Jesus’ friends had to have a glimmer of hope. They might not have called it hope but there was something there. They couldn’t have known what it would look like but so many of them had a tiny seed of faith that he really was who he said he was. How would he pull through?
I have days when I feel grief overwhelm me (yes, even after all these years) and I draw strength from that same glimmer of hope. That same hope that lived within the friends of Jesus lives in me.
There has to be more.
This can’t be it.
One day I will see my mom again. One day I’ll hold her hand and touch her face. One day I’ll introduce her to my children. One day there will be no more pain, no more suffering. One day we will all be together and no one will decide to leave. One day Jesus will take his followers and we will not ever shed another tear.
I can have that hope because of what his friends didn’t fully grasp that Saturday. They didn’t know that he was taking the sin of the world to the pit of hell and dropping it at the door. They didn’t know that his body was being restored and that they would see him again in all his beauty. They didn’t understand how soon they would see him again. And yet they hoped.
Today I hope, too.