The doctors had signed the paperwork. Officially, she was gone. My younger sister Laura had come to the hospital with a burst kidney, and during surgery her heart had stopped.
This is Laura speaking: “I found myself kneeling before a figure wearing sandals, and I knew it was Jesus. In that moment I felt a hurricane force of love coming from him, a kind of love I’d never known.”
It demanded nothing from her, but in a holy alchemy; her restless heart was exchanged for stillness, a burning hunger for a sated soul, and her obsessions for a second chance at lasting peace. It was a love that gave, and gave, and gave, until she awakened a new person.
The moment marked a watershed, one from 20 years of crippling addictions, drug abuse, and suffering, to surrendering her life to God and working to help others caught in the web of self-destructive behavior. On her return, she believed the encounter was God’s gift of second chance, the moment hope was born.
Laura had walked in the shadow so long, that it became a dimmed fabrication of hope, which kept her just out of its reach. When she began to live in the hope of Jesus Christ, it nearly blinded her with gratitude. On paper, her worth is less than any of the siblings, yet her generosity surpasses us all. The force of love that swept her back into living space that day under the hospital lights, is the same love that she carries in her, and joyfully offers to anyone and everyone.
Redemption! The sovereign foundation God uses to squeeze love from life’s mistakes, crooked paths, and self-destructive leanings. From the NA tough love sponsorship she offers, to the effusive embraces she gives, her legacy is love, not a misshapen tragic figure stretched out on drugs. This is the grace of a living hope, who is Jesus.
I want to end with how my own journey took a sharp turn out of hope’s reach, and then back began after a thirty day stretch of sleeplessness. Every night that I lay awake moved me deeper into a darkness I didn’t know was possible. I remember reading during that time about a woman who could only muster the strength to hope in hope again, and that best described me. That’s where the lesson of a living hope emerged. Even though I was afraid, and angry because of this undiagnosed dis-ease, I decided to listen to Roman’s chapter 8 every night before sleep. Each time the Holy Spirit would lift the Living Word to my lips, to feed me grace, and build hope one micro thread of luminous light at a time. “There is therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The taste exploded into my parched soul. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God….” The savory morsel of words was like a cool peach on a hot summer night. “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words…” His groaning’s met my groaning, and in that nightly face off, I began to see the wisdom in my suffering, which brought a settled peace I couldn’t explain.
Not many of us will experience an out of body encounter with Jesus. We don’t all have to descend to such depths to know the warmth of hope. But life turns in unexpected ways, and we can find ourselves ‘under hospital lights,’ hope dimming. This is opportunity, not calamity. In those moments His Word will moor us to our Living Hope, and redemption, the currency of God, will forge in the furnace of our darkest hour, a faith more precious than gold, and a love more able and ready to sacrifice.
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What an amazing story of your sister! God’s redemptive work–also found in your story–is such a beautiful reminder that He’s so much closer than we can ever imagine. Love your writing.
Thanks, Dayle! My sister is the bravest person I know…and most loving. Redemption!