This morning I went to a meeting of my parish pro-life group. We had as our guest speaker Darlene Ellison, one of our own co-parishioners and author of The Predator Next Door. She’s a wonderful lady, and gave a powerful talk… a very brave, very open talk. She spoke of how tragedy helped her begin to truly believe and live out her faith, and how, in looking back at her life, she could see that God had been subtly building her up to face the tragedy–and to overcome it, to grow from it. He brought new life and purpose from it. He brought understanding from it.
Although my story is very different from hers, I identified so much with what she was saying. I too re-discovered my faith in tragedy, and I too can see how God was working to build me up to face it, to overcome it, to grow from it.
This might sound strange, but when I think of the time leading up to Patrick’s death, it was almost as if I had premonitions at times–without fully realizing it at the time, of course. It’s really hard to describe. A lot of little things that sort of subconsciously or unconsciously jolted me with the message, “You won’t be able to have him with you much longer… but you will get through it… I will be here to see you through.”
The biggest thing I remember was the night when Patrick pointed out the church that was to become my parish church. Part of me deep inside knew that it was going to become my safe haven, my castle keep, my second home. Part of me was poised to flee to it, and when the awful time came, flee to it I did. Amid all the shock, confusion, and anguish, I gravitated to the Church, and to this church in particular. It was like a homing beacon had gone off.
People don’t always understand how I could regain my faith and my relationship with God in the midst of tragedy. I can see how it might seem counter-intuitive. We often hear of people losing their faith and turning against God or ceasing to believe in Him at all in response to tragedy and suffering, and we can hardly help but understand and sympathize with that.
I don’t really know how to explain it. Perhaps I never entirely lost the faith of my childhood. Perhaps there was still a tiny speck of faith left in me. Faith that informed me that suffering and tragedy bind us to the Cross–and to Resurrection. Faith that informed me that God would never abandon me. When I was a child, I often looked at this plaque my grandmother had at her house upon which was inscribed the poem, “Footprints.” Maybe that memory was a tiny seed that had lain dormant in me all those years, waiting for a moment in which to burst forth in all of its meaning. Waiting for the moment at which I would really need to know its meaning.
It was a moment that had to come sooner or later. No human being alive has any guarantee against it. And God generally doesn’t protect us from it. But He does enable us to weather the storm and then to grow–even flourish. He never fails to bring forth goodness from tragedy or from evil.
It is always good to have other people re-affirm these truths and re-affirm for me that I’m not really all that strange for gaining faith from tragedy. It emboldens me to tell my own story and give my own testimony to how very good and powerful God is.