In 2007, I worked with a nurse raised in an orphanage who was physically abused daily by her caregivers. Marie’s only childhood picture reflected a beautiful girl with curly, blond hair. Even so, the smile of joy and happiness that a child should possess was absent. The emptiness of her soul was reflected in the flat expression that told the story of a young life void of love.
Working the night shift in a locked inpatient Behavioral Health Unit was usually quiet unless we faced a patient who challenged the boundaries. It was very tranquil that night, giving us time to chat between hourly rounds. But then something unusual happened, Marie began to ask questions about God and how I coped with being alone at our stage [mid-forties] in life. After the intense conversation, we decided it was time to eat. We shared our personal reasons for caring for individuals with emotional issues who could not cope with life stressors. We laughed and agreed that we were strong women. Sharing the common interest of being book lovers, the chatting stopped as we became one with our novels.
Her question, “How do you receive love and comfort from an invisible God?” broke the silence like a window breaking into a thousand pieces. I recall praying a silent prayer asking for the help of the Holy Spirit. My answer would determine if I could prove that an invisible God really loves and cares for humanity. I opened my Bible and showed her Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, let us make man in our image, according to our likeness…. My answer was honest, “I know that we have a soul that is like a [spiritual] umbilical cord, which connects us to God.”
“But, how does God make you feel better, you are happy all of the time?” “No, I am not happy all of the time, but when I worship God by praying and singing, I feel peace and inner joy.” “But, how does that make you feel better?” I asked if I could pray with her. She agreed, and after the prayer, she told me that she couldn’t explain it, but she felt different. Sometimes we cannot or should not give a verbal answer. Prayer was the appropriate response. Thank you, Holy Spirit.
Marie’s statement, “I would like to show you what I do to release my pain.” produced the immediate thought that she would show me scars on her arms from cutting. In Behavioral-Health, cutters are frequently admitted for treatment. But I was wrong. As she handed me her cell phone, I started scrolling through pictures of art that were perfect beauty. My eyes began tearing because, in God’s infinite mercy, He gave Marie a phenomenal talent. She reiterated that she had never taken an art class. At the age of 30, she bought art supplies based on her ability to color and draw as a child. Truly, God is love.
In two weeks, I had a Church Community Health Fair scheduled and asked her if she would like to participate. “Can you teach people who can only draw stick figures how to paint something simple in 60 minutes?” She had eight students who had never picked up a brush. The fair went well, and I found out that I could paint more than stick figures. Marie worked part-time in the unit, so we did not see each other until the following week. For the first time, I saw a smile as she expressed having a great time at the fair. She shared that she had never been around people who demonstrated God’s love. Then she asked the slam-dunk question, “Did you tell your Pastor and members that I grew up in an orphanage and was abused? Is that why they treated me nice?” I reassured her that everything she shared was confidential, to which she responded, “I am not ashamed of my past nor do I keep it a secret.”
God’s timing is always perfect. In answering her question, He allowed me to share the reason why we can love others unconditionally–God is love, and we are part of the body of Christ. Because Marie experienced agape love from our members, she stated, “I believe that God does love us.” She emphasized that she was not ready to attend church, but would consider it for the future.
I share this experience because it is time for us to ask, “God, what can I do for others?” There are many “Marie’s” who are in emotional or physical pain because we are doing nothing to alleviate the suffering in our world. Every day, countless people push through the cloudy darkness of poverty, hunger, loneliness, depression, homelessness, and abuse. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:4
God does exist, and He has a special interest in His creation. The scriptures portray Jesus’ life as one of servitude. Jesus demonstrated love and compassion through acts of kindness as He taught, fed, and healed the suffering from emotional and physical illnesses. We represent Jesus Christ to a world that is suffering from the lack of love and compassion. Even Jesus’ disciples were self-centered.
When the day was now far spent, His disciples came to Him and said, “This is a deserted place, and already the hour is late. Send them away, that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy themselves bread; for they have nothing to eat.” But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.” Mark 6:35-37.
We can learn how to love others as God commands. It takes a baby step to open our eyes to see the suffering and a giant leap to actively alleviating the suffering of the human race.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Maya Angelou
Prayer: God, what will you have me to do? Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry