A little knowledge can paralyze you.
In one of our early conversations about the retreat, Noreen had shared the story of one of the women in their fellowship — a woman named Linda whose daughter had been murdered five years earlier. I could relate to that situation because we’d gone through that ourselves, and at nearly the same time.
Then, just a few days before I left for Texas, Noreen told me that Hannah’s mother, Lane, would be at the retreat.
I couldn’t ignore the possibilities. What if I referenced Rachel’s death and caused a pang of remembrance to Linda? What if I mentioned Hannah, and it happened to be the one second in a long day when Lane was not thinking of her?
I thought of them both during the first teaching and scanned the crowd, wondering which expectant face was the face of a grieving mother.
It wasn’t until the second day that I discovered who Linda was. She happened to be the small, happy, battery-powered woman I’d already shared several conversations with. A self-described “Pilippina” woman (and I can still hear that delightful accent), Linda had been the first to welcome me to the retreat. By the time we stood together on the balcony of one condo room at the first stop of a progressive dinner, and she began telling me the story of her daughter, I felt like Linda and I were friends.
She began first by telling me a little about her life in the Philippines, and about coming to America, and then about how her daughter had shared Jesus with her. And then she told me about the plans her daughter and her husband had for adopting a baby, and how the day before that baby was to arrive from China, while Linda’s daughter was leaning over the baby’s crib arranging a quilt, a man who had quietly broken in the house came up behind her and began stabbing her repeatedly. Sometime before or after her death, the man raped her, then set the house on fire to cover up the crime.
“Do you know what?” Linda said. “The rest of the house burned all around her, but it didn’t touch my daughter. That was God.”
My head hurt from the implications of that story. When Linda told me about the phone call she received, and the blunt message, “Linda, your daughter is dead,” I joined her in that long-ago room. I watched her fling the phone to the floor, and ran with her to the corner of that unseen room to huddle in disbelief. I felt the shattering of her heart as though it were my own, and I wondered how she ever stood up again.
“When you talked about Rachel,” Linda continued, “it did hurt. It made me think of my daughter–my only daughter. But I know she’s with Jesus.” She then told me that when he was arrested, the accused stated that her daughter had, with her last breath, told him, “Take anything you want. I love you, and Jesus loves you.”
I knew many things in the moment Linda shared that story with me. I knew that her daughter was healed and whole in the presence of the One she loved most, I knew that Linda would continue loving and serving God while she awaited her reunion, and I knew that as far as she and I were concerned, she was all right.
But I didn’t know how Lane was feeling.
The following morning, just before I gave my last teaching, I was standing near the book table in the back of the room talking with one of the young girls. As we finished our conversation, I noticed a slight woman standing off to the side, waiting. Her eyes were kind; her face, serene. When the young girl said good-bye to me and walked away, I turned to the woman.
We talked for a few long moments — about Hannah, about her children. And as I looked into those beautiful eyes, I knew a few things for certain. I knew that Lane trusted the God who was watching over her daughter, and I knew that she’d keep loving and serving Him, even though her heart was broken.
What I didn’t know was how long He’d wait to heal her.
Oh, Lord, how long? How long will You permit this injustice to stand? We trust You in Your sovereignty. We know there is a reason, and that somehow, something beautiful will rise from these ashes. Receive all the glory You can from this. Harvest all the souls You desire. Bring all the lessons possible. But soon, Lord, soon … won’t You show Yourself mighty on Hannah’s behalf?
Header photo by Dan Winters, tmdaily.com