I invited my friend Deb over recently to share her story with me. I knew Deb from church when we used to work in the nursery together. I knew she was a neat person from our brief conversations over crying babies and toddler drama.
I wasn’t prepared for just how neat she is and how much her story was going to convict me.
Deb started sharing her story with a sly smile on her face. “I’m not sure you are going to write my story. It’s kinda crazy. I literally became a Christian in a rubber room.”
I was intrigued!
Deb grew up as a devout Catholic but her religion did not translate into a real relationship with God. For her, it was simply a list of rules that she followed. She wanted more but didn’t know how to seek God. Through several trials in her life, she began to understand that God was seeking her. She began to study the Bible and seek to really know God.
Years ago, she had problems with her husband, in Rhode Island, so she took her children and ran away to Texas. As a single mom in a strange place, she faced a new set of problems as she tried to take care of her young family far from all her support networks.
One trial during this time came from Deb taking herbal supplements. She counted on them to help her as she tried to manage all of the stresses of being a single mom. She had no idea that she could become addicted to the ephedrine that was in these supplements. The ephedrine was causing her to have severe migraines. One night her migraines became so severe that she wound up in the emergency room.
Because of the tough situation that she was already in and because she obviously was new to the area, as she lay in the hospital, one of the nurses who should have been helping her, targeted her as an easy victim for abuse…
In the course of fighting her abusers, Deb wound up being committed to a psychiatric hospital.
When she refers to this experience Deb says, “I committed my life to Christ in a rubber room.”
She was completely isolated and kept in a straightjacket. She remembers being scared to death and realizing that her life had to change.
“I prayed and said to Jesus, ‘I need you now more than I’ve ever needed you.’”
Deb had been going to church in Texas. She knew that God was calling her to a relationship with him that was based on more than just following rules. He wanted her to really know him. She was resisting until she hit rock bottom in the “rubber room” that night. She prayed and committed the rest of her life to truly following Christ. As she prayed, she remembers that she felt peace and an assurance that she was going to be OK.
The change that this experience made in Deb is evident in everything she shared. I have an intern for Sojourn Collegiate ministry living with me and we both sat in awe after we heard Deb’s story. It wasn’t all of the things that happened to her, it was her attitude. She was completely grateful for all the good in her life and saw God at work even in the hard things that happened to her.
She told her story without a single complaint or bitter word towards anyone. Before she left, she shared one prayer request with me. But even her prayer request was, “here’s a struggle in my life, but I know God is working!” It was refreshing and convicting.
She continued to share her story of the struggles she had as she moved back to Rhode Island. She describes it as an “amazing challenge” and ”God was with me all the way”.
“It was one challenge after another but looking back if I didn’t have Jesus, I wouldn’t have made it through any of it.”
Deb went on to share how her life continued to be a series of challenges that God gave her the strength to face and blessed her through them.
For example, Deb loves her job as a constable (and if you are ever served papers from the court, I hope Deb is the person that serves you! You will be blessed by her!) Deb’s eyes light up when she tells about how amazing it was that she was able to have this job while her mother was dying. Her job allowed her to have the flexibility to take her mother to all of her doctor’s appointments.
She remembers the time that her mother moved in with her family as “simply amazing.” “I got to share Jesus with her. She went to church with us and she got to know Jesus too.” Deb remembers being with her mother when she died and the incredible peace that her mother had. Her mother took a deep breath and smiled and lifted her hands up just before she passed away. Deb smiles as she relates this story because her mother knew she was going to see Jesus.
And the confident joy that Deb has translates into her everyday life too. I’m sure she has down days and I’m sure that she is human and complains sometimes, but that’s not what defines her. She is filled with gratefulness for God’s work in her life and it shows in how she relates to other people.
In her job as a constable, she prays with people when they will let her. She goes above and beyond to care for situations as needs are revealed to her. Often, the papers she serves are for credit card debt or divorce and the recipient feels they have hit rock bottom. Deb freely shares with them that there is hope and that life can go on. She is thankful that she has been there and she can relate and offer hope.
In one case, she went to the address of a man who she was trying to serve papers to. She met his mother but didn’t find the man. Later, after finding the man dead, she voluntarily went with the police to talk to the mother. And Deb is incredibly grateful that she was able to be there for the mom. She was able to stay with the mom until the man’s daughter came over and Deb broke the news to her. She has remained friends with the family and completely gives God credit for making her strong and compassionate.
As she told me the story, she happily pointed out that she is “thankful” that God had given her a previous tragic experience so that she knew how to handle finding a dead body. In her previous experience with finding a family member who had died in his apartment, she says that she came out from the apartment and immediately thanked God that none of her children had seen what she had just seen.
I’m not sure that many of us would be thankful, but it’s pretty amazing to be around someone that truly sees the good God brings from tragedies and struggles.
And true to my heart, Deb says, God does allow messes “but he gives you the ability to clean them up. He gives you the ability to have compassion for other people with everything you are going through.”
“I’m grateful for all the things I’ve gone through because I’ve learned a lot. I think, ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’, when I see anyone in any situation.”
I say all the time that “Life is messy and God is good.” But, I definitely don’t thank God enough for all the ways that he is good in my life. Most of the time, we just think of thanking God for money and comfort. Deb reminded me to thank God for his presence, his work, his guidance, and even our struggles. Her story actually made a huge impact on me. I encourage you to think about the hard times in your life and truly thank God for bringing you through them, teaching you and loving you. You will be amazed how much it impacts your attitude about everything!
Once again, I feel like my feeble attempt to share all that I feel does not do justice to the story and truth that I learned. I hope that you are inspired by Deb’s story. I hope that you understand a little bit more through her example that even though “Life is messy, God is always GOOD.”
I am a really strange mix of a hippie, Calypso, Southern Belle, Madea- wannabe, Christian with the attitude of a Rhode Islander! I’m fascinated with people’s stories, I love to laugh at life with people and I’m genuinely trying to follow Jesus’ teachings. Strangely, my search for truth often has me at odds with American Christians who believe themselves to be the guardians of this truth. I was kicked out of Sunday School as a child for asking too many questions. I learned to repress them but my questions never went away. Thankfully as an adult, I feel completely free to pursue answers. Turns out, God is pretty big and not nearly as upset with my questions as his followers tend to be!