Emerging into God's Light
After a near-fatal medical emergency left her facing a lengthy and difficult recovery, she wondered where He had been during her trials.
Jacquelyn’s life changed completely. After talking with Tim and our friends, she decided to withdraw from college so she could stay home with Caroline. Friends from church took turns helping her, staying at the house, showing her how to care for the baby, cook and clean.
But even with their help, my illness had placed a huge burden on our family, I knew. I couldn’t stop thinking about that. The pointlessness of it. Really, God, where were you?
I put down my pen and closed the notebook. Obviously I wasn’t ready for this. I was too angry. I gazed at my hands, each finger illuminated by the golden afternoon light pouring through the windows.
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Those hands, I thought, should have been holding Caroline during her first months of life. Instead it was Jacquelyn who held her. Jacquelyn and my dear friends who bathed my baby and fed her formula and changed her and wrapped her in blankets and settled her to sleep with lullabies.
My best friend had offered to keep Caroline at her house on weekdays so Tim could work and Jacquelyn could remain a student.
When I asked Jacquelyn why she’d stayed home to care for the baby, she said, “Mom, Caroline’s an O’Connor. She needed to be with us. My voice sounds just like yours. I knew if I stayed with her she’d get used to that voice. Then she’d know you when you woke up.”
I paused now, remembering that conversation. When you woke up. I’d let those four words slip by the first time Jacquelyn said them. Now I wondered. Why did she think I would wake up?
The doctors had not been optimistic. When I suffered multi-organ failure, they’d even told Tim I likely wouldn’t make it through the night. He’d brought the kids to the hospital, telling them to think about how they wanted to say goodbye. The thought of that made me shudder.
Yet Jacquelyn never let her fears defeat her. Neither did Tim. Nor did Allison, Collin or Claire, nor anyone else who’d sat at my bedside talking to my inert body, reading aloud, praying. They believed.
Why was everyone else so sure their prayers would be answered even when all the evidence pointed the other way?
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Sitting at my desk, all I had were questions. I gazed out toward the mountains. The sun was so intense I had to squint. I sat there for a long time, the questions and doubts inside me like dark shadows cast against all that light. Would I ever be okay?
And then, so quickly and so subtly I hardly perceived it, everything changed.
I thought of Jacquelyn postponing college. Tim moving heaven and earth to be at my bedside. The kids pulling together to care for one another. Our friends, our family, our church all working around the clock to keep us fed and keep me company.
Illuminated by that gorgeous sun, all my questions suddenly turned from darkness to light.
Yes, everyone’s life was upended. But that didn’t mean God was absent. Was there any surer sign of God’s presence than the love that drew Jacquelyn to Caroline? Or the love that kept Tim at my side? Or the love that buoyed our kids and inspired our friends and our church to care for us?
God was even in my questions. I wouldn’t have been arguing with him all this time if he wasn’t there to argue with. I certainly wouldn’t be sensing him right now, here at my desk, patiently absorbing my doubts and depression like the sun dissolving shadows.
Lindsey O'Connor is the author of The Long Awakening: A Memoir (2013) from Revell Books.