You’ve heard the story about the man stranded on his roof top during a great flood. A boat comes by, and the rescue worker says, “Get in!” The man waves him on saying, “I trust God to save me.”
The water gets higher, and another boat comes. The man on the roof yells, “Go on. I’m waiting for God to send a miracle.” Finally he is drowning, and a helicopter lowers a ladder for him. He does not reach for the ladder because he is sure God will save him. Of course, he drowns, and when he arrives at the gates of heaven, he sees Peter.
“Why didn’t God save me? I trusted in Him!”
Peter shakes his head and answers, “We sent you two boats and a helicopter! What were you expecting?”
In the fall of 2003 God sent me a helicopter to rescue me from the valley of grief and pain over the death of Jennifer. I didn’t realize it was from God at first and then when I knew He had sent me what I needed, I resisted and dug in my heels.
If you go back to my March post for Heart Lessons, you can see I was slowly emerging from that first painful year of grief. That summer was consumed with work on my dissertation and taking courses at Trevecca. I did not feel close to God, had some real anger towards Him, and yet was not in such a dark place anymore.
Prayer, comforting spiritual songs, journaling were absent from my daily practice. Beginning a new school year in the fall of 2003 along with the final push to complete my dissertation consumed my mind and most of my energy.
And then, as school systems can do, one staff member was promoted which caused a small shuffle in our school music dept. My classroom was across the hall from the chorus room, and in October we suddenly needed a new chorus teacher. A student teacher for our chorus teacher had graduated in May,2003 and the system hired her to teach music in an elementary school. A few phone calls and she was moving in across the hall from me.
Our 8th grade team provided her with lots of moral support as well as help moving, setting up the classroom, and I gave her materials and ideas for the one reading class she had in her schedule. She immediately fit in with our quirky team of teachers. Her instincts were sound, and she had that innate “teacher” radar to deal with discipline issues.
By now, you’re saying to yourself, “There it is — the helicopter God sent Martell.” She’s the same age Jennifer would be if she had lived, and her classroom was just across the hall from mine.
But my heart was well-guarded; there was a thick wall around it because it had been broken, shattered, and was not close to being mended. As we got to know each other, I held my heart carefully. I could not afford to give it away or extend it to someone. It took all my emotional and mental control to keep that wall up.
It wasn’t long before we had some conversations about spiritual matters. She was looking for a change in her church home. I suggested that she visit Woodmont, the church where we were members.
As a music teacher, she was fascinated and impressed with our acapella music. She jumped into church activities and was soon connecting with more people than I keep up with. We found a number of things in common, especially Christian music. Even though I had stopped listening to my CDs, she introduced me to Janet Paschal songs. Those words were able to seep into my wounded heart.
The most ironic connection was in her struggle with an eating disorder. Jennifer had decided that she wanted to use her degree in nutrition to work with girls who suffered from eating disorders. So, I learned first-hand the internal conflict of being in control. But I still kept my heart guarded.
By the summer of 2004 the dissertation and graduation were completed, and I was officially Dr. Souder.
On our last day at Trevecca I told my cohort group that I could feel God just waiting for me — that He never left me, but just waited.. This group of 24 fellow doctoral students had been on this journey with me, and their support made a huge difference in my life.
As my friendship with my “helicopter” slowly grew, I knew her presence helped me in many ways. But I just had this thought underneath it all, “Thanks God but I’d just rather have my daughter.” Like so many things God sent my way, I just continued this same argument or some variation. Has my experience made me more effective in helping others? Of course. And I knew at some point I would very possibly write about it, but I just kept resisting God’s gentle guidance.
Until someone mentioned it today, I had not realized that April 13 will arrive next Saturday. I usually pay attention to the calendar for that particular day.
Counting joys that come from reflecting back:
- God’s never failing presence and guidance in my life
- so many people crossed my path and helped me on this journey
- the opportunity to share my story, the benefits to me and to others who walk in a dark valley
- the blessing of achieving an advanced degree and all the learning that came through the process
- eleven years and the pain is no longer raw