It was the morning after I lost everything.
I sat in my car in the church parking lot trying to decide whether to go inside. Driving over there was one thing, but the idea of going in and talking to somebody was terrifying. What was I going to say, anyway? Spilling my guts to strangers seemed crazy, but on that day I was crazy enough to do it.
What would they think of me? I’d only been released from the psychiatric hospital 12 hours ago, and I worried they would be able to tell. There was no question I was clinically depressed. It was why I admitted myself to the hospital a few days earlier. I was at the end of my rope.
It was the first time I’d ever gone inside the church. I knew it was Christian. I must have driven past it a thousand times. My kids used to go to the preschool next door. That was back when I had my kids, back before they were taken away.
When I opened the front door, a man waved at me from the other end of the long hallway. I waved back meekly and stood in my spot until he approached me. He was a young guy, maybe in his early twenties, who towered over me as he stretched out his arm to shake my hand.
“Can I help you with something?” he asked kindly.
“I’m not sure,” I admitted with tears filling my eyes. “I don’t know what to do.”
It was true. All I knew was that I couldn’t keep going down the same path, lonely and drinking too much and not able to afford to live in the cottage I rented. My family and friends were long gone, tired of seeing me make the same mistakes over and over. I was completely alone in the world.
The young man ushered me to their conference room and told me to have a seat. He left for a minute and returned with another man who looked a little older with dark hair and a big smile.
“I’m David,” the older man said. “You already met Sean.”
I nodded my head but didn’t look either of them in the face. The shame I felt was immeasurable. I started to cry, and the two men sat down on either side of me.
“I’ve lost everything,” I told them. “My two boys are with their father, and my sister-in-law took my daughter to Orlando. She said it was just so I could get myself together, but I’m afraid I’ll never see her again.”
“Why do you think that?” David asked.
“Because my life is messed up,” I sobbed. “I’m about to get evicted because I don’t have the money to pay my rent. I have bipolar disorder and can’t keep up with my medications. I left my husband because he was violent and made me miserable, but things aren’t getting any better.”
I lowered my head towards the floor, unable to look them in the eye. It embarrassed me that my life was such a mess. I was a grown adult who didn’t know how to manage myself.
I prayed they wouldn’t suggest I go back to my husband and work things out. There was nothing to work out. He pushed and shoved and shook me on a regular basis, not to mention his verbal abuse. Going back was not an option, even if the church frowned on divorce.
I looked at both of them with pleading eyes. “I didn’t know where else to turn. I know God doesn’t hate me. I really need some guidance.”
Not A Handout, But A Hand Up
David and Sean excused themselves for a moment. It scared me they might think I was trying to con them. The church was my last hope with no other place to turn. I didn’t expect them to give me anything, just to tell me what to do next other than go home and end everything right then. Depression had me in its cobra-like grip and was squeezing tighter with every passing minute.
The men came back in the room and told me they wanted to help me get back on my feet. They asked me to write out a quick budget for income and expenses. Although I worked doing medical transcription from home, I hadn’t logged in for a few days because of being in the hospital. I prayed I still had a job. If I did, I promised myself to work harder than ever.
“Here’s something for now,” David said, handing me two plastic cards. One was for the local grocery store and the other for gas. I felt guilty as I took them, but my desperation outweighed my shame.
“Thank you so much,” I told them. “I don’t know how to repay you.”
Sean spoke up. “We were thinking we could help with your rent for the month and maybe a few more gift cards if you wanted to do some work around here.”
I told them yes. Anything was better than charity. I’d do whatever work they wanted and wouldn’t feel so bad about being in debt to them. For the first time in weeks, I felt a tiny spark of hope. If David and Sean were willing to fight for me, maybe I could fight for myself.
“What’s your relationship with God,” David asked me in a friendly voice.
“I believe in Him,” I answered honestly. “To be honest, I never grew up being part of a religion, so I don’t know as much about Him as I’d like.”
My mother and father weren’t the least bit religious when I was a child. They never spoke about God that I could remember. I read the Bible on my own when I was a young adult, but I was still unsure of my beliefs.
David patted my arm. “Well, we have services every Sunday morning if you can come.”
“I’d love to!”
I drove back to the cottage I lived in with my heart full of joy. Not only did I get the guidance I’d been looking for, but there were people who believed in me and wanted to see me succeed. I felt hopeful for the first time in months.
My first morning at the church, I helped paint the outside of the building. The next day, I worked on the brochures they handed out on Sundays. After that, I worked in the cafeteria where they sold juices and pastries. Every day was a little different, and the longer I stayed I also became different.
I continued working my transcription job in the afternoons and evenings and put a little money together. I longed for the day my daughter would come back home. As I became more stable, my boys’ father let them come to the cottage every so often to spend time with me. My abusive husband was a distant bad memory, and I felt powerful enough not to answer whenever he called to yell at me.
I went to church every Sunday where I handed out the brochures and stayed for the services. My connection to God became closer the more I learned, and I came to believe He only wanted the best for me. After all, something led me to the church that first day.
It may have been God’s hand all along.
After about three months, my friends started to come around again. I’d lost so many people in my life with my self-destructive behavior, but now I was stable again and they trusted me more.
I kept my life very simple between church and work, hoping that every day I was getting closer to having my daughter back. I tried to eat better and get enough sleep rather than staying up all night anxiously smoking cigarettes. I taught myself how to pray to God and be grateful for the things I had. I had a second chance to make everything right, and I thanked Him every day.
Keeping God In My Heart
One of my friends invited me to be her roommate, and I jumped at the chance. It would cut my expenses in half, and I wouldn’t be so isolated like I was at the cottage. The only downside was that she lived in another city, so I wouldn’t be able to keep working at the church.
I told David and Sean the next day. They were happy for me, but said everyone would be sad to see me go. It was hard to say goodbye after they were so kind to me, from the lady who worked in the cafe to the office manager who prayed with me anytime I felt anxious. They were a wonderful group of people who never treated me like a loser, but instead finding my way home.
The church saved me when I was in complete despair and helped bring me back to life. I was taking my medications correctly and saved enough to match half the rent on the cottage along with what the church paid that month. I was sincerely grateful to David and Sean and everyone at the church and especially God for helping me crawl out of such a deep hole.
I stayed with my friend for a few months, trying to put as much money away as possible. My daughter Vanessa came home once I could afford a place for just the two of us. I wasn’t mad at her aunt for taking her anymore once I realized I was in no condition to care for myself or a child right before Vanessa left.
Where I was once weak, I felt strong. I’d been too focused on my own problems in the past to take good care of Vanessa, but when she came home I was the loving mother she needed. I wrapped her in my love and promised her we’d never be apart again. At age four, she was too young to understand, but she was happy and content. It was all that mattered.
The whole experience brought me closer to God in ways I’m so grateful for. He waited for me to come to Him, and going to the church that day was like going home.
Faith was something I didn’t have much time for in the past, but now I believe He will take care of me in my darkest hour and help celebrate my every victory. I’ve found a love for Him unlike any other.