My husband, Martin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor within the first two years of our marriage. We had just stood up in front of a church full of people and declared our love for each other in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, but we never thought we'd come face to face with something life-threatening within the first couple of years of being together. So even though our story has been different than what we imagined or would have set out to live, it has been a story in which we've seen God show up.
Sometimes I think God allows things to happen in our lives just to remind us he never created us to be self-sufficient beings. I meet people all the time who say, "I'm having trouble walking through this," and I ask if they have a church home. Sometimes they'll say yes, but when I ask if they've talked about what they're walking through, they'll say no. But that's what a church home is for!
Sometimes people think church is a place you have to show up having everything together, but that's the very reason we go to church. Because it's the one place in life we can let our hair down and say, no, I don't have it all together, I need Jesus, and I need Jesus in the form of the body of Christ. I need Jesus' hands and feet to come around me, love me, and really help me through this. That's one of the things we were reminded of so clearly through Martin's diagnosis—that we were never created to walk through life alone.
The healing power of community
We moved to Atlanta five months before Martin was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He'd had some health issues back home in Spartanburg where we're from, and I feel like there's a reason we didn't find out what was wrong with him until we got to Atlanta and I took a job at Perimeter Church in Johns Creek. I would have never moved if I would have known Martin was sick—we would have stayed home with our families, and we would have missed out on the blessings of this church. We basically came in as strangers, then all of a sudden had this life-threatening event happen, and we began to see the body of Christ circle around us in a way we could have never imagined.
The power of presence goes such a long way. I joke sometimes about how when I was in the hospital with Martin hooked up to all the machines in ICU and they weren't sure whether he'd make it or not, the most powerful three words anyone ever said to me were, "Here's your latte." Friends would show up with a caramel macchiato for me, and they would just sit and listen to me cry. They wouldn't try to offer a lot of answers. A lot of times Christians feel they need to come up with some sort of answer, but I wasn't looking for an answer. There are times for pointing our friends back to Scripture, but there's also time for just sitting and letting your presence be your ministry. I had this gaping wound, and I just needed someone to sit with me, listen to me cry, and drink lattes.
Even though Martin hasn't received full healing at this time—he still lives with a vision deficit and a memory deficit—we're seeing how God is strength in the midst of disability. His physical and mental disabilities are blatant, but God is beginning to compensate some of the things he's lost. God is being strength in the midst of his weakness, and God is doing the same thing in my life as I'm dealing with questions like: What does it mean to be married to a husband with disabilities, and what does it mean to be the breadwinner of the family? There's so much I'm fearful of, but in the same way God is showing up and saying, I'm going to be that power and strength for you.
"Why does God let bad things happen?"
We've been through a long process of Martin's going through rehabilitation and learning some new tools on how to do life with a memory and vision deficit. It's a slow road, but we've seen a little bit of improvement. A lot of it has been dealing with it on a spiritual level, and understanding: How does a good and faithful God allow hard things like this to happen? I love the story about Paul and the thorn in his flesh. He never says what it is, but he does say there are some things God won't remove. It's not that God isn't strong enough to remove it; it's that he's going to leave it because that's the way that he gets the most glory. That's the way people can see God's strength, through Paul's weakness (2 Corinthians 12). So instead of saying things like, why is this happening, we try to use every day as an opportunity to let God be strength through our weakness. We still pray for healing every day.
We've also experienced immense blessings over the years, like our daughter, Josie. She's one year old, and I love being a mom. No one could have possibly prepared me for how much I was going to love this little girl. She's just so sweet. And it's a humbling thing to be a parent. It is sheer grace that God knows how flawed we are, and how selfish I am as a person, and still chooses to entrust me with this little girl and allow me to mimic him as a parent knowing I'm not going to live up to it near as well as he parents me.
Keep holding on
If I have any encouragement for Christian women today, it's to keep holding on. Keep believing the promises of God even when the world may tell us something different. Remember that's why God left us with his Word—so our minds can be transformed by his Word rather than by culture.
Culture is constantly telling us you need that new sofa, or that our worth comes from how well our kids do in school, or how cute your child looks showing up to church—all those kinds of things as women, as moms, we buy into. The best way to counter those lies is to sink into that truth, to inundate ourselves with the truths of God so we can be women free from the ties of this world. That way we can be free to minister to others, and not worry about how we measure up to other women, or other moms.
We're currently on tour with Steven Curtis Chapman, and I'm finding that on the road you really do have to fight for time with the Lord—even for just a moment alone. In that and in having a one-year-old, I'm finding myself reading the Bible out loud in a cartoon-like voice to keep her interested, but in a way where I'm still able to do my devotions. There are so many people in the world looking for hope and a message—for us to bring some light into their darkness. I know I can't do that in and of myself. That's a bigger job than I can handle. So I'm learning if I'm not going to God, saying, Be this through me, it would be kind of arrogant to go up to anyone and offer them Laura, because that's not what's going to satisfy anyone's heart and soul. But the more time I spend with God and in his Word, the better minister of his Word I can be.
When you meet a woman who has been freed by the transforming power of the gospel, you know it because she's a breath of fresh air. And that's the kind of woman I want to be.
Laura Story is a Grammy-award winning worship leader at Perimeter Church in Johns Creek, Georgia. Subscribe to TCW at this link.
Laura Story on the Healing Power of Community
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