In today’s blog post, I’m delighted to be introducing you to a friend who recently got in touch to tell me about an unexpected lightthroughthecracks encounter that she had experienced.
She said she would like the story on my blog, as “it fits the theme” of lightthroughthecracks. So I asked Mary a few questions, and here are the answers she gave me.
Please can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Mary, and I have been a Christian since I was a little girl. I remember being bullied at primary school for going to church, being taken to a Christian camp when I was about ten, and strongly advocating for my faith during biology lessons at school. But I lost my way at university and spent the following ten years travelling the world and living a fairly hedonistic lifestyle. It was a chronic illness in the family, and an Alpha course, that brought me back to Jesus. You’ll now find me married to Michael, living with our new puppy, Poppy, and working as a fundraiser for a Christian leadership development organisation.
Please can you tell us why you subscribe to this blog?
The main reason is that it encourages me in my Christian faith. But also Joanna’s willingness to share her faith with others, and to pray for them, is immensely challenging (in a good way) and her stories remind me that I have opportunities to do the same, if I take time to notice and have courage.
What happened to you just recently, who was involved, how did it unfold?
I was driving home along a dark tree-lined road, one wet Wednesday evening, a few months ago.
I was reflecting on a Bible Study that I had led earlier that day, and the discussion which had followed. I hadn’t found it easy, and was chastising myself, and chewing through how I could have done it differently, when one of the verses from the passage kept rising to the top of my mind: ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem … to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Looking back now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see how God was about to bring that verse to life.
The windscreen wipers were working overtime, as the rain poured down, when I suddenly saw a bright light up ahead, over on the left hand edge of the road.
Slowing down to look closely, I could see that a man had come off his bike, and was struggling to get himself and the bike into the upright position. The beam from the bike light was piercing into the darkness and the rain.
Despite being naturally compassionate, my initial thought was that he must be drunk – and, as there was no-one else around, I wasn’t sure I’d be safe if I stopped to help him.
Thankfully, my ‘better-self’ took control!
Stopping the car, and leaving the headlights on to illuminate the scene of the accident, I jumped out, into the pouring rain, and helped him to his feet. I then picked up his bike and handed it over, and asked if he was OK.
All the while, he was muttering, “I can’t believe it. What a week! I’ve walked away from my job. My wife has tried to kill herself. And now this!”
I offered to drive him home, but he politely declined, and cycled off into the darkness.
It was then that I realised I knew him; I just couldn’t place him.
Getting into my car, I decided to ask God to help. “Lord,” I prayed, “I know that I know who that man was. Please remind me of his name and help me remember how I know him.”
Immediately, the Holy Spirit gave me the powerful prompt that I needed: “His name is Ben*. You spoke to him a few weeks ago at the local printer.”
As I went to bed that night, I prayed for Ben by name, but also for his wife.
The following morning, I felt compelled to call the printer’s to check in on Ben, but I also felt concerned that he might think I was a total nutter if I had the wrong person.
When he picked up the phone, I introduced myself, took a deep breath and plunged straight in “This might sound slightly odd,” I said, “but was it you who came off your bike last night?” I felt so relieved when he confirmed it was! But then he proceeded to tell me his tragic story.
His wife had contracted Covid, he revealed. She innocently passed it on to a friend and, even though the friend survived, it caused her such an overwhelming sense of guilt and grief that her mental health went on a steep downward trajectory. It had got so bad that she had tried to kill herself, and was now in hospital.
Even as he was speaking, I decided to be brave.
“I’m a Christian,” I told him, “I’d like to pray for you, your wife and your family.” He replied to say he was so grateful and touched that I would do that.
Over the following few weeks, we established a rhythm. I would reach out to Ben for an update on progress. He would tell me that his wife was getting worse. I would assure him of my prayers, and I would then pray for them both. I even asked colleagues to pray for him too.
As the weeks turned into months, I continued to be in touch – until I received the tragic news that Ben’s wife, despite being sectioned and in hospital, had passed away.
It wasn’t the outcome I had anticipated. There wasn’t a miracle. There wasn’t a perfect, happy ending.
But I really believe that God used me, during those few months, to breathe His love into such a heart-breaking situation.
At the same time, I know that God encouraged me in my faith, showing me that I could be a courageous witness as a Christian, despite my fears, flaws and failings.
Why was this like a lightthroughthecracks story?
Throughout this time, I sensed that my prayers were allowing God to break through into what was a very dark season in Ben’s life. I firmly believe that God took my prayers and made His love and presence tangible to Ben’s family, even if they didn’t know it.
I prayed specifically that Ben’s wife would know that she was forgiven by the only one who could lift the heavy weight of guilt from her shoulders – Jesus – and, although I’ll never know for sure, I really hope that she let Him.
Have you ever been in the same position as Mary? Has God ever brought someone across your path at a time when he or she was in deep distress? How did you respond? Perhaps He did it as a prompt to remind you to pray for that person?
Imagine what would happen if we were all more alert to these fleeting moments, which could easily pass us by. Perhaps we all need a dose of the kind of courage that Mary discovered for herself that wet Wednesday evening?
*Ben is not his real name.