My first encounter with true, life-altering hope came in the form of a pink t-shirt and if I told you that shirt saved my life you might roll your eyes or mutter under your breath. You may even think me a little over dramatic.
But this is exactly what happened. I am happy to walk you through my memories of it, if you feel like coming on a journey with me.
Now, when I think of the word hope I have a picture of being pulled out of a pit of sinking sand, like a scene from Jumanji. Hope showed me its ability to take one set of circumstances and flip my focus to something different.
This was exactly what I needed but didn’t know where to start looking. I was at the end of my rope and honestly wondering how I could hold on for one more day.
It had been three and a half years since the birth of our twin daughters, Abbey and Lucy. The road had been rocky and looked nothing like what we were expecting. Abbey fell seriously ill with bacterial meningitis at the age of 3 months after arriving, 4 minutes ahead of her twin, two months premature.
Our dreams of a perfect family began to unravel, like a pull in a winter sweater idle fingers had unconsciously tugged at.
I have flash back memories of the thirty-two weeks spent in hospital during the first twelve months of her life. One set back after another. Too many surgeries to count. Many more nights sleeping in a chair beside her hospital bed, than beside my husband in our bed. After that first year the hospital visits declined, surgeries became fewer and we worked at finding a rhythm to a new, definitely different, parenthood than the one we had imagined.
Those first few years took their toll on my mental health. I guess I had been brought up to simply ‘get on with it’. Nothing was going to change the fact that Abbey would never walk, talk or see, so ‘chin up’ and get the job done.
I’m not exactly sure how it happened or why I thought about it, but something urged me to go to church. Having had a small amount of church experience as a child I guess somewhere deep inside, a hidden memory had me convinced I would find community there. I found much more.
As a child I had been told that if I believed in God I would go to heaven. So now, thirty years on, I was at this point in my life where I would wake each morning wondering if perhaps today could be the day I’d meet God. Secretly hoping an accident might befall me and my time for heaven would be now. My life felt peculiarly similar to the movie Ground Hog Day and a large part of me wished for it to end.
On this particular Sunday I had sat in church on my own, listening to a preach about hearing the voice of God by making spaces of quiet. At the end, I headed to my car, desperate to hear that voice and find an answer. As the thud of the door closing entered the atmosphere, it was as though a flood gate had been thrown open, and hot tears ran down my cheeks. I put the key in the ignition, turned the radio off and cried out loud, “God if you are real you had better show me how I am going to do this because I can’t do it on my own.”
After waiting for my chest to stop heaving with the weight of each sob and the tears to subside enough for clear vision, I put my car in drive and headed home.
Perhaps only a kilometre into the journey, I was stopped at a red light. It would have been only five minutes after my cry to God. As I sat patiently waiting for the green signal to allow me to go, a woman walked up the footpath toward me. My eyes were drawn to her pink t-shirt, pink being my favourite colour, and I scanned the front, reading the words printed there – “WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER” – in a bold black font.
The light changed colour and I continued my journey home.
Later that same day I had an experience I can only describe like this … I felt as though someone had reached out to me, in my mind, tapped me on the shoulder and caused me to look back to that moment in my day. As realisation set in, tears welled in my eyes. Not a flood of hopelessness, like in the church carpark, but in fact the opposite, a tsunami of hope.
I wasn’t sure how or if it was even possible, but I felt God bend down from heaven and whisper in my ear, repeating the words I had read on that t-shirt – “We are in this together. That is how you are going to do this.”
Since then, it has been a thirteen-year journey of learning about a God in heaven who is intimately interested in my life and actively involved day after day. A Father who holds me and lifts me when I feel I don’t have the strength to do it myself. A re-education in faith and what it means to believe and follow. Slowly understanding, as He shows me his desire for an earth-time relationship, not one that is on-hold until heaven.
So, hope came and saved me. I often think back to that woman in the pink t-shirt. Did she thoughtfully choose to wear that particular shirt, or did she simply throw it on? Or perhaps, she was an angel sent to deliver a message especially for me? Either way, I now know God has a plan and a purpose for my life. The first and most important, being a relationship with me.
My circumstance didn’t change, Abbey still can’t see, talk or walk. In fact, since then Lucy has had her own disabilities float to the surface. Life has continued and with it, a fair share of pain, but now hopeless is not what I feel. Hope is found again and again through my “right here, right now’ relationship with Jesus.
Image: Marius Serben https://unsplash.com/@twistlemon