As the fire departments chaplain, I was called to a poverty-stricken housing
project in West Tulsa, Oklahoma. The cramped, one-bedroom apartment was dimly
lit by bulbs of the smallest wattage. The faded green shag carpet looked at
least 20 years old and smelled of pet urine. A telephone, once white, was now
dingy yellow and had a cord long enough to reach into every room in the house.
The sofa next to the wall was broken and sagging badly in the middle. A young
woman sat at one end of the sofa, her shoulders convulsing as she sobbed her
grief into tissues.
Three weeks earlier, God had brought a great light into this dimly lit
world. The young woman had given birth to a beautiful baby boy she named
Terrell. At birth, an infusion of life had taken placeboth Terrell and his
mother had received new existence upon his arrival. Terrell brought meaning,
value and purpose to this young mother. Left alone in the middle of her second
trimester, she had no wealth, no car, no new clothes, no television and no
husband. But then she had Terrell until today.
SIDS is what they call it, sudden infant death syndrome. Its the way doctors
explain the sudden death of an infant with no apparent cause. The four- letter
explanation seemed too brief and clinical for the young mothers hurt, loss and
Now she slumped on her sofa, feeling shed lost everything in the world that
gave her life meaning. I had no words to say. I wanted to talk about faith and
hope but, somehow, nothing seemed to fit. Id learned a long time ago to give up
making excuses or trying to explain all the wisdom of God, particularly at a
time like this.
As I patted her shoulder, the medical examiner arrived to take the little
body away. Hysterically, she cried out, Please dont take my baby! Please dont
take my baby! I placed my hand on her back and asked, Maam, would you like to
go into the bedroom and hold little Terrell one more time?
With my assistance, she was able to walk into the room where his body lay on
the bed. Its funny how a small physique can make a normal-sized bed appear to
be king-sized. I looked at the beautiful little boy who appeared to be sleeping
sweetly. His baby hands were curled ever so slightly, and there were little
dimples where knuckles should have been. His fat, cherubic cheeks outlined tiny
lips that almost appeared to smile. Mom sat on a toy chest as I wrapped the
cold, lifeless body in a blanket and gently handed him to her. I have never
heard grief so loud or so deep as on that day.
I knew Mom had not been in church since childhood. To me this meant shed had
no formal church training or Christian experience from which to draw strength
or to make sense of her tragedy.
Listening to her tearful wails, I silently prayed, God, how can I help this
woman find faith in this? Her tears continued to flow. Her cries pierced the
air. There was no faith. God would just have to create some.
Suddenly, as if someone had said just the right words, she became quiet and
simply rocked little Terrell. Then, the most amazing thing of all happened. She
began to sing a familiar old song from her past long ago. And for the first
time, I understood how powerful the words truly are. God had breathed His life
into an old familiar tune so that it ignited a memory in the heart of this
grieving mother. Slowly, yet clearly and without mistake, she sang...
Jesus loves me this I know
For the Bible tells me so
Little ones to Him belong
They are weak but He is strong.
In a moment, through a tearful smile, she handed the little boy back to me.
The medical examiner took him away. He is with Jesus, she said. I simply
replied through tearful eyes, Yes, Maam.
Where is faith when you need it most? Is it hidden in the corridors of
Christian counseling offices? Does it reside within the walls of a
stained-glass sanctuary? Or can it emerge from the pages of the Holy Textbut
only after hours of searching? The reality is, faith can be anywhere God is.
Anything can be the embryo God uses to give birth to an overcoming faith. One
small word or memory, placed in a life years before, may one day be the very
seed God uses to grow the tree of faith where others may find rest.
Sometimes we, as Christians, feel too separated from the world to remember
that Jesus has already been at work in the lives of people long before we get
to them. On these occasions our task is simply to connect the dots already
placed there by the Holy Spirit long before we arrived. Dots which, when
connected, beautifully outline the face of God and the wonderful gospel
As the medical examiner drove away with the body of this tiny human being, I
asked the mother if she would like this same Jesus Who had just wrapped her son
in His loving arms to come and live in her own heart. She nodded and answered,
Yes. As we prayed, I realized that in the same room where one earthly life had
ended, a new one had begun.
Where is faith? This mother reminded me. Its where God is. And God is where
our deepest hurts reside. In a small, poverty stricken apartment filled with
more grief than furniture, God was there waiting to breathe healing faith into
a broken heart.
Danny Lynchard is a chaplain and writer living in Sand
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