By Teena Myers
In a drug-induced stupor, Lori sat in the bathtub, turned on the hot water, and passed out. Our mother found her in a tub of scalding water with fifty per-cent of her body severely burned. After six months in a coma, an infection destroyed her vital organs. The death certificate said “renal failure.” She died as she had lived—in pain but not in vain.
When we were children, Lori walked to a Baptist church. She later told me that she did so for the cookies and juice. The 1970s swept us into the drug culture invading America. When I converted to Christianity, Lori followed me to church. Our father didn’t understand our zeal for God and spat with disgust. “I’d rather have a daughter on drugs than involved in this Jesus stuff.” Lori fulfilled his desire and returned to the immediate gratification drugs offered. To our father’s distress, she did whatever she pleased until her unrestrained lifestyle resulted in her incarceration.
I thought God had given up on Lori, but I was wrong. Shortly after she was released from prison, she obtained a respectable job in a hospital. How could that happen without divine intervention? Lori mastered her craft and received letters of accolades from her employers. She gave birth to a beautiful daughter and lived to give her only child the best she could afford. She even returned to church.
God had not given up on Lori, but she had built her house on shifting sands. She served God as many immature Christians do: to obtain what they desire. Lori desired God to release the man she loved from a life sentence in prison. After a decade of believing for a miracle, she lost hope. Lori interpreted an unfulfilled desire as “God doesn’t love me” and abandoned the church.
I thought God gave up on her, but I was wrong. He spared her from drug overdoses. “Another thirty seconds and I could not have brought her back,” the emergency room doctor said to me.
Friends had abandoned her at the door of the emergency room thinking she was dead. Tears filled my eyes as I looked at my sister’s emaciated body.
“I wish he would have let me die,” she moaned.
Lori survived numerous automobile accidents. She drove her car into the bedroom of a house. Fortunately, the bed was not occupied that night. She walked away unharmed. Two people died in another wreck. She lived. She drove her car into another house. The homeowner dragged her from the car seconds before a broken gas line caused an explosion. Death knocked at her door so many times; she acknowledged only God could be keeping her alive. Lori thought God repeatedly spared her life because he loved me. She couldn’t have been more wrong.
God returned her to a place of sanity, and a college hired her to be my husband’s secretary. How does someone with an eighth-grade education survive the scrutiny of PhDs without divine intervention? I marveled at the depth of God’s love, but what had become clear to me, Lori could not see. God loved Lori.
A path littered with wounded people struggling to forgive you makes it difficult to find your way home. When Lori showed signs that old demons had returned, I thought surely God had given up on her this time. Once again, I was wrong.
Carol, a friend I love like a sister, interpreted for the deaf in the classroom next to Lori’s office. From the moment they met, the urgency to pray for Lori pursued Carol twenty-four hours a day—in the middle of the night, while she was in the shower, cleaning house, driving down the highway. One morning on her way to work, Carol said, “God, if you want me to pray for Lori today, let her come out of her office to drink a cup of coffee, or smoke a cigarette, or go to the bathroom.” When Carol parked her car, Lori came out of her office holding a cup of coffee, lit up a cigarette, and was on her way to the bathroom.
Lori slipped into depression as her addiction returned. She lost her job at the college, checked her-self into a psych ward, and emerged to be hired by a doctor. The doctor offered her more money than she requested with promise of a generous increase after initial training. Everyone on his staff was a Christian. Lori had every reason to be encouraged.
She called me frequently. We talked about God. She talked about regrets. She longed for the days when she went to church on Sunday and intercessory prayer on Monday. I invited Lori to spend the weekend with me and witnessed a different person. For the first time I believed she was sincere about changing her ways and hopeful she would succeed.
Free will is a blessing or a curse perched precariously upon the choices we make. Similar to Israel in the wilderness, Lori and I ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink (1 Corinthians 10). I heeded the Bible’s admonition to flee from sin. She enjoyed its pleasures and reaped the consequences of her choice.
For most of Lori’s life, I thought God had given up on her. As I stared at her lifeless body lying serenely in a casket, I realized that he never did. Lori lived in pain but not in vain. She taught me what my finite mind could not imagine: the infinite depth of God’s love.