By Andrea Decker
As told to Christy Johnson
The memory of the righteous will be a blessing. Proverbs 10:7
Numb to the devastation, I lay on the couch in a self-absorbed pity party for three days while the news coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing hummed in the background. My children scrambled for my attention, but I was too consumed with my own grief. On the day that my hometown mourned a disaster, a bomb had exploded in my own world: My husband had just filed for divorce. It was the darkest day of my life.
It wasn’t until a gripping local story of another tragedy caught my attention that I even considered the needs of anyone else. Two thirteen year-old boys in Duncan, Oklahoma, were killed in an oil field explosion. As I listened to the newscast, I heard the Lord say, “Andrea, you still have your children, and these two mothers have lost theirs. They need your prayers, but that will never happen as long as you are fixated on your own misery.”
That reprimand was like a splash of cold water in my face. As ravaged as my own life was, I knew He was right. I made a decision to begin praying for these mothers. At first, all I could utter were short two-sentence prayers. “Lord, please bring these mothers peace. Heal their hearts.” But as I committed to lifting them up daily, I soon noticed something strange. The more I prayed for them, the more hope I was able to see for my own situation. Gradually, my depression lifted and my own heart began to heal. And then a miracle happened: My husband decided to come back home. I realized that there was a link between praying for others that actually met a need in my own life—and all for prayers on the behalf of women I never even met.
A couple of years after my husband and I reconciled, I went to a Women of Faith conference in Dallas, Texas. Several breakout sessions were offered and I chose to attend one on time management. Hoping for a revelation on how supermoms combine dinner, homework and baths into every evening, I found a seat on the front row.
“This class will help you prepare your young adults for college,” announced the instructor as the attendees trickled in.
Oops, I’m in the wrong class, I thought. My oldest couldn’t even spell college. I eyed the door, contemplating my escape but by the time I had gathered my things, the session leader had shut the door. It was too late for a polite departure. Grudgingly, I decided to stay but as soon as the class was over, I was beyond ready to leave. As I scrambled for the door, I whispered under my breath, “Wow, that was a waste of time.”
The woman easing out the door next to me cast a curious glance my way.
Oh no. A lip reader.
Embarrassed that she had obviously heard my complaint, I tried to look away, but it was too late. With a look of gentle concern, she inquired, “Why was it a waste of your time?”
“Umm. Because. Well, my children are very young,” I stammered. “This class was really geared towards mothers of high school students.”
I was determined to get away, but the hallway was congested with a shoulder-to-shoulder sea of women, bobbing along like penguins to their next session. There was an opening just big enough for me to escape this uncomfortable interview, except that the lady in front of me had a purse bigger than a piece of Samsonite luggage. I pondered which was more humiliating: Continuing with this interrogation or tackling the Prada queen to allow for my get away.
“How many do you have?” she prodded further.
“Oh, umm. I have four.”
Yes, the restroom is just ahead. I can dart in there.
“How old are they?”
Oh my gosh…Is that the line? I’ll never get away from her.
“Hannah is eight, Gretchen is seven, Dustin is five and Lorelei is three.”
“It must be wonderful to have a large family,” she gushed.
“It’s a lot of work,” I sighed, focusing on the escalator just ahead. I decided that if she veered toward the upside, I was going down.
“Which way are you going?” she inquired.
“Uh, I’m going…up,” I stammered.
“Oh, me too.”
A moment of awkward silence followed. I was at least committed to this conversation for the length of the escalator ride. “How many children do you have?” I asked in obligation.
“I have one who is thirteen,” she replied, pausing to adjust her load of conference books.
One child. I thought. Yeah that’s why you can buy all those books and still have the “time management” to read them all.
“And my son, David,” she said blinking away a tear, “he’ll always be thirteen.”
Suddenly, selfishness collided with compassion. We were now at the top of the escalator but the urge to run evaporated.
“I’m so sorry…what happened?”
“He was in an accident a couple of years ago.”
That’s when I noticed the top book in her arms…a book about overcoming grief. I started to feel a twinge of guilt for having four children. Many days I was stressed over all the responsibilities of raising four kids so close in age, and yet here was a mother who would love to trade places with me.
“A car accident?”
“No. A crazy freak accident. He and his friend were killed in an oil field explosion.”
A jolt of numbing electricity shot through my body. For a moment, time froze. “Is your name…Cathy?” I stammered in disbelief.
“Yeees,” she hesitated. “How did you know?”
“I heard about the accident on the news.”
“It aired here in Dallas?”
“No, I live in Oklahoma City.”
“And you remembered our names?” she asked in astonishment.
“Yes,” I began to explain. “I prayed for your families. It was kind of an assignment from the Lord. I wish I could say that I was because I was so spiritually mature, but in actuality, I was in a horrible state of depression at the time.” Noticing a table ahead I urged, “Do you want to set your stuff down for a minute?”
“My husband had just filed for divorce and I was a complete mess. The day I heard the newscast about your son’s accident I realized that I wasn’t the only one in the world suffering.”
Cathy set her books and purse down.
“Praying for you brought me through the darkest time in my life.”
For a moment we just stood speechless. Then almost in unison, sobbing, we fell into each other’s arms.
“I’m sorry I was so abrasive,” I apologized. “I was embarrassed.”
“How did you get through David’s death?”
“It was hard,” Cathy admitted. “It’s still hard, but God’s grace is strong. Now I do a lot of memorializing.”
“Yes, in every way that I can, I try to remember David’s life. I especially like to encourage mothers with young children. If I could do it all over again,” Cathy continued. “I’d play more checkers.”
“Yes. David was always asking me to play checkers with him. But I was always so busy. Oh, I would tell him, ‘Ok, honey, in just a minute…let me finish sweeping the floor.’ Or, ‘Ok darling…I will…just let me finish folding the laundry.’ Kids don’t care how clean your house is. When they get older, they won’t remember the dirt. They’ll remember the time you spent with them.”
I glanced at my watch. Ironically, it was time for the next session to begin. I searched through my purse for something to write my phone number on. We exchanged contact information and promised to keep in touch.
Through the years, we have stayed in contact. And every time we talk, I’m awed and humbled by a God that would go to such great lengths to get my attention—not only to pull me out of my pit of despair but also to help me realize how important it is to spend time with my children, no matter whether I’m tired, have chores to do or errands to run. So if you ever come to our house, don’t look at the dust on the floor or the piles of unfolded laundry. Plan to spend some time with us. And in honor of Cathy’s precious son, David, be prepared to stay for a game of checkers.
Prayer: Dear Lord, the way that you connect the dots in our lives and weave a thread of fellowship with others is undeniably divine. Thank you for your faithfulness to not only direct our prayers, but to answer our prayers. Help me to always remember the importance of spending time with my family and the relationships you have blessed me with. May I always nurture and protect those relationships and not let unimportant tasks and daily duties interfere with our fellowship. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
Scriptures to ponder:
- He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea. Psalm 102:17
If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. Proverbs 21:13
- In my distress I called to the LORD; I called out to my God. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came to his ears. 2 Samuel 22:7
- Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. Psalm 126:5
- I call on the LORD in my distress, and he answers me. Psalm 120:1
Thoughts to Ponder:
- Galatians 6:7 says that a man reaps what he sows. Do you think prayers sown on the behalf of others can benefit us as well? If so, how?
- Have you ever experienced a divine introduction like Andrea? If so, describe what happened.
- Have you ever felt led to pray for someone you didn’t know, either through a story you heard from a friend, on TV, the newspaper, Facebook or the internet? Share how praying for that person made you feel.