I never cease to be amazed at the transformative power of love. It can heal things medicines can’t touch. It can wash away a boatload of debilitating experiences and painful memories, restoring health and hope, even to the most wounded and washed out soul.
The deepest love ascribes incredible value and worth to others, which describes my wife’s love. I’ve often marveled at the unconditional and sacrificial love with which she approaches seemingly every relationship. Let me give you a case in point. It was one of the most amazing demonstrations of love that I’ve ever seen.
We’d been working and counseling with a young lady who suffered from depression. Married and a mother of three, life for her was beyond what she could bear. She was cutting herself and regularly talking about suicide. I had counseled her on several occasions, using traditional approaches to dealing with depression and anxiety, all to no avail. I’d prayed with her frequently, encouraging her to embrace her value and worth as a child of God, but nothing worked.
One night about 2 a.m., her husband called and told us that she was in her bedroom weeping uncontrollably, contemplating suicide. He was desperate and didn't know what to do, thus the phone call. I encouraged him and told him "this too shall pass" and he should call me in the morning and I’d set up a time to meet with his wife. I assured him that I loved him and that I would pray.
When I hung up, my wife asked about the nature of the call. When I explained the situation she went to the closet, got her coat and purse and headed for the door. "What are you doing?" I asked.
“I'm going to Beth's house.”
“What will you do when you get there?" I asked (thinking she shouldn’t go).
She replied, "I don't know, but God will show me," and she left.
I stood at the door, staring into the night, thinking to myself that her decision was both foolish and unnecessary. “She’s being manipulated yet again by our suffering friend,” I thought, but unable to sleep, I stayed up and prayed...and waited.
Five hours later she came home, tired but joyful. "Beth's fine," she said. "I think God touched her tonight."
"What happened?" I asked, with no small amount of skepticism.
She said, "Well, when I arrived she was in her bedroom and wouldn't come out. She said that life wasn't worth living anymore and the pain was too much to bear, and she was crying, so I asked her if I could come in. She said it was okay so I went into the bedroom. All the lights were off. All I could hear was her sobbing, beneath the covers."
"So what did you say?" I asked.
"Nothing," she said. "I just crawled into bed with her...and held her for a long, long time. I hugged her as I felt God would hug her, and I told her that He and I loved her a lot....and I prayed...but mainly I just laid there and held her."
"So what happened next?" I asked.
"Well," she said, "after about an hour, she sat up in bed and said, 'Something just happened. Something just broke off of me. Something just changed inside me. I feel lighter. I feel stronger. I want to get up. Let's have some coffee. I don't need to be here any longer...ever. Let's go into the kitchen.'" Then we drank coffee and talked the rest of the night. We laughed, cried, and talked till dawn. Then we watched the sunrise and she said, "This night changed my life. Thank you for coming."
As I listened, I thought inwardly, "Yeah, right." You see, I had too much professional training to think that hugging someone for an hour in a dark room could accomplish anything substantive. I was so wrong.
The story I just described took place 26 years ago. "Beth" truly was transformed and still is today. She sings gospel music and tours around the world. She has a good marriage, raised a wonderful family and is making a huge difference with her life. To my knowledge, she never cut herself again, nor talked about suicide.
Pure love, and a miracle, trumped my "know-how" in an unbelievable way...when one quiet heart reached out on one dark night and literally hugged the hell out of someone's soul.
"I didn't say anything," she said, "I just crawled into bed with her...and held her."
They don't teach things like that in seminary.