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Restoration in a Lonely Pew

Rev. Daniel Humbert shares how God's restoration can be a time of quiet support from a friend:

I’m the youngest of four—three boys and a girl. There were roughly 3 years separating each of us in age. Throughout my childhood and even into young adulthood, I admired the creativity, tenacity, and fortitude of my sister Diane. She was, after all, one female amongst three strong-tempered males in the family. She could always hold her own.

Like many adult children, we drifted into our own lives. My sister became a graphic designer with the exploding Mary Kay Cosmetic company and moved through the ranks. I became a pastor and relocated periodically. We connected each year for holidays and family birthdays, but otherwise, we didn’t really spend time together. We were both introverted and driven in our professions.

I never knew how long my sister struggled with anxiety and depression, but starting in her late 30’s she began to seek professional help both from doctors and hospitals. It began to take a real toll on her personally and professionally. We would visit about it periodically, and I would visit her when she would enter the hospital. Unfortunately, I was too naïve and too consumed with my work to do anything else.

That’s why, when I got the call on Saturday, Feb 1, 2003, I was devastated. It’s the kind of call no one ever wants to get. That call profoundly changed me and everyone in our family. My sister had attempted suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. She was now in the hospital connected to every imaginable contraption to keep her alive. The horrible reality was she had no brain activity and because of that, machines were pumping her heart and lungs. As the entire family now stood together in her room weeping and wondering what to do, we were completely in shock.

Soon, the doctor helped us to understand that Diane was an organ donor and, if that desire was to be fulfilled, they needed to harvest her organs sooner than later. We needed to make a decision. More devastation, heartache, and confusion. My sister was pronounced dead within minutes of pulling her off the machines. All of this happened on Saturday. Our family was distraught and destroyed. It was literally a day from Hell.

I needed to communicate to my church that I would not be preaching or leading worship the next day. I simply could not. I was in no condition to do that. Everyone stepped up to the plate in the small church to make that happen. Even though I knew I couldn’t lead worship or preach, I distinctly knew I needed to be in worship somewhere, somehow. I needed to be with God. I needed to connect with the God who strengthens and renews me. I didn’t know where to go or what to do.

I ended up going to worship by myself at the church which I served as pastor. I stepped in late, so I wouldn’t disrupt. I sat in the back. In this church, the back row was actually empty! I wanted to be with God in worship, but I also needed to be by myself. I just needed to feel God’s peace and presence.

What happened next was the true restoration that I needed. As I sat there by myself, Hulda, who was the ultimate hospitality coordinator, came and quietly sat next to me. She said nothing. She could sense I needed my space. She just sat. She would eventually place her hand on my back to offer tangible solace. She quietly gave me the assurance of God’s peace and presence. She demonstrated a love and care that was deep, yet quiet. When the service was ending, Hulda sensed that I would want to leave early and quickly so as not to have to engage with people, so she intuitively moved out of the way to give me space to leave.

What I found in those moments of quiet worship was a genuine restoration of my soul. In desperation, confusion, and grief, I needed to worship but in my own space. Hulda had the wonderful intuition to be distantly present, to give me space but to clearly be with me. Her quiet, and gentle presence offered me restoration. Her desire to serve in a moment of heartache was a life-changing restoration.

I have thanked Hulda many times since that day. I’m not sure she fully understands how profound her help was, but I never let her forget it. I found restoration on a lonely pew, in a lonely moment, from a silent friend who looked and acted just like Jesus that morning. She helped restore me through the Passion of our Lord, the God of Peace, the God of Hope, the God of Restoration.

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