Paul was always the first to hop out of a car as it stopped moving, rarely even waiting until the driver slid the gearshift into park. This day however, he sat for an extra moment with Jessica to check out its quirks - that the sun roof opened and closed with no prompting, even with the key out of the ignition. They laughed. These mundane moments turned precious later that evening when Jessica learned that she would never sit in a car and laugh with her little brother again.
Jessica, living back at home in the interim between college and grad school, headed out for the day. Her parents called that evening and said that she needed to come home. It was clear that no questions needed to be asked, and Jessica left immediately. She arrived to find a police car in the driveway. Jessica’s heart sank as she brought up her emotional defenses, bracing herself for tragic news.
Paul, a senior in high school, had spent the afternoon with a friend. On his way home that night, his motorcycle clipped the corner of unseen stone steps on the side of an embankment. He lost control and the motorcycle collided with a telephone pole. Paul was pronounced dead at the scene. He had turned 18 2-weeks before.
Upon hearing the news, Jessica gave her distraught mom a hug and went into “to-do” mode. She called her 3 older siblings, notified friends and family, informed his school, and drove many of the details for the funeral arrangements over the course of the next week.
Jess continued to be a support for her mom in the weeks and months afterward. Jessica’s dad dealt with grief in his own way – pouring his time into the family business he and Paul had worked together. Jessica made sure her mom continued to eat meals every day and stood with her at church on Sundays. She stood by her mom’s side, but felt no connection to God.
She felt like worshiping God meant being content with His plan, which meant she had to be happy that her little brother died.
Jess put her own emotions and grief process on hold. It occurred to her that she was being outwardly strong but internally falling apart. She felt so much pressure to be the “strong one” that she couldn’t grieve.
Despite her confusion about how God could allow something like this to happen, she began to engage with others and with God. She allowed herself to stay in community with other believers by going to Connect groups and studying His word. Everywhere she looked, God showed up and taught her about His character, her character, and the value of relationships.
- Through IF:Gathering, Jess learned that God will meet you wherever you are, and that sometimes He just wants you to listen.
- In a study on Gideon, Jess learned how she could have strength in weakness. When things seem completely impossible on her own (like healing from this loss), God steps in and gives the strength to put one foot in front of the other. She learned that some things are designed such that they can only be achieved through God.
- Likewise, she has learned that patience is not a personality trait but is developed through practice and waiting.
- She has learned that letting her guard down and showing vulnerability is a new way to build relationships and that she doesn’t have to be the “strong one.” Vulnerability has traditionally been difficult for Jessica, but in her personal and spiritual growth she feels like she’s learning to trust and “outgrowing reluctance to be vulnerable.”
Jessica didn’t give up on God.
While she still doesn’t understand why her brother died, she chooses to believe that it’s part of a bigger plan. She chooses to have confidence that whatever God’s reason for Paul’s death, however painful, she trusts Him. She also feels like this experience prepared her to walk with others through similar situations. For example, when Jessica’s mother-in-law passed away, it was a blessing to her husband’s family to have Jessica assist with the all-too-familiar process of making arrangements.
God has grown Jessica in such a way that she now prays that whatever the circumstance, her heart aligns with God’s plan.