From the Depths
My faith in God has been challenged before but never more than that fateful June night when I knew I would never again see my older brother and best friend, at least on earth. All of my fondest memories of childhood involved my older brother, Scott. We were best friends, though as kids one doesn’t think about that so much. Everywhere he went I would follow, and he didn’t ever seem to mind. He and his friends would play with me and my friends in our big playground– the outside. We grew up in the era where we’d play outside during the summer all day– just coming in to eat lunch, and in the evening, for dinner.
Looking back into the past, a memory with Scott has become more special to me as I became older and realized its significance. When I was about eight or nine, Scott and I were at a neighbor’s garage sale and I saw to my delight a Barbie house/case and the accessories that went with them. Though it was cheaper, I was saddened when I realized I didn’t have the money to buy it. I cannot recall every detail after that moment as I would like to, but I do know that Scott surprised me when he came to my bedroom. Suddenly he was there, and within his outstretched hands was my joy as only a little girl who loves playing with dolls can know. I’m sure I thanked him as only a little sister (who idolized her older brother) can, but that doesn’t stand out. What does is finding out a little later from our mom that he had used his own money to buy it for me. This was the kind of person he was, even as a pre-teen.
We definitely did do everything together. Our journey to faith even began together with an auspicious ride on a bus to their local Baptist church. We arrived there, never knowing that our young lives would be forever changed. With our age difference we were in different classes, but that didn’t stop us from accomplishing the most significant moment of our lives together… trusting in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The exact details of the moment are hazy, but the feeling of pureness of joy washing over my soul will remain in my mind and heart forever. Scott had accepted Christ, too, on that same day or close to it. Years later my mom told me that my brother’s great desire was to be baptized at the same time as I, and he made sure this happened.
My journey to faith had diverged from Scott in that God worked in my weakness. Before I became baptized, I wasn’t able to put my head under water, even when I was bathing in the bathtub. My mom explained that I was very determined as an eight-year-old to go through with the ceremony of baptism because I knew I was doing what He wanted me to do– display my testimony and faith in a physical way. A year or two later, I awoke from a dream where I saw how I fell into a pool when I’d been very young, and when talking to my mom about it she explained that this had really happened.
So, this was why I was so scared of putting my head under water, but I hadn’t known all the circumstances. I believed that God had revealed it to me through this dream after having been saved. Even more importantly, I believed then that He had revealed it to me because I had trusted Him enough to immerse my whole body into water in order to be baptized. Even though I was very scared of going under the water, I had faith that He would keep me safe. His grace is sufficient for me, as His power is perfected in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Growing up throughout my teenage years and into adulthood I have had many trials– some with Scott by my side, but most of them without him. He and I went onto our separate journeys through life. He had joined the army, even going to boot camp before graduating high school. His first love was playing war, and ever since he was a kid he wanted to be a soldier. So, he followed his lifelong dream. My future involved getting married to my husband not long after graduating high school and then having our daughter about a year later. My life was busy being a young mom with my daughter and husband, and for the next eighteen years life went on like this– with us having two more children, our sons, along the way.
During the early summer of 2008, I woke up to a really bad dream that involved my brother Scott. I don’t really remember the details of it now, but dismissed it as just an especially vivid dream. That morning, I automatically went through my usual routine for myself and my children on that fateful Tuesday, June 3rd. I’ll always remember that night as our family did our usual evening routine, eating dinner and then having fun looking up on our computer places to live in the Ozarks, as that was our dream area to live. About mid-evening, I got a phone call from my mom who normally wouldn’t call on a weekend night. If I could have not answered that phone call so I wouldn’t know the horrible news, that would be my wish, but the news would still be there– standing there in horrific reality. My mom in a broken voice told me about my older brother and best friend. He was in charge of an army reserves division in Zormat, Afghanistan, in the Civil Affairs department, that helped local villagers by building wells, schools, and anything else needed. That day he and his crew were in their Humvee, when it drove over an IED unbeknownst to them. In normal protocol, he would be the one to sit in the back, but he liked to be in the front to control the choice of music over the radio. His driver, a young soldier, and himself were killed instantly. His spirit and soul immediately went to be with our Lord in heaven.
That first night lying in bed as I tried to sleep was like a living nightmare. It felt like part of my heart had been torn out, and my mind could not comprehend the events that I knew were true. I had to tell myself they were, which would torture the hole in my heart even more. Throughout this, I prayed to God in hopeless confusion as it was too difficult to comprehend, and He was there in the next instant. I believe that the Holy Spirit administered to my heart then, as I could feel the quiet ease of my spirit gently held within His Spirit. As the verse in Romans 8:26 tells, His Spirit helped me to pray as I could not. My heart was broken from then on, and time has helped it to heal– but part of it, with him in it, will never completely recover. My soul did go through deep searching for a few years, though. I guess you could call it naivety, but my thought processes were, before he died, that as a Christian and someone who was helping people that God would keep him safe there. Mostly I’m sure I thought that way because he was my beloved brother. I questioned why it happened, and though I stayed mostly strong for my family– especially for my children, then seventeen, twelve, and six years old— part of my consciousness became enveloped in a pool of depression.
What helped me to get my head out of the water was to essentially trust in Him, that in the good times and the terrible ones, He is still there. One simple, but significant, moment stood out when I heard Casting Crown’s “Praise You in This Storm” for the first time. It was as if God was speaking right to my heart, and my tears were of sadness and acceptance. It definitely was a slow process, and part of my heart has been irrevocably changed. Yet, to be able to give over my hurt and depression to God, I had to trust in Him as I had done so many years ago as an eight-year-old little girl. He had helped me then to believe in Him, and have the faith to trust in Him under the water. That was with my older brother by my side. Years later, I had to learn to trust in Him again and have faith that His Ways are not my ways, and though Scott isn’t with me on earth anymore, I have the complete assurance that I will see him again someday… in heaven.
Lynne Farmer lives in Stillwater, Oklahoma. She’s married and has three children and has been working as a teacher in the Head Start program. She’s been writing since she was thirteen and has renewed her efforts to write more and get her writings published.
Photo via pxfuel.com (modified by Veronica McDonald).