by Bekah Bowman
“Those who plant in tears will harvest with great joy. They weep as they go plant their seed, but they sing as they return with the harvest.” (Psalm 126:5-6)
My Broken Narrative
I begin my broken-story narrative on February 10, 2014–the day my son, Titus, had a seizure. What followed was a massive and swift wave that rocked our lives hard between fear, anger, mystery and defeat.
April 7, 2015, Titus was diagnosed with a rare, genetic, and fatal disease. The doctor had no treatment he could prescribe, no cure in sigh. We were going to lose our boy. And worse yet, our youngest son, Ely, was also in danger of having the disease. We were encouraged to get him tested as well.
June 25, 2015, Ely’s test came back. To the visual eye he had no signs of the disease, but then again–he was too young to show any symptoms. The phone call while on vacation held an answer. “I’m sorry, Rebekah, but he has it too,” the genetic counselor had said. He too would live this hard journey, growing older and growing robbed. As my boys grew, their skills and abilities were stripped away. And, for my oldest, eventually so was his life.
There we were left in a puddled mess of agonizing tears. The first diagnosis day left me despondent. I began to research and connect with other families with the same disease. My heart started to grasp the severity of the monster living inside Titus as I braved Google and asked questions. The second diagnosis day absolutely gutted me. This evil was to take away all my children. The days following both diagnoses, I cried at the sight of everything. I witnessed beautiful brotherly moments and tears poured down my face as I watched. My thoughts traveled to the unknown of the future and I wondered how much longer I would get to witness these boys playing together.
I witnessed seizures and outbursts, boys going blind, falling, shaking, choking, crying in pain, muscles cramping, lungs drowning. And I’d cry out and yell out, wondering how long? How long was this suffering to be endured?
Hope in the Deep-Down Dark
In the rage, fear, and desperation, I fell into a deep, dark hole. I fully expected to be alone down there. But I wasn’t. Christ met me there. He met me there with a promise that came wrapped in a broken and crucified Man.
His promise held three important lifelines for me there in my state of darkness and brokenness:
1. Even in that broken place, He was there.
He came all the way to brokenness to show me how wide and how long and how deep His love is for me. And He folded all the way into brokenness to show me how trustworthy His promise of victory and redemption will always be.
2. Victory and redemption were mine to hold.
Yes, even while I was still broken, I was victorious. There is and always will be Holy Adventure to be had right here in our present moments because Jesus has overcome!
3. Joy exists in these dark places.
Joy is not a reflection of how I feel, but of my God’s consistent, faithful character. I Am, He promises. He does not change. In the pit of disease and death, there is praise to be lifted up. For Jesus, has brought victory over death. Even as it all felt hopeless and pain-filled, His Joy brought me to clarity so I could see above the storm I was surrounded by.
And so, I moved forward in those dark days and learned to look back. When I look back, I can see His faithfulness and trustworthiness. It is in the looking back that I can call out proof of His protection, His provision, His goodness, His presence!
And then I learned to look around, right there, in my present. For it was right there, when I open my eyes, where I discovered gifts in the mundane hamster wheel of life and in the broken, jaded edges. Goodness was before me and waiting to be beholden. Casting away the bitterness over what had been stolen and the fear of future what-ifs, gifted me the ability to be right there in my present moment, peering into what was in front of me right then.
And finally, I looked forward. Not in an anxious “what-if” kind of way, but in an expectant anticipation. Because what is held in that future day is the fullest fruition of the victory and redemption I get to claim right here, right now.
Finding My Manifesto
On a day I was overtaken by His love and in awe at the capacity of joy my heart still held onto, God sank the “Can’t Steal My Joy Manifesto” deep into my soul. Right there, in the middle of sickness, death and loss, my heart sang out of His goodness, His provision, His grace, victory and JOY!
Want to know why I can’t be plucked from the garden of joy? When that hand of hate, jealousy, anger, bitterness or selfishness tries to pull me out, my roots cling tight, dive deep, wrap around the other roots growing deep. One tries to pull my flower out, but they really have to contend with a mass of roots that have intertwined below.
This web of deep strong roots is a result of God’s love. He is deep in us and when we face a storm on the surface–my leaves and petals taking a beating no flower could appear to endure–He holds tight to my roots, weaves them through the roots of other flowers. As the storm goes on, I don’t wilt. I don’t become uprooted. I firmly stand my ground in the soil of LIFE. And others around me too! God has weaved us together and we will stand strong, united and beautiful in the storm. We will add radiant colors in the gray skies, sweet smells as bitter rain comes down because our roots are DEEP.
It doesn’t matter what happens on the surface–deep is where our roots are pulling nutrients. He is providing everything we need to stay up.
But… we do look beaten.
Save us, Lord! You see our plight and You cling tight. I might feel this unbearable storm, but You keep together the most important part of me–my soul. When I, a summer flower, bloom in the dead of frigid winter, people wonder, How?
My roots are held deep in love and warmth, surviving and thriving in unthinkable conditions. You give life that doesn’t make sense. It appears impossible to live in such a way, a bloomed flower in dead winter. Only a good, redemptive God can give that kind of life. Thank you for deep roots in you, God. For clinging to me deep in my soul so I can survive. Thank you for winding my roots around such strong, wise roots of others. You have won and will continue to win in my heart. Nothing can hold you back. So please Lord, radiate strong from my being, through my broken stem and beaten leaves right to my new and beautiful bloom.
Finding Unity in Brokenness and Journeying Together
Brokenness is a unified human condition. We all know what our beaten leaves and broken stem represent. But at the end of our broken stem is a faithful, redemptive bloom. One that reflects the unchanging beauty of Christ that is in ALL of us. Perhaps, when we look at the bloom, our stems and leaves become (dare I say it?) inconsequential; not because they don’t hurt anymore–oh they do! But because we can see beyond it and know that hope is always worth holding on to because redemption is coming, and in fact, is already happening here and now.
May you see your bloom. May you know deep in your soul just how much Jesus really, really loves you. Hold on. Hold on to those hope-filled roots, God’s strength and victory always before you, beside you, under you, and all around you.
“…please, Lord, radiate strong from my being, through my broken stem and beaten leaves, right to my new and beautiful bloom. My broken stem shows my weakness, and my new bloom shows that You take brokenness and make it SO beautiful… Bloom beautiful in me, despite my ugly, broken stem.”
(Can’t Steal My Joy: The Journey to a Different Kind of Brave by Bekah Bowman)
Bekah Bowman is a wife to a track coach, and mom to Titus and Ely. When she isn’t writing, you might find Bekah spending time with her family, working as the Volunteer Manager for her community’s local Guardian ad Litem (CASA) program, or jumping in on an indoor soccer game. She loves coffee, fresh journals, and meaningful conversation. And most of all, she loves being a small part of God’s Big Story. Visit Bekah’s blog, or find her on Facebook and Instagram.
If you’d like to read more about Bekah’s journey to joy, grab a copy of my book Can’t Steal My Joy: The Journey to a Different Kind of Brave.
One reader named Staci says: “Have you ever experienced any kind of brokenness in your life? Who of us hasn’t? Whether you have walked the difficult journey of facing a terminal illness diagnosis being given to your child or you have been beaten down by the typical rhythms of life, then Can’t Steal My Joy will speak straight to your heart. Not only will it speak to your heart, but it will reach the depths of your heart where the biggest heartbreak exists while at the same time touching the peak of your heart where the greatest love and joy is found.”
Photography: JenniMarie Photography