This year during Lent, Imago Dei Community will be exploring the theme "Hearing the Voice of God." The following is one in a collection of stories from community members about their experiences, challenges and questions around hearing from God and discerning His voice.
By Katie MacDonald
My sister became catatonic in October of 2016. It started slowly. Depression sinking into loss of speech sinking into frozen limbs and bursts of hysteria. “Failure to thrive,” they called it. My mom did her best to hold her together, and my dad questioned how our family would survive if she didn’t. All this was happening hundreds of miles away, while I sat in the sinking feeling that nothing was going to be the same again.
My sister has shown me Jesus more clearly than anyone in my life. I’ve seen Him in moments of frustration (what is wrong with her?), moments of jealousy (why can’t she be like other kids?) and moments of humility (why did I push her away, all she wanted was me?). You see, my sister has autism. But not a normal kind of autism; an unexplained kind of autism. A “we don’t have a name for that, don’t really know how to help you” kind of autism. That has created a barrier between me and God for years. But when she became sick...when she stopped talking, stopped eating, drinking, living…that barrier became even greater. I could feel Jesus seeking me out. Reaching out. I could feel His voice and care and concern in my friends, in songs on Sunday, in the prayers my mom whispered after another day of no answers. But I couldn’t respond. I didn’t want to respond.
Because He could fix this if He wanted. He could reach down and save my sister from whatever held her hostage inside her body. He could bring peace to my drained and wearied mom. My broken dad. But for months He didn’t. And so I pretended. I thanked my friends for their prayers. I wrote grateful posts on social media. But I didn’t want Jesus’ comfort. I wanted Him to feel my rage. My despair. My brokenness in the midst of my sister’s broken body.
Yet my resistance did not stop His compassion. My refusal to let Him speak to me did not stop Him from speaking. If anything, my walls made His voice reverberate into my soul more than any other time. The harder I pushed, the louder He became.
Until the walls crumbled.
And He let me yell. Scream. Question. Sink in the waves of uncertainty. All the while never letting me go. Because that’s what He does. Jesus sits in the mud of our mess with us. He weeps with us. Screams with us. Holds onto our brokenness while whispering love over us.
When my voice grew hoarse, His gentle whisper calmed me. Covered me. Brought me light in the midst of darkness. He was there when the random doctor answered my desperate email. He was there when the insurance covered the treatment. He was there when we left her in the hospital ward.
And you better believe He was there when I picked up the phone and heard the sweetest voice I hadn’t heard in 6 months whisper, “Hi Katie. I miss you.”
Art by Scott Erickson.