Last week my precious friend Donna passed away. Today I was honored to say a few words at her memorial service celebrating her life with her family and friends. About eight years ago, a day or two before I met Donna, I asked God to send me a woman grounded in the Word to help me walk through the biggest mess of my life, which I had made. God not only answered my prayers, but He sent me His very best when He sent me Donna.
I clearly remember the day God highlighted her to me; we were both in the sanctuary of the church we attended. It was after the service and it was just the two of us, as the rest of the congregation was downstairs fellow-shipping. I remember God nudging me and pointing her out, saying in my spirit, “That’s her, that’s the lady who will help you.” I also remember a light God had put all around her. I thought her name was Linda, so I called her name across the empty church, “Linda.” No response, so I called a little louder, “Linda,” still no response, so once again with more volume I yelled, “Linda!” She turned around, looked at me and said, “My name is Donna.” We both started laughing, which was the first of many more laughs we would share together over the next eight years. A few weeks into our friendship when I had shared with Donna my prayer for a Godly woman to help me, her eyes got big and she shared with me that she had been praying to God to give her a woman she could mentor. Talk about a divine connection.
I remember spilling my guts to her the day we met. I told her about my life at that time and the gigantic mess I had made out of it. Donna responded by letting me sob and confess to her while she gently put her hand on my shoulder and quietly, but with assurance, said, “It will be all right, “You will get through this,” and “God has already made a way out for you.” It seemed like we were there alone in the church for the longest time, but when our time together ended, I walked away that day with hope.
Over the next two years, while I was under a federal investigation, Donna prayed with me, called me, visited me or emailed me almost daily, always encouraging me. When I went to serve a two year sentence, she continued to pray for me, wrote me letters on a regular basis, and even came to visit me in prison; a 1,000 mile round trip she made twice. When I returned back home she was there for me with open arms, and a loving heart! In many ways she was like the “Good Samaritan,” we read about in the book of Luke. Donna saw me terribly wounded at a time in my life when most people walked on the other side of the road to avoid me or looked the other way because they saw a big mess, but not Donna. She helped bandage up my spiritual wounds and took a lead role in bringing me spiritual first aid. I cannot thank you enough Donna for being Jesus to me when I was at the lowest point in my life.
The next time anyone of us has an opportunity to be Jesus to someone wounded, who is laying on the side of the road called life, think about Donna’s example. You may never know the incredible life saving impact you could have on another person.
I came across a devotional a few years back that always reminded me of Donna. It’s called “Lend Me an Ear,” by Susan Lenske. Ms. Lenske shares:
Ears are busy these days. A listening, caring, available ear is increasingly difficult to find. Many seem permanently encased in the headphones of their own private interests. Others are busy vying for equal time with other parts of the body – such as an eye on the clock, or a nose to the grindstone.
Even a free ear isn’t necessarily free just to listen. When people come to us with their troubles, many of us discover we have a birth defect; our ear bone is connected to our mouth bone. When patience, understanding and encouragement are most needed, we give advice, platitudes and “My experience can top that” stories.
The burdened who come to us needing to unburden are looking for an ear bone connected to a heart bone.
It’s good to remember that “listen” and “silent” are made of the same six letters.
Donna was a great listener. I will miss the long visits with her, our times of prayer, and lunches together at our favorite restaurant. However, I look forward to spending eternity with Donna and sharing more laughs together.
Thank you Donna for sharing part of your life with me; encouraging me to not let my past define my future and reminding me of who I am in Christ.