Trust in the Lord with all your heart. I have heard these words all my life. I always thought I did that – trust in the Lord. But did I trust with everything, did I trust with my entire being? I do not think so now. I have always believed in God and His Son, Jesus Christ. I know that He has been with me all along life’s journey. I could relate many little stories about how I knew Him as a child and I can tell some pretty amazing stories about Him as an adult.
As a child, I was a member of the Susamachar Presbyterian Church on Coffee Street in San Fernando, Trinidad. I loved going to church and being part of the associated groups within the church. I was a member of the Sunday School, the Junior Choir, the Brownies and the TGIT (Trinidad Girls in Training). I thoroughly enjoyed the tea parties and concerts and the candlelight services held at Christmas time. Most of my spare time was spent on the Church compound. Now this does not mean that I did not sometimes want to stay home. No au contraire. There were times I really did not want to go either because I wanted to sleep later or because I did not have anything to wear or any other mundane reason. However generally, whether I wanted to go or not, I had to go if my mother said I had to go.
I can remember the many times I did not do my homework and I prayed to God to spare me from the wrath of the teacher. Most times I was lucky. In fact I cannot ever remember getting in trouble for not doing homework. I recall the times I had misplaced some item and prayed to find it. Inevitably I would. Perhaps most outstanding in my early childhood days would be the many nights I could not fall asleep. I would feel some presence in my room – not a welcomed one but an evil one- and would repeat the Lord ’s Prayer for safety and comfort. That was the only way I could eventually fall asleep.
That feeling of fear and terror would stay with me for a long time into my teenage years. I almost always had trouble falling asleep for that reason. My bible below my pillow was a constant accessory at bedtime. Without that, combined with prayer, I just could not sleep. My worst nightmare happened when I was about fifteen years old. At this time we were living in our own house for about five years, after having lived in rented apartments. That night I dreamt that I was standing in the church yard close to a very old, tall tree. It looked like a ficus tree. The wind was strong and extremely cold. As cold as death itself. With no talking in the dream I was aware that a very powerful evil spirit was imminent. It was up to me to destroy it. I was very scared and immediately awoke out of the dream.
When I got up my skin was as cold as ice and I was breathing rapidly as if I had just run a marathon. I remained fixed by fear on the bed, waiting for something to appear or make some sort of noise. My body was stiff and I was covered from head to toe with my blanket. After a while, still very much afraid but reassured that there was no external movement or noise, I got up quickly and ran across to my parents’ room. My father almost chased me back to my room because my skin was so cold! I said my prayers again before going back to my own room. As I grew older I was able to contain my fears although they never went away completely.
As a young adult the most ethereal experience occurred. I was about five months pregnant with my first child. On this particular day, I was assisting my mother-in-law with making paratha roti (‘ buss up shot’ in local parlance). As I rolled the dough with a rolling pin I experienced a disturbing cramp like pain in my stomach. I went to the bathroom where I realized that I was “spotting”. I told my mother-in-law but since it was not very much neither of us was too alarmed. As the afternoon progressed however the pain got worse and the bleeding increased. We realized that something was wrong and I was rushed to the hospital, about ten minutes away in San Fernando.
I was kept overnight at the hospital. It was diagnosed that I was having a miscarriage. I was in intense pain. I was young. I was scared. I remember it clearly. I did not want to be a nuisance to the nurses but at the same time, knowing how quiet I was, wondered if I would be able to get their attention if it was needed. In the midst of my distress, out of the corner of my eye, to the right hand side, a bright white light became apparent. A familiar figure in a long white gown spoke in a gentle and tender manner. I was told to not be afraid, that all would be well. I knew at once that I had been blessed by the appearance of my Saviour. All my pain, though still present, suddenly became insignificant. The message had been clear. I was given the reassurance that everything would work out the way God wanted it. There was nothing for me to fear. I was able to get some rest after that, awaking early the following morning to have a shower. Later that day the miscarriage was completed. Without God’s calming appearance I do not think it would have been as easy to carry on as it was at that time.
That memory I held close to my heart for a long time. In fact to this day, some twenty five years later, I still cherish that experience. I did not share it with anyone for a while. It was too precious, too sacred to depreciate by sharing with those who may not believe me or who may think I was hallucinating. I perhaps should have paid more attention to my spiritual growth from that time but life resumed in almost the same manner in which it had been before that blessing. I neglected to say that at the age of eighteen, upon entering university, I stopped going to church altogether. I always found a good reason not to attend.
The dream of Christ appearing to me after being crucified and resurrected was another milestone in my journey toward total surrender. However the next major step was due to the unfortunate illness and subsequent death of my father. My dear earthly father! My stronghold in life. The one who was my protector, my defender and my hero. It was the most difficult thing in my life to accept how ill my father was. By the time it became apparent that his fever was not due to a common cold or viral infection, it was already too late. He was diagnosed as having stage IV hepatic cellular carcinoma. The edema spread from his feet all the way up his back. His stomach was badly distended.
My dad remained hospitalized for a full month before being discharged for palliative care. I never gave up hope and was angry for a long time with my other family members who did. I recall dressing to go to work, realizing I had to see my dad first, then spending the rest of the day with him. This happened for the first few days that he was kept at the hospital. Thereafter I moved in to the private room which we had secured for him. I do not know to this day how I did not lose my job. I have no recollection of how I got time off. All I know is that whenever I left that room I would pray to God. I would tell Him that I was surrendering and for the first time I felt I really understood what that meant. I was willing to do anything to ease my father of the burden of the cancer. But I made sure in my prayers to say that it must be according to God’s will, not mine.
After a month of hospitalization, my dad was sent home. Even then I kept believing. Even when he told me he was seeing a light in the distance, I justified it because I thought it was a reflection which I also was seeing. I fought it with all my might, even though I had surrendered. His eventual death, about one month after being discharged, left me empty. I disowned my family – my mother, brothers and all maternal relatives. I began to live a very empty and isolated life. There was gradually less and less meaning to my life. During this time I called on God many times to take over my life. I wondered what to do differently to hear His answer. I wondered how it is that I had surrendered completely and yet there was this emptiness in my life. Don’t get me wrong. There were many days of doing things which I enjoyed but deep down I knew that something was missing.
Four years later I would come to the realization that I really did not know what exactly complete surrender is. At the beginning of last year, an incident occurred which left me in a state where I had no choice but to surrender once again. This time I hope it is truly complete. I had to give up everything in my life as it was. My life was in God’s hands. By prayers and His blessings I survived a terrible botched robbery. I had to lie helplessly in a hospital bed for a full month. I could not eat. I could not speak. Fortunately I could still think lucidly and I could move about a bit. I have not been back to work since that time. I feel God’s presence more acutely and I long to serve Him in the way He wants me to.
As if that in itself was not enough, after the final medical procedure for that year, an even more wonderful occurrence took place. I was blessed by being allowed into the Holy and Awesome presence of God. My God. My gracious and merciful God. Why me? I cannot say except that it is through His grace. I also saw the tunnel of light which my father had described but my God made it clear that it was not yet my time. I was granted five powerful and life changing minutes with Him.
Today there is no need for worrying over any matters. God is in control. His will is what is going to prevail. Time and obedience to Him and His word will reveal His purpose for me.