29 January 2009

Broken and Beautiful: The Damoff's Story

I could not have planned a better time to read Parting the Waters, by Jeanne Damoff.

Lately, I have been examining the effects of decay upon my particularly occupied patch in this universe (I assure you that as a melancholy, this comes quite naturally) and find myself now on the cusp of drinking deeply and refreshingly of the divine nature that tempers the world's decay. (As a contemplative, I relish the opportunity to bask in the beautiful good.)

Parting the Waters illuminates the notion that decay and divine work in tandem, complimenting one another, providing a teamwork approach to leading us into deeper understanding of God. But we have to be open to looking for it, expecting God to show Himself.
Jeanne's story starts at an end. The end of her eldest son, Jacob. Or Jacob-as-he-was, rather.
At 15 years old, his near drowning and subsequent brain injuries thrust Jeanne and her family into the murky waters of doubt and trust. It held them under, gasping for breath.

This was the end of easy faith.
The end of a pretty, gift-wrapped theology.
The end of passing familiarity with the God of widows and orphans.

I cried in almost every chapter of this book. Jeanne's accounts of the Divine reaching His hand through to her broken, breaking and suffocating family... words fail to describe the rush in my heart to read His acts of goodwill toward them. The God of widows and orphans met them in the doorway of their pain. He drew them near, got down on His knee and looked them in the eye as He tenderly ministered to their wounded hearts. And in the case of Jacob, his wounded body. Real hands, audible voices, wet tears- visible and tangible ministrations surrounded the Damoffs. God was moving through His people.

I cried when Jacob's body was revived. When Jacob made his first voluntary movement. The first time he laughed. I cried at his silent weeping as music moved his soul. When doctors and family saw small signs that he is still "in there." When Jacob said, "Mom."
I cried when he walked. When he got on a horse. I cried that he could eat a bowl of cereal. When his quiet presence ministered to others - just his being there with them- I teared up.
When he quipped, "Shoot me now!" Yep, I even cried at that point. (It was hysterical and thrilling to my mother's heart to see his quirky personality bubble back up to the surface. I have quirky kids of my own, Jeanne, so I delighted with you over this. Why just say "Ow" when you can holler "Shoot me now!" The effect is much more grand.)

Jacob Damoff, a young man who's outside appears a picture of decay and loss, reveals that the God who breathed life into Him is not finished glorifying Himself through him. The Divine in the Decayed.

Yeah, I was a mess from all the beauty. A beautiful mess. Which is a darned good way to be, I think.

One special touch that I am immensely enjoying are the personal accounts of many who have been impacted by Jacob's accident and the years since. This was not an isolated story, just for Jeanne to tell. It affected mother, father, husband and wife, sister and brother, best friends, pastors, school teachers, doctors, physical therapists, park rangers, students and complete strangers. Reading their own words of how God has met them intimately through Jacob's drowning knits my heart to this small arm of the Bride of Christ. Through them all, I know the God of orphans and widows better today.

Thank you George, Grace and Luke, in particular, for articulating how God has hovered attentively over your lives. Someday, that Great Someday, when Jacob's body might better cooperate with his will, I would love to hear Jacob himself tell how the Lord has hovered over him all these years. I bet I'll cry then too.

Now that I'm at the end of this book, I'm asking myself the question,
"These things our flesh understands and defines as decay- broken bodies, broken spirits, broken relationships- could they really be instead, the Divine breaking through to reach in and release us from our decay? Is it possible that decay might be a part of salvation?"


Above the book title are the words, "A True Story." This really did happen (and still is happening) to the Damoffs.
It's also A Truth Story. It's happening to all of us. Decay, wrapped in all it's losses, fears and pains, sets the stage perfectly for us to thrill at the climax of our faith story- God, the beautiful Divine.

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Blogger Sarah said...

Hmmm...I read your question and I wonder if decay has to be part of salvation if we take into account that we need salvation because of the fall, because of the introduction of decay. I don't feel like I articulated that very well, very beautifully, but I hope it makes sense!

12:11 PM  
Blogger Jeanne Damoff said...

Oh, Erin. Thank you so much for taking the time to articulate your thoughts. I'm sending this to George, Grace, and Luke, not only because you addressed them personally, but because they will be as blessed as I am by reading your words.

Rest assured you got pay back. I still have tears on my cheeks.

Love, Jeanne

2:36 PM  
Blogger grace said...

Hi Erin!

This is Grace, Jeanne's daughter. Thank you for this beautiful post and for deeply engaging with our family's story.

I really appreciate your question at the end. I've read a lot of Dostoevsky, who similarly pondered over the role suffering plays in our lives. In fact, his philosophy was that we actually gain salvation THROUGH degradation and suffering.

If salvation is gained in associating ourselves with Christ's act of suffering love on the cross, then to what extent does our own suffering play a role in deepening our understanding of our salvation? Or could we go as far as to say that it is THROUGH engaging in our suffering and the suffering of others (especially "the least of these" - the poor, the oppressed, the orphan and the widow), that we truly understand or experience salvation during our time on earth?

There's a lot to consider in your question. Thanks for asking it!

3:22 PM  

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