A miracle is defined as follows: “A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.”
While we normally associate “miracles” with things like an inexplicably absent brain tumor or a mysterious angel who appeared and then vanished in a tough situation — but this is not always the case. My family experienced a miracle of a different kind — one that took place in the heart and soul.
My husband Rick grew up in poverty to a single mother who suffered from severe alcoholism and eventually, drug addiction. He lived through unspeakable neglect, witnessed horrific domestic violence and watched his own mom attempt suicide. He was abandoned, abused and felt unloved and unwanted most of his life. A string of strange men were in and out of his life, while Child Protective Services often invaded his home to drag him away from an unfit mother who regained custody again and again.
He lived in hotels, trailers, apartments and on several occasions, slept outside. He remembers nights in the backseat of an old car, waiting for his mom to emerge from bars and being awoken at 2 a.m. to drunken screaming. He was alone with his little sister one night when robbers broke into their home to steal a television set. They watched from the corner, terrified, as the thieves made eye contact and quickly took what they came for. He was taken on drug deals, in the backseats of cars being chased by police and given his first try of drugs by his own mother at the age of 15.
After barely graduating high school and narrowly avoiding arrest for stealing money and fighting, Rick joined the Army. It was a good step for him but only the beginning of a broken child’s entrance into a very difficult adulthood. The trauma from his past began infiltrating his mental state immediately, thick roots of anxiety taking hold of him in a multitude of ways. He had abandoned any notion of God after his mom’s latest suicide attempt and the childhood trauma created a distorted worldview where everyone was a threat and happiness was a nonexistent concept.
Following the Army, he entered a series of dysfunctional relationships, experienced divorce, abuse of alcohol and headed into a lifestyle of despair. The physical ramifications of his past trauma and genetic makeup morphed into severe depression and bipolar disorder. He developed extreme social anxiety, eventually suffering from panic attacks and the inability to speak in public settings. Though never truly suicidal, the thoughts entered his mind and he simply accepted that life was always going to be hard — devoid of the freedom or joy that seemed to exist for others.
This, however, was not his fate. Rick’s sister, who had experienced the same childhood as he, began attending church and talking with him about how God was restoring her. She was finding healing at church, and this news piqued his interest. Though he didn’t think much at the time, a seed was planted and his head was pointed in a new direction without his awareness. Soon after this, we began dating and he attended church for the first time in decades. Still embroiled in the hurts of his past, he was interested in the God who healed, forgave and offered new life. While he was still in the midst of dark feelings and trauma, God began working on his heart.
It was around this time that Rick felt he hit his emotional rock bottom. He had no other tools left with which to fight. He opened his hands and his heart to the possibility that God could help him overcome the severe pain. To make a long story a bit shorter, today Rick is a new man. He has forgiven his mother and no longer suffers from depression. Panic attacks are nonexistent and he has even spoken in front of our church. He lives out a happiness he never thought was possible and has given his life to Christ in a very real, personal way. Gone are the irrational thoughts, pockets of rage or intense bouts of guilt and anger.
He is a happily married father of two who has a good job, is involved in his church and is living out that “white picket fence life” he always dreamed about but never believed could exist. The God who heals has done just that and there is no natural or scientific reason for why the wounds of a traumatic childhood have been healed so fully and beautifully. There is no explanation as to how a man who had nothing to do with God now lives to love and honor Jesus.
As his wife, I watched my very specific prayers — for the disappearance of rage, the possibility of community, the dramatic change of heart regarding his mother — come true before my eyes. He is a new man that God told me to hold on to, even when these miraculous changes seemed impossible. I’m so glad I did — and thankful to the One who promised that “we will overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the words of our testimony.”
You can read Rick’s full story in “Leaving Cloud 9: The True Story of a Life Resurrected From the Ashes of Poverty, Trauma and Mental Illness” (Thomas Nelson, June 2018).