The Woman Who Held My Face
As we seek to care for and support others, many of us find it difficult to allow ourselves to receive deep care from close, trusted others. Here, Becky Allender writes about a surprising friendship with a woman who saved her marriage, taught her how to pray, and allowed her to feel cared for and cherished in a new and beautiful way. This post originally appeared at Red Tent Living.
There was a flurry of excitement with people arriving at “The Castle” in Glen Eyrie in Colorado Springs. I had never been to this historic railroad baron’s castle, and it seemed to be a dream come true to get to come here with Dan. He had the opportunity to teach with his mentor Larry Crabb at the first Advanced Institute of Biblical Counseling conference. I was thrilled to be in beautiful Colorado with Dan and our seven-week old son.
We scheduled to spend the first breakfast with Dr. Pamela Reeve. My husband had had amazing things to say about her when she had come to one of his supervision seminars. I was really looking forward to meeting and finding out what was so special about her.
It was a typical conference breakfast where Dan did most of the talking and engaged vigorously to make the most of the meal. I was quiet because often people are seeking care from Dan and that’s how meals would go. When Dan got up to leave, I found myself lingering in my chair with this woman who had a winsome twinkle in her eye. Surprisingly, Pamela seemed thrilled to sit longer with me and our son, Andrew.
It was as if the whole dining hall faded away as Pamela asked questions and I shared parts of my life that I had never shared before. I dimly remember someone coming and taking Andrew from my arms so I could be more present with this unexpected time of care. When we stood to go to the conference, Pamela said, “Becky, within the next few days I want you to share with Dan what you told me.” I thought this was bold on her part, but I replied, “Oh sure, of course. It was so good to have this time with you.”
The days passed, and I did not talk to Dan about my conversation with Pamela. I actually avoided Pam. Dan and I had time to hike in the snow with our new son and talk, but not the conversation that Pamela had asked me to have. The last evening Pamela stopped me and asked if I had talked with Dan, and I said no. In perfect Pamela style she said, “Becky, I did not come to hear Dan or Larry. On the plane flying from Portland, God made it clear to me that the reason I was coming was to meet you! I’ll come by your room after tonight’s program. I’ll see you soon!” With shaking legs and a pounding heart, I climbed three flights of stairs to deliver dinner to the conference speakers. What had I done?!
I barely heard any of the teaching that night. When Dan and I went to our suite in “the castle,” I told Dan that within minutes Pamela would be knocking on our door to talk with us. I nursed Andrew, and when I put him in his crib I oddly knew that what was ahead was so important that Andrew would go to sleep and stay asleep. There was a knock, and I opened the door to let this unassuming, seventy-one year-old lady into our room.
We sat in three winged back chairs, and Pam literally scooted her huge chair closer to us and said, “At this stage of life I am a little hard of hearing.” She paused and looked at us and said to Dan, “Becky shared some things with me I think you should hear.”
Some of Dan’s teaching had been on new material he was developing on sexual abuse. We had cared for many graduate students in our home over the past couple of years as they shared stories of harm, but I had been silent—only with Pamela had I shared some of my own past which needed healing.
I was furious that two trained therapists sat in silence and waited for me to talk. After quite a while, Pamela said, “You know, you should see my desk at school and all that needs to get done. I have a flight home tomorrow, but I am just fine to sit here and miss it. I am willing to wait until you are ready to talk.”
This woman was a serious warrior, and I realized the longer I sat, the longer this would take! So I began talking, and time faded away. When I finished Dan had tears running down his cheeks and he said, “I have made a living out of finding the pebbles in people’s lives, and I have missed the boulders in my own living room.”
This holy threesome sitting together turned out to be one of the major “rescues” of our marriage.
When we said goodbye the next day, Pamela hugged me and said, “Becky, why don’t you come spend a weekend with me?”
I took her up on her offer, and a year later I left my husband in charge of the house and children and flew to Portland. I was nervous to be with this woman who, in some ways, had “saved” my life. After dinner the first night she said, “Would you like to join me for devotions in the morning?” “Oh, yes!” I quickly replied.
What did she see? Why did she care? I spent a number of weekends with Pamela over the years at her home. What did I learn? I learned how to pray. Morning devotions began at 5:30. There was a globe, six different devotional books, and countless sheets of prayer letters from missionaries around the world. We began with prayer and then we were off praying for countries, people, mission groups, governments, and needs.
She asked me to look at her daily prayer journal and then she said, “Becky, look at this column. It is what I pray for every day.” When I looked at that column in her prayer journal I saw my name. To be intentionally held before the face of God by a woman with a heart that was so vast and majestic was one of the greatest gifts of my life.
My last time at her home she showed me her prayer list, and I was still daily brought to the Father by her care! A few months later, she called to let us know that she was dying and wanted to speak to us one last time. We huddled around the phone with our tears dropping to the floor and thanked her for fighting for our marriage, honoring my unique life and calling, and holding me before the Father every day for the last twenty-six years. We held our breath as we received her final blessing.
Jesus promises to be with us always. This promise, like all of his gifts, becomes more real when we have at least one person who never forgets us. Isaiah 49 tells us that God has carved our names onto his palms. We are always, always before him, never forgotten.
There is hardly a day that I don’t think about her impish smile and wry, sparkling eyes. I hear her voice. I receive her commendation. And in those memories I am always a beloved daughter, always a chosen friend. Indeed, I know that He is always with me.