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My Story

Rebekah Domer

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This article is the first chapter of Broken but Blessed: Journeying from Pain to Peace with Unlikely Guides.

In Love’s service, only wounded soldiers can serve. –Thornton Wilder

For twenty-eight years I was cruising. Life was great, opportunities endless. I was energetic and healthy. Teaching children both contributed to my community and brought me fulfillment.

And then I crashed.

I was teaching four- and five-year-olds that afternoon. I still remember how the late-summer sun was shimmering through the trees as I stood up to serve snack. I gasped. Searing pain was shooting down my leg. Putting on a brave front, I made it through the afternoon, but by evening I could barely walk.

I tried to shrug off my pain as a passing annoyance, but my situation deteriorated. Next morning saw me face up on a cold steel table as a CT scanner registered cross-sectional images of my lower back. I was summoned to my doctor’s office and told I had a degenerative condition of the spine that would change the course of my life forever.

Refusing to accept the diagnosis, I signed on for a year as a nanny with a family in New York City – a challenging assignment at best. But three weeks into the job, I found myself stranded at a bookstore, my four-year-old charge in tow. My troublesome leg was suddenly, without warning, totally paralyzed.

Emergency surgery followed, then weeks of recuperation, but I’ve never been the same. Pain has become my constant companion, sapping my strength and preventing sleep. Where previously nothing was too much, I now had to push through a wall of enervating weakness to perform the smallest task.

Resigning myself to permanent disability at the age of twenty-eight seemed pointless. “Why?” was my angry demand. Was God punishing me? Had I been remiss in serving him? Why else would he slam life’s doors on me? I could no longer contribute – I was nothing but a burden! Hurt, ashamed, and conflicted, I sought solace in a nearby convent.

“I don’t understand!” I cried to Sister Agnes, the convent’s superior, as I sat in her office. “If God wants me to serve him, why has he robbed me of my capabilities?”

She looked at me, her eyes clear and direct. The love in her voice calmed my anger as she asked, “Rebekah, have you ever read the Beatitudes?”

The Beatitudes? Of course I had read the Beatitudes! These virtues Jesus articulated are central to my faith. But what did they have to do with my current situation?

“Read the first Beatitude, Rebekah,” Sister Agnes said quietly. “It holds the answer for you. Your pain can be a gift if it teaches you humility.”

I was silent as she pressed on. “Don’t you see God’s wisdom in stopping you in your tracks? He desires you, Rebekah. Not great achievements or valiant efforts; He wants you.”

“Just be. Simply offer him your love and allow yourself to be loved. That is all he asks!”

This was new terrain for me. I went home and read the first Beatitude again, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus was offering me poverty of spirit, and I was rebelling.

Everyone on this planet suffers. Sooner or later, we’ll all be broken in the business of living. At such times we may wonder if God is punishing or even mocking us. Years have passed since that October day in Sister Agnes’s office – years in which I have pondered the Beatitudes repeatedly. Life has been tough, my faith tested. But I am learning to trust God.

And I have discovered that Sister Agnes was right. Jesus’ love, as expressed in the Beatitudes, was the key that could unlock the muddled recesses of my soul and guide me from “achievement” toward poverty of spirit.


From Broken but Blessed: Journeying from Pain to Peace with Unlikely Guides

a wooden dock over a blue lake with a sunset
Contributed By Rebekah Domer Rebekah Domer

Rebekah Domer lives at the Darvell Bruderhof in Robertsbridge, East Sussex, UK. She works for Plough, serves as a hospice chaplain, and contributes regularly to the Bruderhof's Voices blog.

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