By Kenneth Justice
“Kenneth, did you see how at peace she was? I didn’t sense even a twinge of bitterness in her at all” he said
~ This past weekend I was in Philadelphia on the latest stop in my Drinking in the Culture Tour and I met so many different people I doubt I will even be able to write about everyone. But one of the people I met that really stands out is Rebecca who writes a blog titled I Am Clothed With Joy.
While I had read a number of her posts in the past, I didn’t realize Rebecca (and her four children) lived so close to Philadelphia…..and I also didn’t realize what an incredible story Rebecca had to share.
As we sat there at coffee in the packed La Columbe Coffee House (which is a pretty awesome coffee shop) Rebecca was bursting with questions she wanted to ask me about myself, which humbles me quite a bit because Rebecca’s story is far more interesting and unique than my own.
Ultimately, Rebecca’s story is really hers to tell the world and not me, yet I can’t help but mention a couple of the small details that really blew me away with admiration for this young woman.
Growing up in an evangelical Christian home on the East Coast, Rebecca was inspired to move to India in order to be a missionary (most likely motivated by stories of people like Mother Theresa and Amy Carmichael). Yet unlike many other evangelical Christian women who wait till they get married to go into the mission field, Rebecca fearlessly moved to India to work in an orphanage as single woman and it was there that she met an Indian man who would eventually become her husband.
After a decade of marriage and four children in tow; Rebecca found herself in an unhealthy relationship and decided that what was best for her and her four daughters would be to leave her husband and move back to the states (the details of why she was forced to leave him are not for me to say).
I can’t imagine how incredibly difficult, both emotionally and physically, it was for Rebecca to break away from that bad relationship and move thousands of miles away from India and back to the states. I’m sure that she must have doubted herself at times and perhaps even wondered if she could actually raise four children on her own.
Yet as she sat there across from me at the coffee shop, had she not told me I would have never known all of the turmoil she’d gone through; her face radiated with peace and joy.
Rebecca had brought two of her young daughters with her who aside from their obvious beauty, were incredibly well behaved and charming. You’d never know these girls and their other two sisters are being raised by a single mom who works a full time job and no father in their life whatsoever.
I’ve met a lot of single mothers in my travels and my heart always goes out to them for all that they are sacrificing in raising their children. It’s got to be a herculean task to raise four children all on your own and I won’t pretend to fully comprehend all that goes into it.
Yet despite all of the hardship Rebecca went through in leaving her husband, I didn’t pick up on any resentment in her heart whatsoever. She even said as much, “I don’t regret anything, I’m so thankful for my children”.
A man I’d met at a previous coffee shop earlier in the morning was sitting with us and listening to Rebecca. After she left he remarked,
“Kenneth, did you see how at peace she was? No bitterness in her at all. I think its connected to her time in India because they have such a different attitude in life; they just accept things as they are and deal with them. They don’t wallow in regret and misery”
I don’t know much about Indian culture at all, but my coffee house friend had been to India before and everything that Rebecca shared with us resonated with his experiences in the country as well. Do we accredit Rebecca’s joyful and positive attitude about life all to the Indian cultural influence? Do we accredit it to her faith in God? Or to Rebecca’s personal inner strength and fortitude? Perhaps it’s a combination of all of those things or none of them. Honestly, I don’t know and it’s not for me to say.
A single mother with four daughters and a full time job; wow!
“Thankfully, my family has been a big help since I moved back, and my children have a lot of cousins around so we have a fairly well built in community” she explained. But I’m sure that is nothing more than Rebecca’s modesty coming out, because no matter how much her family helps, at the end of the day it is Rebecca and her four children facing the world; and they are doing so with a tremendous amount of joy springing from their hearts.
Atlanta, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and now Philadelphia are in my rear view window and I can only imagine what people and conversations lie ahead of me in places like Madison, St. Louis, Minneapolis and more. With each new weekend coming and going, I’m realizing how fortunate I am to be able to sit down with so many different people, like Rebecca, who leave me filled with so much more joy and encouragement then before I arrived to their city.
I will be in Madison, Wisconsin this coming Saturday!!! Join me for coffee!
Categories: Culture & Society