Alone in the darkness, with tears blinding my eyes as I tried to follow the beam of the headlights on the highway, I came to a decision. “I can’t pray another prayer for Jenny,” I said.
I was sick of the eating disorder that tormented our oldest daughter, the smell of vomit in our bathroom, the arguments my husband and I had about where to hide the food so Jenny wouldn’t devour it on her night binges. I was tired of our younger children complaining, “Mom, my candy is all gone. Who took it?” “Where’s the sandwich meat for my lunch? It’s not in the refrigerator.”
I resented the tension our family experienced at mealtimes as we watched Jenny empty every bit of food onto her plate, stuff it into her mouth and rush to the bathroom to purge herself. I wanted to divorce myself from the ugliness of bulimia and the devastation it had created as it raged through our home. Why should I keep praying for Jenny? Hadn’t I called her name in prayer every day for 13 years? Yet nothing changed.
If I quit praying, the pain of seeing our beautiful daughter teetering on the edge of ruin might stop. If I ceased hoping for a miracle, I wouldn’t be disappointed again and again. Perhaps if I stopped begging God to heal Jenny, the dark cloud of depression I lived under would miraculously lift.
After that dark night, I prayed for other people, but I never mentioned Jenny’s name. A month later, I made a similar decision. This time it was about a houseplant. A geranium plant stood by the window in the bedroom, the best spot in our house for growing things. I had watered it with rainwater and fertilized it. Yet it refused to flourish. One green stalk with a few sickly yellow leaves struggled to stay alive. It had been that way for months. “You’re not going to grow?” I said to the plant that day. “OK, I’m done pampering you! Out you go!” I picked up the heavy pot and stomped through the house to the garage. As I tipped the pot, ready to dump the plant into the garbage can, I heard a voice. So, you’re going to throw it out just like you did Jenny? Jenny? I questioned. What…what do you mean? The voice continued. You threw Jenny out of your prayers. Don’t you know the sickest need more time and patience? The hopeless need more care and prayer.
Had I heard right? Though the words weren’t audible—I heard them in my heart—The message was clear. I had abandoned my daughter at her lowest point, when she needed my prayers and support the most.
I sank to the garage steps. Salty tears dripped into the black dirt as I sobbed, “God, I love her so much. I want her to be a whole person. Why, God, didn’t You answer my prayers?” Wiping my eyes, I hoisted the plant into my arms and headed back into the house. At that moment something happened. I determined—I vowed—to again pray for Jenny. How long? One month, two months, a year? Now the time didn’t matter. My faith was renewed, and I’d pray for her as long as I had breath.
Jenny’s recovery came slowly. She suffered from weakness and hair loss. A dentist told her the enamel on her front teeth had become dangerously thin from years of purging.
“If I lose my teeth, I don’t want to live!” she declared. I braced for the worst.
This time Jenny turned to the Scriptures. “Mom,” she said, “the Bible says God will restore what the locust and cankerworm have devoured. Can I ask God to heal my teeth when I’m the one who ruined them?”
“Healing is a gift,” I said. “Yes, you can ask God to heal your teeth.” Soon afterward the dentist began treatments to preserve the thinned enamel. Every day was a struggle as Jenny tried to relearn normal eating patterns. Often, she’d slip back into the old habit of gorging and purging. I stood by, cheering her better day, praying—good days and bad.
With encouragement, tears, and prayers, Jenny worked toward physical, mental and emotional healing. One day she said, “Things are shaky, Mom, but God and I together, we’re going to make it. Just keep praying!” And what happened to the geranium plant? It stands in our living room—growing, flourishing, and reminding me every day that there are no hopeless cases with God. There are no limits to what He can do as we keep on praying.