The changing face of Jesus in my life
It was one of the most poignant moments of Synod 2017 when keynote speaker Hannah Boland stood on stage and shared how the image of Jesus was transformative amidst family heartbreak and living with chronic pain.
“When the [Synod] board actually asked for me to present to you my story they said to me ‘Hannah we really looking for somebody whose story is not all wrapped up in a nice neat bow.’
“And I’m thinking to myself well they’ve come to the right place because my story is anything but,” said Hannah who is also a successful comedian.
As she spoke Hannah visually represented her journey by placing cardboard building blocks, which was later revealed to be her image of her faith and her life journey. And where her faith journey began was at home, having grown up in a Christian family.
“But by the time I finished up my last high school years I realized that I actually didn’t have a relationship with God at all and the only reason I was going to church was because that was what my family did,” explained Hannah.
So she stopped attending church and it was only years later that she began going to bible studies and church again. Six months after she made that commitment to Jesus in her adult life, her husband also gave his life to Jesus.
“From that moment forward our marriage was squarely built on the foundation that was Jesus. I’m so glad Jesus intervened in our lives when he did because our marriage was heading down a pretty dark path very early on. I am absolutely convinced to this day that if he hadn’t intervened we would no longer be married. Praise God for that.”
This foundation proved to be unshakable even with the family heartache that followed years down the line.
Here Hannah detailed her health problems, that included being diagnosed the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia the same condition her sister also suffers. She described living with fibromyalgia as being strapped to a rotating mop inside an automatic car wash. But what Hannah said hurts even more is the silent judgement that unfortunately Churches are guilty of too.
“Because no one sees the suffering that goes behind closed doors. I look fairly fit and healthy but I can tell you it can take me three to four weeks to recover from just speaking here today.”
After getting married and continually growing her faith through reading and learning the Bible, she and her husband looked to start a family. Her first miscarriage was devastating.
Then came the anxious and happy birth of her daughter Alison and son Harry.
A few years later Hannah became pregnant but at 20 weeks doctors found a brain abnormality in their unborn son.
“Right from the moment he was diagnosed there was tremendous pressure put on us by medical practitioners to terminate the pregnancy. Because in the eyes of the world his life had no worth whatsoever and we were so determined in that time to honour God and to honour our son and we fought so hard to protect him because every child is a gift from God. We absolutely believed that and believe that still.
“And so my son was eventually born fairly close to full term and we had 47 precious hours with him before he was taken to Jesus. I’ll be honest with you things got a bit shaky after a while.”
Following this devastation Hannah went into a deep depression. But it looked to be all changing when she became pregnant again this time with her second daughter.
There was raw emotion from Hannah and Synod members as Hannah shared how at the 36-week check-up she found out that her unborn daughter had passed away.
She explained how every part of her life crumbled while she suffered complete nervous breakdown and acute anxiety. She showed this by dismantling her building blocks on stage.
“What was worse than all of those things was that my faith was in tatters because the three ways I had been taught about how God connects with us and how He communicates with us and heals us, were taken away from me. Because every time I sat down to read my bible I would have an acute panic attack.
“And they were so violent that I would be almost thrown out of my chair and convulsing on the floor like I was having a seizure. Praying created a similar response,” said Hannah.
It’s hard to imagine how she continued after this ongoing going pain both physically and mentally. But Hannah explained that it was her family and her maturing faith in Jesus that continued to give her strength. By rebuilding the building blocks on stage Hannah showcased a new image of Jesus.
“He is a real person that you can reach out that you can touch and you can relate to and I much, much prefer this image of Jesus. And the power of my story is not in the idea that God has restored everything and healed everything and set everything right because that is absolutely not the truth.
“It’s not that healing hasn’t been brought and that restoration hasn’t occurred, but the power of my story is in the image that Jesus now shows in my life because of my struggles. I hate that this is my story. I hate that I have children that I don’t get to kiss at night. I hate that I am in so much pain every day of my life that all I want to do is curl up in a ball and not leave my room.
“But what I love about this story is the human, relatable side of God that he has shown me. What I love about my story is that through it God also shows you this image of Himself.”