Do you have a memory that you treasure? I’ll tell you one of my favourites.
Recognize the handsome fellow dressed in red serge? That’s my husband, Fred. We met thirty-five years ago in the indigenous community of Bella Bella. Back then this tiny village, located on the isolated coast of British Columbia, had barely fifteen kilometres of dirt road. Only a handful of outsiders—teachers, doctors, nurses, and Royal Candian Mounted Police officers—were invited by the Heiltsuk band to live there.
Constable Hizsa liked to tell people that he was stationed in Bella Bella soon after he suspended an alderman’s licence for impaired driving, had the mayor’s son’s car towed, and attended a traffic accident involving the detachment commander’s wife. I found myself there after I graduated from nursing school when jobs were scarce in my home province.
But the real reason I was there was because I wanted to broaden my experience of life. And this one-hotel-no-cable-TV island had lots to show me.
The Heiltsuk people expressed their joy easily and loved each other generously. However, in 1979 many families on the “reserve” (as it was called then) were sorely affected by years of abuse at the hands of the settlers. The trauma of being sent to residential schools had taken its toll and many who survived had turned to alcohol.
I happened to be on the dock the day Fred arrived by float plane. The other police officers were out on a call, so I was left to show Fred to his quarters. Before we got through the door of his trailer, we discovered we had a lot in common. We both grew up in Ontario, our parents had emigrated from Europe, and we loved the outdoors. Soon Fred and I were sharing meals, listening to ABBA, and going for long walks on the beach. After our shifts, we talked about the crazy things that had happened that day and tried to make sense of the violence and pain around us.
Meanwhile, the spinster matron watched these developments from her house across the road. She told us afterwards that she wondered how long it would be before another one of her nurses succumbed to “scarlet fever.”
One moonlit night Fred and I were walking on the beach. A few stray dogs tagged along. I stepped from rock to rock as each wave lifted the seaweed and washed the ocean up around my sneakers.
Fred took my hand to keep me from slipping. “You’re the woman I’ve been looking for my whole life,” he said.
He smiled. There was no one else there except the dogs.
I couldn’t believe someone would choose me to love every day for the rest of their life, but someone did. And still does.
Perhaps one of your favourite memories was a moment like that, a time when you too felt precious to someone. It could be as simple as receiving an enthusiastic greeting from a friend when you showed up unexpectedly or a gentle word of understanding at a pivotal time. These experiences tell us we are loved and help us believe that God could love us that much too.
The moment we believe God does indeed love us that much and more, that is a moment God treasures. I can imagine the Trinity smiling every time they talk about it.
Never again shall you be called “The God-forsaken Land”
or the “Land That God Forgot.” Your new name will be
“The Land of God’s Delight” and “The Bride,” for the Lord
delights in you and will claim you as his own.
– Isaiah 62:4 (TLB)