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#storiesmatter: A Faith Story from Pastor Deborah

This past Summer, we ran a Sermon Series focusing on individual faith stories. As part of that series, we began soliciting faith stories from members and constituents here at St. Stephen’s. Many people think their stories are too small, but often the process of articulating the story will help you to see a larger role God has played in your life, and you never know who may draw comfort or inspiration from reading or hearing your story shared. Pastor Deborah’s story is below.

My witness is that of God’s healing. When I was a 19 year old college student, my back suddenly began to ache. It seemed to me that studying must be causing the pain. A few years later, as I was leaving Duke Divinity School and taking my first pastorate in Virginia, I asked a doctor to look at my back. The pain was severe, even debilitating. I was told I had scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. I saw a physical therapist to learn how to control the pain through exercise. A routine of sit-ups before bed was to become a strong habit of mine. I rarely missed. This regimen became my method of coping with the pain, a way to keep both my back and my perspective strong.

I also began to learn how to abide in Christ. I was realizing the power of God’s love to work wholeness in me and in the people of the church. Basil Pennington was the one who taught me, a monk who traveled the world to teach people how to train their hearts to continually seek God’s Spirit. The practice is an ancient one, called contemplative prayer.

One day after I had entered my forties and was on my fifth pastoral appointment, I asked my doctor about my scoliosis. At the time, I was sitting on the examination table. She replied, “What scoliosis?!” Unbelievably, my spine had become straight! I remember she was as astonished as I was. I knew it was God. It was very hard for me to wrap my mind around it all and I felt deeply humbled that God had worked this healing in me. As I began to accept what had happened, I became aware of the various aspects of God’s good gift. My 23 year struggle with back pain was over and I could now better handle the physical demands of being a pastor. And I was shot through with new faith. In this time I saw my faith grow by leaps and bounds. I realized God was releasing joy in me.

It is a wonderful thing for a pastor to believe in healing. And how does a pastor best have faith in God’s healing? It is when the
pastor knows healing first-hand.

-Reverend Deborah Austin

If you would like to share your story, please email your written copy to Carol Knachel, knachel7[at], or give it to her directly. She is often at the front doors at 11 am on Sunday mornings.