“After Beau’s death, I felt betrayed by my faith, broken,” the first lady said on Sunday during a publicly unannounced visit to Brookland Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina, where she was visited. spoke at a special service in honor of the church pastor’s 50th birthday. , Rev. Dr. Charles B. Jackson.
Biden explained how lost she was after Beau’s death, how her consistent and ongoing prayers for him to live ultimately went unfulfilled, leaving her angry and distraught. “Chemotherapy, surgery after surgery, weight loss, I still never gave up,” Biden said. “I kept going, every day I put one foot in front of the other, and despite what the doctors said, I believed my son would get there,” Biden said of his unwavering belief in his power. superior. “In the last days, I made one last, desperate prayer, and it went unanswered. “
It was one of her most personal and detailed talks about her faith, revealing how broken she was during this dark time – her voice broke more than once as she recounted the details.
Biden said after Beau’s death she went so far as to ignore emails from her own longtime pastor in Delaware begging her to come back to the flock, renew her trust in God and worship him.
Biden stayed away from regular church attendance for the next four years.
Until she made her first visit to Brookland Baptist.
In May 2019, during an election campaign in Palmetto state, then-candidate Joe Biden and Jill Biden stopped to worship during a service led by Jackson.
It wasn’t necessarily the Reverend that pushed her into action that day, but rather his wife, Robin Jackson. “Robin came up to me, and she sat down next to me and she said, ‘Doctor Biden, I would like to be your prayer partner,’” Biden said, recounting the day of the congregation gathered Sunday to ‘about 100 people, including the Jacksons. .
Biden would later say that she wasn’t sure at the time what exactly a prayer partner was, or what that involved – whether it was some sort of pen pal program or church buddy – but something about Jackson’s cuteness hit her. “I don’t know if she sensed how moved I had been by the service. I don’t know if she could see the sorrow I still feel behind my smile, ”she said. But at that point, for the first time since her son took his last breath, Biden said she sees a way to regain her faith. Looking back, Biden said it was through Robin Jackson that she heard God say, “Okay, kid, you’ve had enough time.” It’s time to go home. ”
Two strangers, linked by faith and SMS
On Sunday, Biden and Robin Jackson sat next to each other on the same bench, masked, reunited as in-person prayer partners. Jackson wore a fuchsia suit, Biden a light blue, and both had matching bodices with large red flowers on their wrists. It was sort of a homecoming, since Biden’s primary communication with Jackson was via text. The two women exchanged words of support every Wednesday early in their relationship, according to Jackson’s son Reverend Charles Jackson, Jr., who introduced the first lady to the service.
“After that Sunday, my mother texted them a reminder praying for God’s favor on them,” he explained. “My mother would text, she would resend the text; my mom would text, that text would get back text. And that would continue until today. ”
In an interview with the PBS NewsHour in August 2020, Biden was asked what she and her prayer partner are actually doing. “We got in touch. We pray together, ”was the simple answer. “We text each other several times a week. She gave me back my confidence, ”Biden said. Going deeper on Sunday, Biden cited scriptures saying her renewed belief was only possible because Jackson decided it was time she no longer walked alone in sadness. “We can’t heal ourselves on our own,” Biden said. “Robin’s kindness, mercy and grace have passed the calluses of my heart. Like a mustard seed, my faith was able to grow again. ”
In January 2020, ahead of Jackson’s participation as one of 32 speakers from across the country to speak at Joe Biden’s inaugural prayer service, she said in an interview that her own faith was strengthened by her experience with Jill Biden and their weekly texts. “Jill would text me, and I know she was too busy to text me,” Jackson said. “But she would always text me and say, ‘Thank you, my friend. I needed it.’ “
Biden’s visit on Sunday came as a surprise to Robin Jackson. (Her husband, the Reverend, has been told – but only because it’s well known, his friends say, he doesn’t like surprises, especially during his church services.) When the Secret Service began to show up more early in the day on Sunday, and the police presence around the church increased before Biden’s arrival, Robin Jackson grew suspicious. “He was told it was because Whip (Jim) Clyburn was coming,” Michael La Rosa, Biden’s press secretary, told CNN of how the excitement continued. The South Carolina congressman and third-ranked Democrat in the House has a security element and has been to church before. The lie, although told in a place of worship, was small and made in good faith, La Rosa said.
When Biden arrived, she crept into a private room, carrying a large bouquet of flowers made by florists from the White House Florist, and surprised Robin Jackson.
After Biden spoke to the congregation, Jackson’s son took the microphone and shared with a laugh how difficult it was not to tell his mother Biden was coming to see her. “It took everything in us to hide it from him,” he said, asserting that the visit was “not a political ploy”, but an “expression of love and friendship”.
La Rosa says the first lady and Jackson “still keep in frequent contact,” and most of the time, it’s always by text.
For Biden, meeting Jackson was more than a chance to text a stranger and now a new friend. The spark that restored her faith, she says, also restored something greater. “It reminded me of what was at stake,” Biden said on Sunday. “Not an election, not a partisan battle, but a country in need of healing. ”
Biden goes to church regularly again. On Saturday, before her surprise trip to see her prayer partner, she and the president, who is Catholic, attended mass at a Georgetown church, which the couple do almost every weekend, be it in Washington. , DC or at his home in Delaware. Closing her remarks the next day, Biden said that when she returned to her faith and decided to believe in God again, she learned, “We don’t just find mercy, we find each other. ”