Once upon a time, I was the pray-er. Have an ache? I’ll lay hands on you. Have a problem? I’ll remember you to the lord. Have an illness? I’ll pray for you. Have a wayward child, a sick relative, a broken relationship? Give me a name and I’ll lift it up.
I believed there was power in prayer. I believed there was a God, that this God was tuned into what I asked for, and that He was kind of at my beck and call. My life hasn’t been perfect or without tragedy, but I’d say it’s more charmed than average. I attributed that to the “hedge of protection” prayed around me by my parents and family.
Lately I have found myself far, far from that belief. I wasn’t sure what I knew anymore, but I was no longer sure of the power of prayer, of God listening to me, of there even being a God. I knew I was far from the faith I was raised with, the faith I once embraced, the faith I – until very recently – put into fervent practice.
I didn’t realize how far I’d come until this week.
I saw a post on Facebook from a childhood friend of mine. Her husband Sam was in the hospital, not doing well, serious heart issues, life-threatening actually. They had just welcomed their first grandchild into the world, then this.
My mom called me: “Did you hear about Sam?” Yes, yes I did.
“Did you know they Medi-Vac’d him to University Hospital?” No, i didn’t.
“It’s really bad, they’re trying to stabilize him, keep him alive long enough to get a heart transplant. We really need to pray for him! Have you put him on your church prayer list?”
I paused. What could I say that was honest but didn’t sound heartless or blow my cover?
‘Wow, a transplant. This must be so difficult for him and the family. I’m glad he’s at University. it’s a great hospital, I know he’ll get the best of care there. Let me know if you hear anything else. Love you….’
I felt terrible that, because I couldn’t pray, I couldn’t DO anything. Since I’m not a heart surgeon or cardiac nurse, there is nothing I can DO. Praying was at least something I used to know how to DO and DO well. I mean, it isn’t REALLY doing anything, but at least it felt like it. But now… well, I can’t even DO that!
I also felt terrible that I couldn’t be honest with my mom. I mean, I could, but at what price? We were talking about Sam and a life threatening situation involving people we care about. It wasn’t about me. I didn’t need to make it about me.
(My relationship with my mom is fragile at best sometimes. She suffers with PTSD from various tragedies she has endured. She credits her stellar relationship with God as the thing that keeps her strong, keeps her going. I couldn’t – and can’t – sacrifice our relationship and risk triggering a PTSD episode with my own truth. For now, my truth needs to stay silent.)
I keep thinking of when my friend and Sam got married. I was at their wedding. They were young. We were all young. But even in his 20s, Sam had serious heart issues. I remember visiting him in the hospital not long after they were married. He had a serious cardiac event, was on death’s door. I drove two hours to see my friend, to support her, to let her know I cared.
That was 30 years ago. Thirty years that Sam has been living despite having a crap heart. Thirty years that they have stayed married, had kids, worked, built a house, had a grandchild. Thirty years that they have lived and grown and loved. Thirty years that that they have prayed, yes, but also 30 years that they most likely would not have had without major medical intervention.
Every time Sam had an issue, what did they do? They didn’t lock him in a prayer room with a lot of holy people. They didn’t put blessed handkerchiefs on his head, give him communion, sprinkle him with holy water, lay hands on him day after day until he was better and could go home. They didn’t check him into a church until Jesus showed up and fixed his heart.
No. They called EMS. They went to the ER. They consulted his many doctors. They went to the best hospitals they could find. While people were praying outside, inside medical specialists – people who studied biology, learned about science, went through training, were certified, and continually educate themselves – did what they could do to keep his heart going as long as scientifically possible. They have been doing this for 30 years. They have been doing this successfully, apparently, even though they are working with bum equipment. Because after 30 years of crediting prayer for his longevity, HE STILL HAS A CRAP HEART.
I’ve been following my friend on Facebook, lurking really, just to stay abreast of the situation and send positive thoughts her way for whatever good that does. My heart goes out to her. Watching a loved one, a partner, go through such agony and thinking of losing him….that sucks. Many other people care about them. I know, because they continue to leave numerous comments on FB posts, comments like these:
God is Good. Still praying.
Praise the Lord!!!! GOD IS SOOOO GOOD!!!!!
God is on your side!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Still praying and believing!
Thank God! Praying and interceding for you all
Jesus is praying to our Daddy God for you!
Be strong and courageous, the Lord your God will uphold you with his right hand, he neither slumbers or sleeps.
Thank you Lord! None of this is a surprise to Him…He has you in his hand!
Nothing is impossible for God!
The Lord is still in charge!
Our God is amazing!
He is showing His strength in the storm!
Once upon a time, I would probably have left a comment much like this. It’s the language of my people. Thank God. Credit Him with all good things. Always believe. Profess faith even when things go to shit, because that only means you aren’t believing enough. Or maybe you have sin in your life. In which case, you have a bigger problem than a bum heart…..
But now, reading these comments made me angry and brought me face-to-face with the fact of how far I’ve come:
WHERE IS THE THANKS FOR THE DOCTORS AND NURSES AND ANESTHESIOLOGISTS AND THERAPISTS AND PHARMACOLOGISTS THAT HAVE KEPT SAM’S CRAP HEART RUNNING FOR THE PAST 30 FRICKIN’ YEARS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Not one person credited anyone but God.
Here’s one HUGE problem I have with that.
I was taught God is perfect. That God doesn’t make no junk. That God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. That God is all powerful. That God can do only good. That when God fixes something, He doesn’t do it halfway. That God doesn’t need puny and weak human assistance to work his miracles. That, regardless of what medicine you take or procedure you receive, all true healing comes from God
If that is true, 1) why does Sam keep going to THE HOSPITAL? and 2) why does Sam STILL have a CRAP HEART after 30 years of “healing”?
The fury I felt reading comment after comment after comment amazed me. I shook my head in disbelief, and in disgust. I posted a comment that I was so glad to hear that Sam was doing better, that he was stable, and that I was thankful he had such amazing doctors and nurses doing good work. It was innocuous and non-confrontational, but honest. I waited for someone to echo my sentiment, to thank SOMEONE other than God.
I’m still waiting. In the meantime, I have definitive proof that doctors do NOT think they are god. God requires exhortation and praise and thanks to provide the simplest of healings. Doctors can provide help often within a few minutes. And it’s a good thing doctors don’t require thanks and praise to do their damn job. Because they sure aren’t getting any from this crowd.