I prayed for twins when I was pregnant with my son. I’m sure I would have been given the strength to handle two busy boys, but let’s be real — Thank You, Jesus, for letting that one slide . .
We had two girls, and I thought surely we needed a boy. I believe in praying Scripture, so I prayed Hannah’s prayer in I Samuel 1:11:
O Lord Almighty, if you won’t forget me, but give me a son, I will give him back to You for all the days of his life.
The Lord answered that prayer, and I kept my end of the bargain — I dedicated my son to Him for all of his life, as I had done both of my girls.
When Daniel was 8 months old, I noticed a little knot on the back of his head. I wasn’t overly concerned, but I wanted my pediatrician to take a look. He wasn’t overly concerned either. He said it was just a cyst and it would go away. Within a couple of months, it had grown to 3x it’s size. I took him back to the doctor. He again calmed my fears and said not to worry — cysts grow.
By the time a few more weeks had passed, it had begun to cluster off like a bunch of grapes. I no longer believed this was a cyst, and wanted a second opinion. So did the doctor. He sent me to a pediatric surgeon, who also assured me there was nothing to worry about, but he said it needed to be removed since it was growing quickly. We scheduled our 13 month old son to have surgery the next week.
I was beside myself, to put it mildly. Not only was my baby about to be put to sleep and have his head opened up, but I was in the frozen tundra with not one family member. I felt very alone and afraid.
We put him on every prayer chain we could, all over the world. But I couldn’t get peace. Standing over his crib the night before his surgery, watching him sleep, I wept. I reminded the Lord of the prayer I had prayed, and how I had given Daniel to Him.
Lord, I said I would give him to you all the days of his life. Please don’t let his days be this short.
It was all I knew to pray. I never slept a wink that night.
His dad and I waited in the family room at Providence Hospital in Anchorage during his surgery. A friend watched our girls. Our pastor came, and another friend from church. Minutes turned to hours, and I was keenly aware that it was taking much longer than the surgeon anticipated. Hours longer.
After what seemed surely an eternity, Dr. Bleicher walked into the waiting room. He looked at us with tears in his eyes. If I’d ever known true fear in my life, it was watching that doctor try to compose himself enough to speak. I’ll never forget his words as long as I live:
It’s never easy to tell someone their child has cancer.
The next week was a blur as we waited for the pathology report so we would know how best to treat our baby. I sat at Dr. Bleicher’s desk, a hot mess I’m sure (I’m not an attractive crier). He said he had good news and bad news. The good news was the initial pathology report showed it probably was not cancer! But the bad news was, they hadn’t gotten it all. They needed to do another, more extensive surgery, in case it WAS cancer so they could remove the rest of this aggressive tumor.
Again we alerted every prayer chain. Although I felt MUCH relief that the doctor didn’t believe Daniel was going to die, or even need treatment past the second surgery, I was still all to pieces at him having to go through that again.
The next time I sat in Dr. Bleicher’s office, he said he hoped I wouldn’t be mad, but the pathology report from the second surgery showed no tumor cells at all. They had removed only healthy flesh from his skull. He apologized and said he didn’t know how that could have happened, because he had seen for himself that the tumor cells had gone all the way past the edges of what he had removed the first time. He waited for my reaction, figuring this Mama Bear was going to be livid that her son had to undergo another surgery, leaving him with a scar all the way down the back of his head.
“I have no explanation,” he said.
I smiled and said, “Oh I do. We would never have known God healed him if you hadn’t done the second surgery. I’m not mad, Dr. Bleicher. I’m thankful God used you to show off!”
After that, my little butterball baby boy was the picture of health, and those two surgeries were the beginning of many stitches his head would incur at the hands of fireplace hearths, playgrounds, baseball bats, and tile floors.
With the spiritual high of the healing of my son, I guess I thought healing came if you prayed hard, and got enough other people praying. (As you probably already know, I only had a short ride on that high horse!).
A year or two later, we had moved back to NC, and a dear pastor friend asked me to share that story at his church in Virginia. I’m sure I was careful to give God all the glory for healing our son, and I’m sure I talked about prayer, and faith — I really don’t remember exactly what I said. What I do remember is a lady standing up and walking out in tears. I had no idea what I’d said, but whatever it was sure upset her.
Afterwards, I asked Jimmy what was wrong with that woman. He said her son was about the same age as Daniel, and he had a tumor too. They had prayed and prayed, but her little boy died.
Her little boy died . . . .
Confusion swirled in my brain . . . . Why would my son be spared, and not hers? I didn’t know the answer to that question, and honestly, I don’t think I wanted to. I felt terribly guilty.
Fast forward 12 or 13 years. My life was in shambles, an utter failure. I was barely hanging on to the cliff, and my hands were slipping. I’d gone to a prayer meeting at my church, but truth be told, I was prayed out. I was too empty to keep trying.
The pastor asked for praise reports, and a lady I didn’t know stood up and shared the story of her niece who had been on the verge of divorce. Her family and Sunday School class had prayed, and God restored their marriage. She exclaimed (in the best Southern drawl you can imagine),
“Y’all, if you know somebody who’s about to get divorced, ALL YOU GOTTA DO is watch ‘Fireproof’ and pray! You watch and see if God don’t put it back together, better’n ever!”
Really? That’s it? That’s all ya gotta do? Watch ‘Fireproof’ and pray? Why didn’t I think of that?!?!
Now it was MY turn to get up and walk out — and that’s just what I did.
Oh I don’t think that lady meant to hurt me, any more than I meant to hurt the lady who’s son had died. On the contrary, I’m sure she was doing her best to encourage those with troubled marriages not to give up. I think “Fireproof” is a good movie, and I believe in the power of prayer. It hadn’t worked out for me like it had for that family. It hadn’t been that simple.
I had good intentions in sharing my story about Daniel’s tumor as well. After seeing the pain on that young mother’s face in that little country church in rural Virginia, I’ve been careful not to over simplify God’s healing power. I don’t know why God healed Daniel, yet seemingly didn’t answer my other prayers. There is no secret formula to get God to perform like you want Him to. Matter of fact, if someone else tries to tell you there is, be very careful. Ain’t no such thing.
I’m thankful I’ve seen the miraculous hand of God in my son in this life, and even though I couldn’t see it then, I’m thankful I’ve been on the other side as well, when my most earnest prayers weren’t answered like I wanted them to be. I’m stronger today than I was then because of it.
I still pray Hannah’s prayer for all my children. They’re Yours, Lord, for all the days of their lives. I can’t be with them all the time, but God can. They belong to Him.
If you’re praying, waiting for healing, whether physically or in your heart, for yourself or someone else, be encouraged, my friend. Healing is coming, in one form or another, sooner or later. You might not feel it or see it, but you’re stronger. Great strength can only be earned by great pain.