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The Hard Place

It was a Sunday of August 1991. I was lying/sitting in the hospital bed. The doctors had come and explained what they were going to do. My parents had gone to the hotel. I was sixteen, looking at the prospect of brain surgery. Earlier that day my mother tearfully told me that she didn’t know if I would live two days, two weeks, two months or twenty years. She did say that God had something for me to do and that he would give me the time to do it. There was a lot riding on the next morning’s procedure. If the biopsy came back badly, I would likely be dead by Christmas. If they didn’t put the shunt in I wouldn’t live long enough to care about the biopsy.

At sixteen I had a plan for salvation. I was going to become more and more holy and eventually become perfect as my father in heaven is perfect.

How could I have come up with such a doomed plan?

Hurt, pride and determination–they were what moved me from being a failing dyslexic in the 4th Grade to a thriving dyslexic at one of the best schools in the state by the10th grade. The lesson I had learned was that any problem could be overcome with hard work and uncompromising determination. Why should salvation be any different?

The problem I had lying in that hospital bed was that I’d run out of time. I could no more become spiritually perfect than I could write a book in a single night. I didn’t know if I would wake up from the surgery with brain damage. I didn’t know if the biopsy would come out malignant. I was in a hard place. I didn’t have any more wiggle room. I was scared and I needed a savior.

Dear Lord, I always planned to become more holy and a better Christian. I’ve run out of time. Could you please just take me as I am?

As far as salvation prayers go it was pretty pathetic. I didn’t even mention Jesus or even ask for my sins to be forgiven, but the Lord reckoned even my pathetic prayer as righteousness and I could feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit flowing into me. It hadn’t taken surgery or brain damage to change me. The Holy Spirit made me a new person. Since that day I’ve worried about many things: pain, incapacitation, isolation, and what would happen to my wife and children if I died. But I’ve never worried about death.

Everyone comes to hard places. Sometimes they are dramatic, like the night before brain surgery. Sometimes they are in the middle of sustained challenges, like depression or addiction. Other times they are awakenings to the fact that our salvation plans, like most human plans, are wholly insufficient. What are the hard places you have experienced in your life? What spiritual fruit has grown out of those experiences?

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2 thoughts on “The Hard Place”

  1. Thank you so very much for sharing your experiences with me. “Our God is an awesome God.” Your experiences tell me that, for God, nothing is impossible. I am so touched. Your experiences gives me a sense of healing because I relate to you, especially when being in desperate situations in which there seemed to be no way to escape, but God Almighty always intervened and got us out of our painful and desperate situations.
    While reading your truly inspiring experiences, this Christian song that I have been listening here in America for over 10 years came to my mind: “God will Lift Up Your Heads. Hope, be undismayed.”
    (Peter is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, a Peace Corps veteran of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and China, who is now working in the D.C. Office.)

  2. I have been a critical care and ER nurse for 39 years and am fascinated by your stories. I, too, have a testimony or two of prayers answered, the Grace of God, and healing. My own daughter (now 26) weighed 700 grams, born at 23 weeks gestation, and is now a college graduate. I learned about God’s healing powers and prayer when she was born and survived several near-death episodes. My nursing practice was influenced by my life experiences, and as I wind down my career, I understand more clearly how medicine is simply a tool, and we are instruments, not healers. I look forward to reading more. Thank you for sharing.

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