At a time when I should have been praying about petty fights with friends or asking God for a pony, I was interceding for my dad’s life.
As hard as I try, I can’t seem to remember pre-cancer days. I have scattered memories of short-lived remission days. Mostly, though, I remember the days of cancer. Lymphoma was an integral part of my childhood vocabulary, along with chemotherapy, radiation and phrases like “two months to live.”
And oh, the prayers.
Maybe there was a night here and there when I didn’t pray for healing and health for my dad, but I don’t remember those carefree nights. In the forefront of my mind are the nights of pleading and begging, with a voice or in a whisper, with dry sleepy eyes or with the tears of a child.
There are so many stories to tell of those nights. Stories of angels in my room or the closeness I felt to my comforter. Stories of loneliness and fear, intermingled with stories of faith and hope.
But the story in my heart today is the story of the after. The story of a prayer unanswered and a father buried along with the faith of his daughter.
My brother became the pastor of the church when Dad died. A revival had been scheduled before his death and it was decided to move forward with the special guest speaker. Evangelist S. was a friend of my father, of our family and of our church. My guess is that in the midst of church-wide grief, the leadership was desperate for healing and hope. So he came. And this 16-year-old was there.
It was surreal walking into those church doors those first few months. I saw Dad everywhere. The church building was my preferred context in which to place my dad (beats a hospital any day) and the building of that church had been his life’s work. Yet, in I walked, sitting as though I hadn’t been shaken to my core.
That minister preached a masterpiece of a sermon. He remains the most captivating storyteller I have ever heard. As was customary for this particular minister, he began to pray for people after his sermon. I am Pentecostal, and it is not uncommon for Pentecostal preachers to call someone out for prayer in front of the congregation. He asked if anyone was sick and began laying hands on people to pray for them.
I don’t quite know how to describe how I felt in those moments. Just try to imagine with me….
*16 years old
*Father was just buried
*9 year battle with cancer
*Thousands of prayers for healing
*Sitting in father’s church
*Minister praying for the sick
A flood of grief enveloped me. A cloud of sadness rested on me. An anger burned inside me.
And then it happened. A kid from our youth group had raised his hand, saying he was sick with a cold and had a terrible sore throat. Evangelist S. called my name, staring me down with penetrating eyes. Our conversation went a little something like this:
S: Rachael, stand up.
(I stood, tears already flowing)
S. Rachael, do you believe God is a healer?
(My world is shaking under my feet. I don’t know what I know. I don’t know how to respond. I don’t know. I want to scream. I want to run. I sob)
Rachael: (through broken sobs) Yes.
S: Rachael, do you believe God can heal Alex RIGHT NOW?
S: Rachael, I want you to step out of your seat, lay your hands on Alex and pray for healing.
I know what some of you are thinking. I have thought it myself. What Evangelist S. did could have been considered cruel. He could have inflicted further damage on an already broken girl.
I stepped out, laid my hands on Alex and prayed. I prayed for healing and Alex said his pain vanished immediately.
Evangelist S. is one of my heroes. Yes, what he did that night could have been cruel. But that is where the HOLY SPIRIT comes into play. Imagine with me for a moment what he must have felt in that moment, when the Holy Spirit led him to call me out, a girl he knew and loved in a deep ocean of fresh grief. Imagine what faith and trust he must have had in God to obey in that moment.
The reality is that I was at a crossroads that night. I was on the verge of losing faith. My father died and I felt something had died in me. My father was buried and I felt my former life had been buried with him.
But hear me now….
My father had been resurrected to be with Jesus and I had to experience a resurrection. I was confronted with the most basic and yet the most important of all questions….
Do you believe God is who he says he is?
The question was posed and I answered from the deepest, truest place of my being.
Yes, God is healer. Yes, I believe.
My journey didn’t end that night. I continued to deal with overwhelming grief and still have days when grief overcomes me. But from that night forward, I knew what I knew.
I know God loves. I know God heals. I know God is worthy of my trust. I know God is who he says he is. I know it today. I have never forgotten.
Evangelist S., I thank you for listening and responding to the Holy Spirit. I thank you because it was a pivotal moment in my life and I took a step in the direction of faith and have never looked back. I thank God for his abundant love, reaching out to me at my point of desperation…. posing the most difficult yet most essential question of my life. My answer was, is and will continue to be a resounding “YES!”
Me, with my Dad, not long before his death.