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Opinion

Faith can take unexpected journey

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December 10, 2009

Nothing had ever felt so close to paralysis like this moment before me. I didn’t cry. I couldn’t breathe. It was as though I had stepped outside my own life and could only play the part of a silent onlooker.

As I watched the ambulance crew lift my dad onto a stretcher, I barely noticed the woman crying. I paid no attention to the impatient helicopter. I hardly recognized the now-mangled symbol of my dad’s passion: his Harley. I could feel my emotions abandoning me as everything that surrounded me faded away.

And then I am five years old again. My dad tucks me into bed. He kneels beside my bed to pray, just as he does every night. His head is bowed and my hands are clasped tightly together, just like he taught me. As he prays, I find my five year old skepticism questioning how he knows this will work, how he knows God is listening.

“I have faith,” is always his reply. For a five year old, a simple answer always felt unfairly unsatisfying.

“But why?” I persist. He explains how he trusts God without knowing His plan or understanding His reasons. And this is where I learn everything I needed to know about faith.

As I welcomed myself back into reality, I felt an overwhelming sense of comfort. I had faith. I found myself wanting to comfort the people around me—to reassure them that ever—thing would be fine-that with a faith as unshakeable as mine was that day, nothing could hurt us.

As my boyfriend drove me to the hospital, words had no place in the car.

I was too preoccupied with preparing my contract with God. I bargained. I pleaded. I promised promises that would have been impossible to keep.

The hospital greeted us with the smell of sterility and the feeling of tension. As family and friends gathered in the waiting room, prayers were whispered and Bible verses were recited. The moment the doctor walked in the room, I felt as though we were in the middle of a cliché scene of a movie. Everyone played their part effortlessly. My sister and mother held hands, bracing themselves for a life change. The doctor cleared his throat uncomfortably.

My confidence grew as he explained the series of injuries my father had sustained.

As serious as they sounded, I was confident of not only my faith, but of my father’s strength. I tried to ignore the words “severe head trauma” and “no helmet.” And then it came…the word that stole my breath and left me choking for air: “Insurvivable.”

My heart refused to connect to those words. I disregarded those and instead held on to the doctor’s next words with all my might: “…miracles do happen.” I refused to listen to anyone who didn’t believe we would witness a miracle that day. When my dad’s brain pressure displayed shocking numbers, I blamed the machine. I shook everything off as a test of faith.

Then my dad’s brain pressure increased.

As stated in the Web site braininjury.com, a healthy brain’s intracranial pressure should be between zero and 10. Anything more than 40 would lead to neurological dysfunction.

The pressure of my dad’s brain had reached 60. The number 60 meant fatality.

For the first time that day, I felt hope leaving me behind. One medical test later, the brain dead diagnosis shattered any illusion of faith that I was clinging to.

I felt betrayed. I wanted to scream in the midst of tears and hugs, to accuse God of leading me on with false promises.

And then I’m five years old again. My dad promises me he won’t let anything happen to me as I ride my bike for the first time. Upon falling, I demand to know why my dad lied, why he let me fall. He explains how if I don’t fall, I’ll never learn. And this is where I learn everything I will need to know about faith.

Months after my dad’s death, I recognized my misconception about faith. I read somewhere once that God had three answers to prayer: “Yes. Not yet. Or I have something better in mind.” Faith was trusting in a plan that I had yet to see. Faith was not a guarantee that my prayers would be answered my way.

Hebrews 11:1 states this about faith: “Having faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I began to trust once more that God had His reasons, and although they were
unknown to me, they served their purpose.

When my family heard from the hospital, we found out that my dad had saved six lives.

God put my prayers on hold in order to answer the prayers of six other people awaiting a transplant. My dad didn’t want it any other way.

He always said when it’s his time to go he wanted to die on his Harley and to save someone’s life. His prayers were answered.

Jenna Nelson is a student at UW-River Falls.

Comments

Mark on 16 Dec 2009: Thank you for sharing this personal testimony of your faith and your experience. You're dad sounds like he was a wonderful man and I'm glad you shared his words and life with us.

Destiny on 14 Dec 2009: Great Story. Inspiring to say the least.