The Sign


I MUST CON­FESS THAT I HAVE NEVER BEEN ONE WHO COULD EAS­ILY BE­LIEVE IN MIRAC­U­LOUS FORMS OF HEAL­ING. In fact, I prided my­self a bit on be­ing “ra­tio­nal,” “log­i­cal,” of which skep­ti­cism was an in­te­gral part. Per­haps it was also be­cause of feel­ing that what hap­pens to us is just part of the big game plan—our des­tiny. I think that I too, like the Jews de­manded of Je­sus, “re­quired a sign.”

Health is some­thing which is easy to take for granted, as long as we're feel­ing fine. It's not un­til some­thing hap­pens to us that we hit that re­al­ity check but­ton, seem­ingly for the first time, no mat­ter how many times we've had to hit that same but­ton in the past.

At one point in my ca­reer, while work­ing as a teacher in a vol­un­teer mis­sion com­mu­nity, I had the fun ex­pe­ri­ence of shar­ing liv­ing quar­ters in an at­tic with an­other mis­sion­ary vol­un­teer from Eng­land. It was great, ex­cept for the fact that we couldn't straighten up in our quar­ters; we had to crouch and stoop to get around. I didn't mind too much, since we mostly used the space for sleep­ing.

How­ever, over time I be­gan to no­tice pain and stiff­ness in my neck, like when one sleeps in a wrong po­si­tion. That hap­pens to ev­ery­one once in a while, but this was a pain that didn't go away. Rather, it kept in­ten­si­fy­ing to the point of be­com­ing un­bear­able. X-rays showed noth­ing, but I knew there was some­thing re­ally wrong.

A friend sug­gested that I go to a chi­ro­prac­tic doc­tor, and he sent me to get a CAT scan. I still re­mem­ber sit­ting face to face with him as he tried to gen­tly ex­plain that I had a her­ni­ated disc be­tween two ver­te­brae of my neck, through which were pass­ing some nerves. An abrupt move­ment could cause a sev­er­ing of those nerves, leav­ing me par­a­lyzed. One op­tion was surgery to cor­rect the dam­age and fit a bone patch from my hip onto my neck, im­mo­bi­liz­ing it and leav­ing me un­able to turn my neck, with the fur­ther down­side that surgery wasn't a 100% bet for per­ma­nent suc­cess. The other op­tion re­mained ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain and po­ten­tial paral­y­sis at any mo­ment. I chose the surgery, which the head of the neu­ro­surgery hos­pi­tal him­self agreed to per­form.

Ev­ery­thing was ready and tak­ing its log­i­cal course. The night be­fore the surgery, my friends and col­leagues gath­ered to pray for me. Dur­ing the prayer, some­one re­ceived a mes­sage from God that He would heal me com­pletely with­out the surgery. Whoa, that def­i­nitely did not fall into the “log­i­cal course” pat­tern! Need­less to say, I spent a sleep­less night, wrestling with God about it. It would have been eas­ier if He had come to me di­rectly in glo­ri­ous light and I had heard His boom­ing voice from heaven. But it didn't hap­pen that way at all. He was ask­ing me to trust a still, small, hum­ble voice, which wasn't even my own.

The amaz­ing thing is that by the dawn's first rays I felt a peace which I can't ex­plain en­velop­ing my heart and mind. I now had the faith that, yes, God was go­ing to mirac­u­lously heal me. I called the hos­pi­tal to let them know that I was can­celling my surgery, and I got a call back from the sur­geon, ask­ing if the pain was caus­ing a men­tal break­down.

He was ab­so­lutely sure that I had gone off my rocker, es­pe­cially when I could only an­swer: “God said that He's go­ing to heal me.”

The next chal­lenge I had to face was the pain. Up to this point I had been go­ing for painkiller in­jec­tions ev­ery six hours. This time I heard God's voice my­self, in a quiet, mat­ter-of-fact tone, men­tion­ing that if I had the faith to trust Him for the heal­ing, I should also have the faith to trust Him for the pain. I didn't go for my next in­jec­tion. I was not in­stantly healed and de­liv­ered from pain. Some­how, though, I was mirac­u­lously given the grace and the strength to en­dure the next few months. I do know that grad­u­ally the pain did sub­side and lit­tle by lit­tle I was able to move my head and even turn it to both sides. The heal­ing pro­cess con­tin­ued un­til I was lead­ing a nor­mal life again. Wait a minute! Nor­mal? What if the con­di­tion was still present, just to a lesser ex­tent, and if I jolted my neck, the nerves would snap? Those lit­tle doubts be­gan to plague me, and I found my­self be­ing ex­tra cau­tious in my move­ments. Logic kicked in: an­other CAT scan should pro­vide in­for­ma­tion ei­ther way. Lo and be­hold, the sec­ond CAT scan showed ab­so­lutely noth­ing, like there had never been any prob­lem at all! Was that first CAT scan re­ally me? I was in ec­stasy! The first per­son I wanted to show the scan to was the sur­geon. I showed up at his of­fice and placed the scan in front of him. With a play­ful smile, I asked, “What do you have to say about this?” He stud­ied it for a long time, then looked at me and replied, “You know I'm an athe­ist. From that point of view, my an­swer would be that this is a phe­nom­e­non that could pos­si­bly hap­pen, though ex­tremely rarely, per­haps once in a mil­lion times. How­ever, from what my eyes are see­ing, I have to con­cur that this is a mir­a­cle.” As for the fi­nal out­come, I have not had the surgery in the many years since, and ev­ery day when I move my head or stretch, I smile as I re­al­ize once again that I am my own sign—a sign that God can do mir­a­cles.

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