Part 4 of my saga deals with my child-like faith in miracles and the disappointment when "God said, no."
When I was six, my sister and I were playing chase in the yard while Mama was cutting the grass. Jill ran directly in front of the push mower as I followed close behind in hot pursuit. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground with both feet caught in the blades and screaming in terror as Mama immediately killed the motor, pulled the machine away and scooped me in her arms. Jill ran into the house to alert my brothers, who brought out towels to wrap my mangled feet, dripping with blood. My heavy-duty, leather Buster Brown shoes, tenderized from the blades, like a dog’s old chew toy, saved the day as they protected my toes from becoming ground meat. Daddy, with his grease stained coveralls, came running from the repair shop, diagonal from the house, clearly in a panic, growling at Mama and berating her for her carelessness. We jumped in the car and raced to the hospital as daddy, pumped with adrenaline, veered almost out of control from one side of the ditch to the other on the gravel road leading into town. While I repeatedly wailed, “I don’t want to die, I don’t want to go to Heaven,” Daddy barked rudely at Mama, telling her that she was never allowed to mow the lawn again. Mama, clearly affected by the ranting, simply directed her attention toward me. With tears pouring down her face, and caressing me in her lap, she assured me that I wasn’t going to die, but the stress and chaos of the moment left me unconvinced. It seemed that all of us were terrified. To add insult to injury, the doctors had to cut off my pants, which at the time seemed almost as horrendous as having bloody toes dangling by a thread. Thankfully every digit was saved, even though they were badly damaged and would remain disfigured.
While it was one of the scariest events for me, it was also clearly one of the most regretful moments for my dear mama, who felt responsible even though she was not to blame. How could she have anticipated that I would trip and fall right in front of her? I’m sure she replayed the scenario like a broken record, wondering if she could have done anything differently to prevent the accident. Despite the instant replays in her mind, she couldn’t turn back the clock and make my feet whole again. And then there was my sister, Jill who had to watch visitors come over bringing me ”Get Well” presents such teddy bears, coloring books and crayons while she was blindly ignored because her ten toes happened to be in tact. To make matters worse, Mama bought a beautiful new red Radio Flyer wagon for me to ride in until one of my feet healed enough for me to get around on crutches. And guess who had to pull the wagon? Yep. Jill. Not only was I getting all the attention and warm fuzzies, now I was a “crippled” princess being pulled around in my red carriage, evoking sympathy, with poor Jill as my thankless grunt horse. Everyone, for different reasons was eager for me to heal and move on.
God Answers prayer
He says, Yes, No or Not Yet
About a year later, one Sunday evening, Pastor Pete, our old skinny pastor with slicked back gray hair and beady eyes, had a word from the Lord that some folks were gonna be healed that night, “glory to God”. He retrieved his anointing oil from his weathered gray suit pocket and invited people to come forward while the spirit was moving. I thought about my crippled toes and wondered if God had me in mind when he talked to Pastor Pete. With my childlike faith, I whispered to my mama, “I would like to go up for prayer.” There we went, hand in hand to the altar where I stood in the center of a circle surrounded by a forest of tall legs. Many hands were placed on my head and shoulders while the other hands shot up in the air, like a radio antennae, receiving a heavenly signal. The pastor dabbed oil on my forehead and the deacons began to speak in tongues and plead for a healing. The congregation extended their hands toward the altar as well, adding their supplications to the cacophony. The prayer ended and Pastor Pete offered a quick disclaimer, I'm sure to cover his bases, knowing full well, what the most likely outcome would be. In his country drawl, he explained, “If God chooses not to heal you this time, Joy, it’s b’cuz he wants to use your accident to teach you a lesson or to encourage someone else, who might be sufferin’, Hallelujah!”
The Miracle of “No”
We went home. Nervously I began to unlace my shoes, hoping desperately that God didn’t want to “teach me a lesson” but instead, that the magic oil, prayers and speaking in tongues had worked. As I slowly pulled off my socks, I held my breath in suspense, thinking about what this miracle would mean for Mama and me. All the guilt and shame she needlessly carried would be instantly erased and I could go back to wearing the cute buckle shoes again instead of the ugly lace ups that offered more room, but betrayed the current fads. When the unveiling was complete, I looked down, to see the same damaged toes that had carried me to the altar. To my dismay, there was no evidence that God had intervened. No healing. No miracle. I remembered Pastor Pete’s words, and resigned myself to the fact that God needed my toes to be mangled for reasons unknown to me and that was that. Even though Jesus specifically said, “Ask anything in my name and I will do it,” I realized that he couldn’t really grant anything if it wasn’t his perfect will. When we prayed, I was told that God either says, “yes”, “no” or “not yet.” How convenient. So regardless the outcome of prayer, with my rose colored glasses, I could still affirm that God was in the miracle performing business and could be trusted even though my request for healing was denied. Since the answer was clearly not, “Yes” I held out hope that it was not a definitive “No” either, examining my toes very carefully for months, looking for signs of improvement and at times tricking my mind into thinking they looked a tiny bit better. It’s like the time Jill cut my doll’s hair and promised it would grow back. I could’ve sworn it was longer each day but after a year or so, when the bangs were still little stubs next to the scalp, I finally accepted the painful truth that I had been regretfully mistaken, and so it was with my toes. Recently I saw a sketch on You Tube asserting that praying to a milk jug has the exact same statistical success as praying to Jesus. I tried it and it, and believe it or not, it worked! But as a trusting child, I was convinced that God alone had the power and wisdom to perform such a miraculous feat, of not healing my feet and yet still getting all of the praise and glory as if he had.