Monday, August 10, 2015
Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there. – Old English Proverb
Big Jay Atton is my softball teammate and very good friend. Bill MacDonald was my stepfather. This is their story, and also the story of how faith sustains some of us who love them.
Big Jay is a gentle giant of a man. In his mid-thirties, he stands 6’ 7” and - until recently, at least - weighed in at well over 300 pounds. While in Houston visiting family, he suffered a massive heart attack. Concurrent with that, his kidneys failed. Brain damage was feared and the consensus was he would need a kidney transplant to avoid lifelong dialysis. Odds of surviving, period, were about 50/50.
The outpouring of love Jay received, via expressions of prayer and caring, was amazing. Hundreds of people asked their God for healing to occur. And it did. His kidneys regained full function following eight or nine rounds of initial dialysis. Scans revealed no brain damage. He was released from the hospital last week, after three months, and he will be returning home within a week or two.
Bill MacDonald was a World War II vet, a recipient of a bronze star for valor, a gentleman in every sense of the word, and a pillar of his church. Aside from being my stepdad, he was a loving father and grandfather to a large family. He passed away on Saturday after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
Big Jay’s recovery borders on the miraculous and has brought great joy to many. Bill, for whom as many fervent prayers were said, did not have a miraculous recovery and died. In my humble opinion, though, the rewards of faith have been exemplified in both cases.
It is not the recovery of Jay that proves my faith, nor does the physical decline, and death, of Bill disproves it. What the unfaithful do not accept, or do not see, is that faith is a gift, not a contractual obligation. Rules for what we will receive from our prayer are not strict and unwavering. The reward may be those for whom we have prayed receiving precisely that for which we asked, but sometimes it is we who pray that receive the gift – a strength to bear the seemingly unbearable. Sometimes the gift is healing, sometimes the gift is release, sometimes the gift is strength. The truly blessed receive an understanding that all three may be present if only we search with a diligent spirit.
Some will see contradictory answers to my similar prayers for these two men and they will say I have decided to deceive myself. These people see prayer as a crutch, a sham, a weakness engaged in by those who harbor an unwillingness to view cold reality in the light of day. They have every right to believe whatever they wish, but I know that when fear knocked, my faith answered. And no one was there.
Soon, with more better stuff.