Sometimes they come too fast and there are too many of them. They churn and twist and flood.
And sometimes when the flooding won't stop, too many words flood away the story that you wanted to tell.
The story that you are called to tell.
Story telling and story writing bring great joy but only if you can slow down the flood of words enough to be able to put them in the right order. Slow enough to make a sentence, a paragraph. Slow enough to paint a picture of what happened.
This is a story I've told but never written down. The words are many, and they flood like a river, but they are inadequate. I'd rather tell you this story face to face. If I could see your face, as the words flowed, I'd be able to tell if you were getting it. If the picture was complete. If my words had come together like I wanted them to.
I can't see you as you read this story. I can't see the questions on your face and stop to explain myself.
But I'll write it anyway . . . and trust.
I stood on the other side of the kitchen. The kitchen that had become half-kitchen, and half-hospital room. With bedrooms all upstairs, the eat-in area of our kitchen seemed the most practical place to care for Ethan.
Ethan looked peaceful while the four men surrounded his bed. One was a close friend of Jim's. One was a man that had worked with Jim, and the other two were the man's pastor and the pastor's son. They had come to pray for Ethan.
Ethan had been in a coma for over three months.
As I stood across the room, feeding our dog cookies to keep her quiet, I heard these men make requests for my son before the throne of God. They ask God to restore what had been taken from Ethan. They asked for healing of his body and mind. They asked God for a miracle. I heard them ask with boldness, and with confidence, and with expectation. I heard love.
They wept over my child.
I watched as the son of the pastor, a young man probably in his early twenties, took Ethan's feet in his hands and asked God "to make them dance again."
I appreciated their prayers, their kindness, and their compassion. But to tell you the truth, I was emotionless as they prayed over my sweet child.
It was like I was watching a movie about someone else's life, about someone else's child.
What I realize now was that while these men were praying for my child with faith and hope of God hearing and answering each request, I had become hopeless.
Not hopeless about everything. I knew God wouldn't forsake us. I believed that He would make a way for our family, but I had also come to believe that it would be a way without Ethan. I knew that He would give us strength. I even believed that one day, even though I didn't know how, God would give joy to our lives once again.
But as far as God waking up Ethan, my hope was gone.
As Proverbs 13:12 says, "Deferred hope really does make the heart sick."
I've asked myself many times why I quit hoping. Why I quit asking.
(This is where the words flood, and I wish I could see your face so I would know if my words were making sense.)
You see, I knew that if I didn't trust God, I wouldn't make it. I knew if I didn't trust Him, I'd never be able to be a wife to Jim or a mother to Seth. I knew that if I didn't trust God, I'd never be able to spend another day taking care of Ethan.
I was trusting Him for every breath I was taking.
In the beginning I did ask. With every possible improvement, with every positive report, I asked. When the doctors in Gainesville said that Ethan would die within 48 hours, and he didn't, I asked. When we brought him back home from Gainesville, and he was surrounded by friends and family, I asked. I fell asleep asking, after spending 16-hour days at the hospital. I woke up asking.
But the waiting was long. And I was weary. And I was way past disappointed.
Looking back, I think I had become afraid to ask God to wake Ethan up. I think I was afraid to ask for a miracle. I was afraid that if I hoped and asked, and God in His sovereignty chose not to do a miracle in Ethan's body, that my disappointment would cause me not to trust Him.
I had to trust Him.
It was like asking God to wake up Ethan was putting all my eggs into one basket. And if He didn't do it, all my eggs would be broken and I wouldn't have any more eggs.
I would be broken, more than I already was, and there was no room for any more brokenness.
I decided to spread "my eggs" around, and I quit asking.
I was putting my faith in holding onto God, instead of Him holding onto me.
I was putting my faith in my own understanding.
Being afraid to ask, even though I didn't realize it at the time, was believing that His grace would not be sufficient for an answer I didn't want to hear.
I was heart-sick, and heart-sick people aren't always rational. They don't see clearly. They are desperate to protect themselves from any more pain.
I was truly heart-sick.
But then The Healer spoke. . .
"Cheri, look at these men. They don't even know Ethan. Yet they ask and they are believing for him. You are his mother, and you are not asking me to wake up your son."
It was that simple.
No lecture. No scolding. No fireworks or explosions. Just the truth.
God was asking me to trust enough to ask.
He was asking me to ask without knowing what the answer would be.
He was asking me once again to trust Him.
And I did.
A few days later, a friend came by who had been faithful to pray for us. She sat on the sofa with me, and asked me what she could pray for during the following week. The only words that came out of my mouth were, "Ask God to wake up Ethan."
Her response was precious. She said, "I did for such a long time, but lately I have been praying for strength and comfort for you, Jim, and Seth. I will pray and ask God to wake Ethan up."
Another friend came by to drop off food and, as she was leaving, I ask her to also pray that God would wake Ethan up. After we both agreed that it was impossible with man, but possible with God, she committed to pray the same prayer.
I didn't predict what God was going to do. I didn't know. All I knew was that I was to ask, and that the One who had called me to ask was good.
God chose to wake Ethan up several weeks later in a most miraculous way. You can read about it here.
Lately it seems like God is asking me the same question that He had asked me in the kitchen that day seven years ago.
"Cheri, why aren't you asking?"
I don't know. Maybe I've become a little heart-sick again.
Would you like to join me in asking God to do another miracle in Ethan's body, and in his spirit?
I'm no longer afraid of broken eggs.
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."
a few days after April 19, 2004, the day our prayers were answered