By Eugene C. Scott
In the summer of 1998 we drove home to Tulsa from a bittersweet family vacation in Colorado: Sweet because Dee Dee and I had celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary with a trip to Vancouver, BC. Bitter because our oldest daughter had recently been diagnosed with an eating disorder, a cancer of the soul, and she was getting worse. My white knuckled grip on the steering wheel exposed the ghostly condition of my soul. I was lost. For the first time as a father I had no answer. The fatherly band-aids–wise words and solutions–I had utilized to fend off so many past crises proved futile against this devastating disease. We had gone to doctors, counselors, friends, and support groups; we had prayed, memorized Scripture, and read books; we had talked, cried, pleaded, and argued; we had blamed ourselves, our culture, gymnastics, and God; we had loved, hugged, and gotten angry. Still her cancer of the soul thrived.
So, we drove east on Interstate 70, in a minivan filled with fear and heartbreak. My every breath became a prayer.
God, heal her. Please don’t let this cancer steal anymore of her. Don’t let it take her life! Tell me what to say; show me what to do.
Miles of empty eastern Colorado rolled by as we played license plate games to kill time and the dread that rode with us.
Why was God so silent?
A couple of hours east of Denver I said, “Look, kids,” and pointed to the words “Trust Jesus” spray-painted on the cement pillar of a highway overpass.
“Do you think anyone is actually convinced of God’s love by that?” I asked sarcastically. “That’s not evangelism; that’s evandalism.”
At each overpass for the next several miles the same lime-green words “Trust Jesus” appeared. What a diversion. Instead of focusing on our pain and worries, we mocked silly Christians.
As we limped into Kansas, my daughter with the wounded soul moved to the shotgun seat. Everyone else was sleeping.
“What can I do, Dad?” she asked.
I shrugged my shoulders. I had no more answers and had to admit that to her. Her eyes teared up with disappointment.
Shortly after that trip, we hit what we thought was bottom: we placed her at Remuda Ranch, a long-term treatment center for eating disorders. In the midst of that dark time, a good friend invited me to a local Promise Keepers meeting. Before Bill McCartney spoke, a local man, one of the organizers of the meeting, was asked to share his testimony. He told a heart-wrenching story about his daughter, who was addicted to drugs, and how everything he did to help her didn’t.
I shuddered. This hit too close to home. Tears pressed, unwanted, from my eyes.
He went on saying he had been at a Promise Keepers planning meeting in Denver just weeks before. During that meeting, his wife called with news his daughter was in serious trouble. He left for Tulsa immediately, east on I70. As he drove, he brainstormed, outlining every solution a father could. His every breath a prayer.
I listened trying to hide my trembling and tears.
Then in the wastes of eastern Colorado, he related, he saw, spray-painted on a concrete pillar, the lime-green words “Trust Jesus.” In a heartbeat he knew God had spoken and instantly he rolled down the window of his van and figuratively threw out all his human plans.
“Jesus, not my plans but yours,” he prayed. “Only you can heal her.”
But in a few miles, he was back planning and problem solving. Then came another pillar. “Trust Jesus,” it shouted. Again he rolled down his window and threw out his human plans. Again he prayed.
I don’t know how long he bounced on this bungee cord of faith. I only know I was broken. I was a puddle. I was unmade.
“Jesus,” I choked, “not only have I not trusted you with my daughter, I ridiculed your attempt to coax me to faith.” I was the fool, not the person evandalizing I70, to believe I was a better father than You, my heavenly Father. I was a fool to think my puny solutions could accomplish anything without Your extravagant love.”
Imagine! To prove nothing is impossible to God, He connected the dots between two hopeless fathers, two broken daughters, two Colorado trips and a crazy person with a spray can. Right then God poured fresh love into my empty soul and showed me He loved my daughter more that I ever could. In a gentle, firm voice Jesus spoke to my heart, “If I have the power to heal your daughter, and I do, I also have the love and power to carry all of you through this until I do. Trust Me!”
In his potent prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul reminds us that the best response to those relentless, hopeless situations is to “kneel before the Father . . . to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses all knowledge.”
Only when I recognized the paucity of my problem solving, and let my aching heart drive me to Christ, did I begin to learn that the love of Christ could carry me through anything. In this case there was no instant healing, no five keys to happiness, no easy answer. But there was a deeper knowledge of naked, unadulterated Love. That Love has sustained us on a road longer than a thousand lengths of I70. While we travel, healing, in more things than eating disorders, is coming. And our knowledge of the width, length, height, and depth of Christ’s love grows.
P.S. Our daughter is now 29, happy, healthy, trusting Jesus, married, a mother of a two year-old, with a baby boy on the way. God did exactly as He promised. He did not snap magical fingers and heal her. Instead He walked this long road with us, showing His love is the deepest, widest, most powerful force in existence.
Eugene C. Scott writes the Wednesday Neighborhood Cafe blog. If you’re reading this on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO.
6 responses to “Can God Heal our Deepest Wounds?”
Have you ever read Barbara Johnsons’ books. She was ready to commit suicide because of all her troubles when she threw her hands in the air and said “whatever”. God whatever your will is…. It is surely the hardest thing to realise that we are not the gods we think we are and that God is the only God.
At the moment I am learning about God, and that He expects me to trust Him, and that when I don’t trust Him I am implying that He is a liar and false. The term ‘testing’ used in the Bible is used when metal is refined over heat and that shows any impurity. My times of testing, trials and temptation shows God to be pure, righteous and true, but always it shows the impurities in myself :))
Elna: No, I don’t think so but we read so many good books I’m not sure I would remember. But her experience sounds very familiar. I really came to the place that if this eating disorder took her life, I could not stop it or fix it. It was a hopeless place except God was there with us. This is also where I began to learn about my need to control–and inability to do so.
Amen to what we imply to God when we don’t trust. The whole thing God whispered to me was that I was practicing blasphemy. The scary thing is I am still quite capable of putting my own wisdom, strength, plans, above God. Yet he did not smash me in my self-idolatry but rather loved me into obedience, though some may say the disease was a hammer to shape us, I don’t think it was punishment.
thanks for sharing Eugene! I love how God uses the outside world such as graffiti to speak directly to us. I love His creativity & uniquness when He does things like this-it just gives me shivers and it’s so Powerful. I also love how He makes us aware of how foolish we’ve been but at the same time we’ve never felt so loved either, that’s how I know when it’s the Holy Spirit convicting me versus when Satan is accusing and condemning me.
You are welcome. A friend told me once that God never wastes pain. I want our lives to be a part of God’s healing and hope in others. And you are right. God did show me my foolishness (see my response to Elna) but with incredible tenderness and love. Yes! Satan accuses; God’s love uncovers. Amen! Thank you.
Eugene, I once got a message from God on a billboard, and we share the agony of having a child with an eating disorder. Do you ever wonder if there have been more than one burning bush but it went unnoticed? A friend keeps track of “God sightings” where each day he writes down the ways he saw God that day. You inspire us with your story and I am glad to report a promising outcome for our offspring too.
I am so grateful God gave us Scripture but I am also glad he can reaffirm his love and watchfulness through billboards, graffiti, and of course, us broken pastors. Agony is right. Thank God he walked with you through it and your daughter too. One of the most difficult things we have ever been through, not only because of the danger to the child, but because few people understand the disorder and it is hard to find anyone to listen.
God sightings is the name of my other blog, though I am not publishing much on it because of this one. But that concept of looking for God in all things has been a huge part of my growth over the last few years. Great question about the burning bush. Yes, I imagine there have been. And more people who have seen them too but have passed into history without them or God making a big deal of it.
Thanks for reading and for being a part of our community. God bless, Eugene