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.