I was terrified – crying out to Him with all of my heart. I couldn’t believe God was speaking to me, nor could I believe He would say this … ask this. Not now. I grew up in a non-religious or spiritual home. We neither read the Bible nor attended church, except for Easter Sunday. I began talking to God at 13 when I discovered my parents were not my biological parents. It didn’t matter that I never heard a response from Him. He was my “imaginary friend.”
At 26 I married, and we had our only child eighteen months later. Our daughter was hospitalized twice in her first 90 days with different forms of RSV pneumonia. We struggled financially. While I worked two jobs, my husband ran his own resume business so he could stay with our child during the day and prevent another bout of RSV. The new business produced income but took all that it made to continue. We had no health insurance and no way to obtain any for a child who was hospitalized so early in life.
Eight months after her birth, I was involved in a car accident and unable to work for months. I remember thinking, my God, what’s next? Why are you punishing me? The stress was unbearable. Times were excruciatingly difficult, and we were approaching financial disaster. For the first time I truly felt helpless, and real depression set in.
One Sunday afternoon, our child suddenly became very ill. Within 15 minutes, she changed from an active two-year-old playing with her toys, to a lifeless form lying on our living room floor, unable to keep anything down. Her temperature was 102 degrees and climbing. My mom, who lived right behind me, told me to bring her over. We bathed her in cool water and swabbed her down with alcohol to reduce her fever, but still it soared.
We gave her Tylenol, but the medicine wouldn’t stay down. Repeated messages left with her pediatrician’s answering service brought no replies.
As she lay on Mom’s floor, I suddenly remembered a lady at work who was an evangelical holy roller. At their church, they laid hands on each other and people were healed. The lady never explained how they did it, but it was worth a try. Crying and praying, I kneeled over my child, laid my hands upon her tiny back and begged God to heal her. I promised God all kinds of things. I begged for forgiveness. I even begged for her illness to be put upon me. My mother watched in amazement.
The doctor finally returned my calls at 6:45 PM saying he had called in a prescription to a local pharmacy. It closed at 7:00 PM on Sunday and was at least 15 minutes away. Driving down the road past the church where outdoor sermons were preached from a grounded boat each Sunday, I began to cry hysterically. It hit me that my child could suffer brain damage or die from the high fever. I hated to leave her, but I had to get the medicine. Again I begged God to heal her tiny, innocent body, but this time, I was screaming it out loud in the car through the tears and mucus streaming down my face.
It was then that I heard a firm but loving male voice. The loudness of it seemed to fill the van, but it also seemed to be just in my head. I stopped breathing. “Will you give her to me?” the voice asked. “What?” I screamed. I gulped my first breath in seconds, wiping my eyes and nose on the sleeve of my shirt, and glanced around my van to see if someone had somehow slipped inside.
A gain, the voice spoke, louder yet softer somehow. It asked again, “Will you give her to me?”
My mind spun in circles. Had I somehow slipped off of the edge of reality? This was a real possibility considering the stress I’d been under for the last few months. I began a series of small “systems checks.” Am I driving? Yes. Is it evening? Yes. Is today Sunday? Yes. I even pinched myself on the arm to be sure I wasn’t dreaming or hallucinating. That hurt! The voice waited patiently for me to process what was happening.
“Will you give her to me?” He asked.
”How can you ask me that question?” I screamed. “Are you trying to tell me it’s already too late? Have you already taken her and are preparing me so when I get to my mom’s house and find she’s dead, I can cope with it? Why would you ask this of me?”
I felt so angry and scared that I had actually pulled over into a grocery store parking lot and wondered if I should just go back home. I couldn’t stop shaking. If God was taking my child and I headed back home right now, maybe I could spend the last few moments with her in my arms as she left this world and returned to Him.
A s this last terrible thought crossed my mind, I realized that, in Truth, she was already His. She was “on loan” to us from God. I cried so hard I nearly choked. As this reality sunk in, I whispered the answer through my tears.
“Yes, I will give her back to You, if I must.” It was the single most profound moment of my life. My heart was breaking, yet at the same time was relieved because the fear had gone. I couldn’t lose what I didn’t possess. This was the first time since her birth that I fully realized my little girl belonged not to me, but to her Creator.
A s if He were right there listening to my thoughts, He said, “I created her. I breathed life into her. She is mine.” “I understand,” I responded, sobbing. “I don’t want to lose her, Father, but I will give her back to you.”
“Well done, my good and faithful servant,” He said quietly in the most loving voice I’d ever heard.This startled me almost more than actually hearing the voice. “How can I be a good and faithful servant when I don’t even attend church regularly?”
The pharmacy was closed, and I arrived back at Mom’s house within 20 minutes. Climbing the stairs, an indescribable surreal peace filled me. I knew I would open that door to find my mother hunched over my daughter’s lifeless body. I didn’t know how I would handle it.
“Ma-ma,” my daughter said, as she greeted me at the door, “I feel all better now.”
She had a big cup of juice in one hand and a cherry Popsicle in the other as she hugged my leg, turned around and ran off to play. It was as if she had never been sick at all. The fever was gone, and her appetite had returned as if nothing had happened.
I glanced at my mom who was sitting in her chair munching a Popsicle. “What happened to her, Mom?” “I don’t know,” Mom replied. “Her temperature shot up to 104 degrees right after you left and I couldn’t get her to wake up. I got up to call an ambulance, and when I came back she was sitting up asking for something to drink. It happened about 20 minutes ago.”
What I learned that day changed me forever. God is real. I never needed to know that more than in the moment He spoke to me. What I thought was mine, never was; she is His. And I was “enough” for God, just the way I was.
About the author:
Rita Carlson is a 45-year-old Tampa native who explores her creative side making and selling jewelry. She and her daughter volunteer their time for the homeless and support other local nonprofit organizations.
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