I consider myself a rational human being… most of the time.
If I had to describe my faith I would say that I would be in to “functional faith” or a “Practicalist” when it comes to belief. I believe that science brings us closer to an understanding of God. I think that theology that does not lead us to a day to day practical way to live is preposterous. I know that a belief in a God that is outside of our four dimensional understanding of time and space is not only feasible, but that all rational data points to it. So just understand that as I tell you this story… my brain is in conflict, but my spirit has never been more certain.
I know most of you reading this will understand my journey through the different eras and “flavors” of church when it comes to prayer and miracles. Words like charismatic, charis-wacko, dispensationalist, revival, healing, name-it-and-claim-it, and even the standard miracle seem to carry very different meanings to very different people. I mostly grew up in a church that loved Jesus, but the most miraculous thing the Holy Spirit did in their life was something like, “I went to get the the VBS supplies at Hobby Lobby and they were on sale! What a miracle! And praise Jesus my feet were hurting that day and the Lord provided for me a parking spot in the front!”
We prayed prayers like, “Dear Lord, if it is not too much trouble (because you’re very busy) could you heal my cousin’s uncle’s roommate’s cancer? Lord we just pray you would work through the doctors who went to medical school and the treatments that human’s created to poison our bodies and the cancer. And if we take all the medicine and surgery and we come out of it even remotely alive, we will praise your wonderful glory that you guided the hands of those doctors (that have done this same procedure on a thousand heathens). But… you know… your will be done Lord. So if it is your will that we suffer and die… thems the breaks. Amen.”
On the flip side, the only people I saw trying to perform real miracles were on TV wearing ice cream-white suits and pushing over old ladies. I grew up with the choice of impotent prayers or gold dust raining from the ceiling. And what I have been afraid of as a Christ-follower and a pastor is personified in Acts 19…
13 A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, “I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. 15 But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, “I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?” 16 Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.
In the name of Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit you are healed… but the evil spirit, the disease, the cancer, the dead man you are trying to raise replies, “I know Jesus and I know that other people do miracles, but I don’t know you! Who do you think you are?!?” And the miracle does not bring glory to God, but I makes people think that I’m a fraud and God doesn’t really go in for that sort of thing anymore. My worst fears realized.
But what is faith if not patience through the mysteries of God?
When my daughter was born there were some complications and so she was breach and had to be delivered cesarean or “C-section”. But she was perfect. So naturally the doctor told us that many babies born breach develop hip dysplasia. We are brand new parents and scared out of our mind so we just assume that is what we should do and insurance will cover it. $1000 later we find out she is perfect.
At her six month checkup, the doctor tells us that we have to get another sonogram because my beautiful baby WILL develop hip dysplasia. But we don’t book the appointment because… IT’S $1000 THAT I DON’T HAVE. So a few months go by. Our daughter is not crawling or walking and when she tries she favors her right leg a little.
At her ten month appointment, the doctor basically tells me I’m a cheapskate bad parent and pleads with me to “at least get an X-ray of her hips. I think they are only a few hundred dollars. This is important you know!” I take my baby to get the X-ray, swallow the $400 hit and wait to hear from the doctor.
Then it happens… the doctor calls.
Doctor tells us the X-ray clearly shows that her right leg is not properly socketed in her hip. The X-ray tech confirms… she has partial hip dysplasia. Of course, I felt like the worse parent in the world. How could this have happened? She is the happiest baby I’ve ever seen! She never cries or complains! But why hasn’t she crawled yet? And the doubt sets in. So we follow the doctor’s advice and book a follow up with a specialist.
In the meantime, the more charismatic members of my family starts praying for my baby’s healing. And my mother and brother tell me the words that send visions of Gold dust swirling in my head, “You have to believe for her healing.” And you have to forgive me because I’ve seen too many charlatans say, “This boy wasn’t healed because someone didn’t believe enough.” But I pray anyway. My prayer is…
“God, I want to believe in real miracles. I want to be confident in the power of the Holy Spirit and lead my congregation in real power. I don’t know how. I haven’t been taught. I don’t have a lot of experience. I NEED this healing. Not just for my daughter, but to change the way I practice faith. (Then comes the bargaining). If you give me this gift of healing for my daughter it will be the beginning of a new faith for me and I promise to use it to glorify you.”
During this time (at 10 months old) Evie began to crawl and pull herself up and walk while holding on to fingers and furniture. The day before she went to the specialist I took her into the living room laid my hands on her hips and said out loud, “In the name of Jesus and with the power of the Holy Spirit you are healed. And when you go to the doctor he won’t be able to find anything wrong because you are perfect.”
So the next day Charissa and my mother take her to the specialist. They wait an hour in the room until he walks in and says, “I’m sorry, I don’t really know why you’re here. I’m looking at the X-ray. There is nothing wrong with her.” So he leaves to call our doctor and the X-ray tech. But when he returns he doesn’t have an answer. The tech thought she saw her hip out of socket, the doctor confirmed, but the X-ray shows she is perfect. The specialist’s recommendation: Go home and don’t let anyone tell you there is something wrong. She is perfect.
Praise the Lord right? Or is it that the tech read the X-ray wrong? Or maybe the doctor got the X-rays mixed up? Was it a miracle or incompetence? Am I really going to tell people my miracle was God altered an X-ray?
As I drove to the airport, I was expressing my conflict to my mother before she flew home. Her response was, “Shame on you Luc Ammon!” (mothers like to use middle names when you are in trouble) “What did you ask God for?” That Evie would be perfect and the doctors wouldn’t be able to explain why. “What would the doctor have done if the X-ray showed a problem?” Treated her according to the X-ray. “So how else was God supposed to answer your prayer?”
A deal is a deal. This is just the beginning of my messy journey of miracles and a new way to pray. God answered my prayer, so I’m telling people every way I know how that it was a miracle. He altered an X-ray. He put her hip back in socket. He lifted a spirit of confusion from the medical professionals. It wasn’t what I was expecting.
But then again, what do I know about miracles? Only that I got one.