Ten days ago, I sat huddled alone in my bed, frozen in dread. Mind numb, struggling to pray. Robert had taken A.J. to the hospital in Abilene, because we were concerned about the way he was breathing. Less than a half hour after they arrived, the medical staff kicked Robert out of the room and administered 15-20 minutes of CPR and several rounds of epinephrine. When they let Robert back into the room, A.J. was on a ventilator. By the time I got there, a medical transport jet from Fort Worth was on its way.
Six days ago, I sat motionless in an ICU chair, stiff from fear. Mind numb, struggling to speak. The neurologist had explained that the second MRI of A.J.’s brain showed trauma caused by oxygen deprivation during CPR. She said, “A.J. is not going to be the same kid he was before he got here.” I could not find the words to form a reply.
Five days ago, I sat still against the wall in the same ICU, exhaling fear and inhaling love. Mind fixed on Jesus, whispering His Word: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul …” Every doctor that had entered the room that day prepared us for the possibility that A.J.’s airway would not tolerate the removal of the breathing tube. They didn’t have high hopes. “We’ll see,” they said, as they got ready to extubate. Robert and I prayed, “Father, we put A.J. into your hands. We know that he is safe there.”
Today, I sit across from Little Man, watching the rise and fall of his chest. No ventilator, no oxygen. Just my precious boy, breathing as he should. We are in a private room, secluded from the incessant beeping of the ICU, and he rests easy—looking up once in a while at lights less harsh than those that glared down at him in more critical areas of the hospital. I am still waiting to see his sweet smile, but A.J. is nearly himself again. There is talk of being discharged soon.
A.J. is alive and breathing and functioning. Each day, he gets better, not worse. This is not what the doctors predicted or expected, but it is our reality and it is God’s doing. He is the Great Restorer, and He intervened.
As I hurried to get to the ER in Abilene, not sure what I would find when I got there, a nurse I’d never met turned on some worship music, put her hand on A.J. and touched the throne room of heaven for my child. When I could not deal with the MRI results, Holy Spirit reminded me Who is really in control. He caused family and friends to pray until I could pray, to speak life until I could formulate the words myself.
There were times I wasn’t sure I should fight for A.J.’s life and times I was sure I didn’t have the strength. For a while, I allowed the enemy of my soul to hijack my peace. My ears heard nothing but doctors’ reports, and my eyes couldn’t see beyond wires and tubes. The fear and doubt were too much for me. I couldn’t overcome them on my own.
But God always offers us a holy escape door, and He gave me the strength to bring the fear and doubt to Jesus. Surrender was an exhale that made room for the love of God to overwhelm my heart again. I scribbled the words into my prayer journal, and Holy Spirit wrote them on my heart:
Exhale … Cast all your anxiety on Him.
Inhale … Because He cares for you.
Exhale fear. Inhale love. Perfect love CASTS OUT … DRIVES OUT … EXPELS all fear. This verse is not just a scripture to memorize. It’s a spiritual law more reliable than physics. To relinquish fear is to create a vacuum—a zero pressure environment that invites the love of God to rush in and fill the void. God’s love is always present. Always anticipating. Always ready to pervade every space we make for it.
Oh, that I had refused fear in the first place—that I’d turned immediately to Jesus and allowed no room for the enemy at all. I could’ve saved myself a lot of worry and heartache. But here is what I know: God’s character is in no way dependent on our actions. He is always faithful, even when we are faithless.
And Jesus faithfully led me to a place of peace so that I could fight—in His strength—for A.J. Faith works by love, and it was a fresh realization of God’s love that enabled me to pray in faith when it was time for the breathing tube to come out.
Can I share with you the image that Holy Spirit painted in my mind to remind me of God’s love for me and for A.J.? It comes from two of the seven “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John. Through these seven statements, Jesus gave us word pictures to reveal aspects of His character. In John 10, Jesus says:
- “I am the gate for the sheep.”—John 10:7
- “I am the good shepherd.”—John 10:11
In ancient Israel, shepherding was a common practice. At night, the shepherd would lead the sheep into a sheep fold—a simple enclosure intended to protect them from wolves and other predators. Sheep are capable of learning their own names and can come to recognize human faces. In the morning, the shepherd would call each sheep by name, leading them out to pasture.
John 10 makes a distinction between a good shepherd and a hired hand. A hired hand, caring nothing for the sheep, will run away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf will snatch and scatter the sheep, because sheep are defenseless on their own. They have no real way of protecting themselves except to either congregate in a flock or to flee. Unlike a hired hand, a good shepherd lays down to sleep in the opening of the sheep fold—allowing his body to become a gate of protection. He risks his own life for the good of the sheep.
So, when Jesus said that He is the gate for the sheep, He meant that He is the only true way into the sheep fold and that He loves the sheep enough to give up His own life. If we want to be part of the family of God, Jesus is the entry gate. Love compelled Jesus to make a way for us by laying down His own body, through His death and resurrection. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and He cares about each of us individually. He knows us by name and calls us to follow Him.
God revealed his love for me in a fresh way by reminding me that I am a sheep, and He is the only Good Shepherd. On my own, I have no way of protecting myself or A.J. To wallow in fear is to put my trust in a hired hand—one who will run away when the wolf comes. But Jesus knows me. He calls me by name into the only safe place–His love. His face is familiar, because I belong to Him. I recognize His voice and can respond and follow Him out of fear and into perfect love. From the abundance of His love, I can truly trust. I can pray. I can believe.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”—I Peter 5:7
“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.”—I John 4:18
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”–Psalm 23:1