How God raised an old atheist (my father) from the dead
and saved him
My father was the only son, the youngest child in a family of farmers. Sadly, his own father died when he was just thirteen. It was harvest time . . . and everyone in their small farming community knew it. A lot of the men in the church said things like "If there is anything I can do..." but not one of them came to help while much of the crop on my father's farm rotted in the fields. Nearly every day for the rest of his life, my daddy hated those people. More importantly, he hated the God he thought they served and wanted to make sure that neither my sister nor I saw Jesus or His followers in any sort of good light. Whenever some pastor ran off with someone else's wife, whenever a church leader faced criminal charges, or some deacon in a church cheated him in a business deal, my father would cite it as further evidence of the falsehood of Christianity, the ridiculousness of religion. Up into middle age, my father’s life seemed a constant brawl with God, filled with trials and hardships.
Much to my father’s dismay, my sister came to know Jesus when she was in high school, I came to know Him in my mid-twenties. I will never forget the look on his face when he realized that I, too, had succumbed to what he considered insanity—I had become a Christian. Although his personality softened in his later years, he made sure to regularly remind us that he didn't believe in God. So my sister and I kept praying for him. Decade after decade went by and still he insisted he didn't need any power other than his own . . . and we kept praying.
When my father was in his eighties, a drunk driver knocked down the tall, privacy fence in his back yard and the moment he told me about it over the phone, the Holy Spirit dropped into my heart that my daddy would die while he was fixing that fence. I told this to my sister, and we tried to make sure someone else fixed that fence. My sister lived near my parents, I lived far away. Months went by and, despite my sister's continuous attempts to arrange a fix for the fence, he kept putting her off and stalling the repair. I prayed more than ever that God wouldn’t let my father slip from this earth before He knew Jesus.
The call came. Even though he'd agreed to the help my sister offered, he decided to go out there and do it himself. He must have felt woozy or something because he sat down on the open tailgate of his pickup truck. Then he fell back into the bed of the truck and died, lying there for nobody knows how long on a warm Texas day. But God had heard our prayers for the soul of our daddy all those years. Just one of the many miracles the Lord worked for my father was that an ER nurse (who didn’t know any of us) was about to go to bed after a long shift and she literally got this urgent feeling that she HAD to get in her car and drive someplace. She wasn’t certain where or why, but the feeling was so strong that she did . . . and she drove until she happened upon the scene where other people driving by had already seen my father’s legs dangling from the tailgate of his truck, pulled over, gotten my mother from the house, called 911, and started CPR (but had been unsuccessful in getting his heart to beat). The nurse stopped her car, ran up, and took over. She got his heart started and then even went with my mom and sister to the hospital when the ambulance took my dad away.
Because he’d gotten so warm, doctors put my father in a coma and chilled him down for 24 hours. They held out no hope that he would have any positive recovery. I flew into town and we kept watch over him. They took him off the coma medication . . . but he just stayed in a coma day after day. Doctors said that every hour he stayed like that, the chances of him waking up were rapidly diminishing.
Again, all we could do was pray. The days ticked by—three, four, six, ten . . . but we had such peace at night when we went to bed that we could all actually sleep. We had NO IDEA what God might be doing . . . but He was giving us peace that He was at work. That peace was hard to hold onto at times, but then I’d spend time talking to the Lord, and there was that peace again.
The hospital was edging toward the “let’s unplug him” or “let’s move him to a facility” conversation, but unless or until we actually got to that spot, all we could do was keep trusting the Lord. Day thirteen dawned and it was my birthday. Nobody in the family had the heart to wish me a happy birthday that morning. We got dressed and were getting ready to go to the hospital when the nurse in the ICU called us. She said my Daddy was awake and responding to her by squeezing her hands.
Happy birthday Terry! Love, Jesus
My dad was still on a respirator, but he was alert, focusing on us, and able to squeeze our hands. The neurologist said it was a BIG deal that he was still “in there” after being dead for so long, getting so hot, and then being in a coma for so much time. Just how much of him was there we didn’t know, but he was, indeed, responding.
And the next few weeks were rocky on and off. (One doctor took my sister and I aside and told us Daddy would just fade away physically and we should just take him home and let him die). For the most part, my father couldn’t move because his muscles had atrophied so much while he was in a coma. But (to the amazement of everyone) his mind was waking up. He had to go to rehab to get some strength back, but his heart was so damaged, they weren’t sure he’d EVER be able to do anything for himself—not even shave or feed himself. Heat and oxygen deprivation, they said, would have damaged much more than his brain and heart.
But despite all the doctors' expectations, my dad got better and stronger. He talked v-e-r-y slowly the first week, and had trouble with short-term memory for about three weeks or so, but after that his mind began to reset to where it had been before he died. After two weeks in rehab, he came home in a wheelchair. Before this happened just the possibility of being in a wheelchair would have made my father want to die and when he first came home, he was very distressed over it. But within a couple of weeks of being home, he started walking around the house, then around his yard, then mowing his lawn on his riding mower, cleaning his pool, and then going to Walmart and shopping with Mom. (I don’t want to give a false impression here and say that he returned to his former physical vigor. He was getting around—FAR beyond predictions—but he was physically diminished.)
Did he recall anything from his time in a coma? He had NO recollections of it . . . yet in despite of all he went through and all he’d lost, he became grateful. That Christmas, he was less than two months out of the hospital. (When I was a kid, my father would be at his worst at Christmas and Easter. The religious aspect of these holidays would put him in a real MOOD.) But this year . . . it was like his first Christmas. He was so happy to be able to go to spend Christmas Eve with all the nearby family members.
We all sensed that God was lending Daddy to us for just a while longer. We had asked for another chance for him, and he was getting it. What he did with that chance was still up to him.
Dear reader, I can’t tell you how much God loves you. I hope you allow yourself to soak that in. If you think it’s all “fate” or that God has plotted out all of our days like a chess match and you’re just a pawn, or that some form of Karma will eventually pay you back for every bad choice . . . I hope you’ll reconsider—and ponder for at least a moment that the One who created ALL of this loves us, and allows each of us to choose whether or not to love Him back. When we choose Him, we are cut from the wild tree where we were grown and grafted into God’s family tree. It changes everything.
Nearly six months after he died the first time, my Daddy started winding down and he knew it. They took him to the hospital and called me. I flew to get there. He was still in his right mind, but his body was beginning to shut down. It wouldn’t be long they told us.
Several days into his hospital stay, my sister spent the day with him, praying and singing hymns whenever my father slept. As it turned out, he actually was awake for a good bit of it and when it was getting toward evening, he told her how much he’d enjoyed it. He was writing notes on a little yellow pad because he was wearing an oxygen mask and it was difficult to talk. He told her his pain meds were coming soon. She said that was fine. But then he indicated to her that he wanted to do something before the meds came, while he still had a clear head. She asked what he wanted. Here is what he wrote: "Jesus—will you take me?"
They joyously prayed together and my iron-willed father finally surrendered his life to the Lord who had wanted to comfort and love him his whole life.
Four days later, he went home to Heaven while I was holding his hand.
Yes, the Lord did MANY miracles on my father’s behalf . . . but my dad being able to give himself to Jesus was the biggest one of all.
I have probably experienced thousands of divine, Holy Spirit ministry moments in my life. I’ve seen the Lord do a few things I’m not sure I’ll ever write about. I've known two people who were healed of MS when they were literally on their death beds, and I've known others who were healed of deadly tumors and other diseases. I'm not talking about temporary healing or some placebo effect, or healing through medicine. I mean miraculous healing. But all of this pales in comparison to the person of Jesus and what He came to give us.
If you are desperate or searching, I cannot (nor can anyone else) guarantee you will get a miracle or a gift or any other thing you might be seeking. I want to tell you that I think Jesus probably feels a bit sad about miracles sometimes because they tend to make a circus of things when what He REALLY wants to do is open the door to Father God. If you haven’t done it yet, I highly recommend giving all that you are to Jesus and choosing to follow Him for the rest of your journey on this planet. The Lord says that when someone does this, all of Heaven rejoices.
So, it doesn't matter where you are or who you are or how old you are. If you're wondering,
The answer is, "Yes."
By Terry L. Craig, © 2013
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