A Pierced Hand Did Not Stop Me

As I gasped in horror at what I had just done to my hand, I knew the gaping wound was serious.

The cut was deep.

I saw that the scissors had significantly overshot their intended target and seared through all of the  layers of skin of my hand – stopping just short of the muscle and tendon that they were designed specifically to protect. These epidermal layers had done their job and then some. Yet, the searing blow had inflicted damage and needed immediate medical attention.

I stood over the sink with tears gushing from my eyes. Yes, the pain was significant. However, what was even more discouraging to me was that I was scheduled to leave for a women’s retreat in two hours’ time. As I surveyed my hand, I was not sure I would be able to attend.

Believe it or not, the retreat was to be my first time away from my family in 3 ½ years! The last time I had gone anywhere on my own – without John or the boys – was on September 19, 2012. On this memorable day, I would have a night to ‘myself’ in the Morningside Clinic after undergoing a lumpectomy to remove cancerous tissue. That night was truly a life-saving event and I am grateful for it. However, this time away was to be a very different kind of life enriching experience. It is needless to say, but, I was really looking forward to meeting some new people and meeting with my God – all by myself.

John called our doctor’s office to see if they could fit me at last minute’s notice. Unfortunately, they could not. The alternative was to try an emergency clinic or a hospital emergency room. These options would mean significant wait time based upon our previous experiences over the years.

We decided to try the clinic.

As we walked into the crowded waiting room, I searched for an empty chair. I assumed I would be sitting for a long while. As we signed in, the receptionist surprised me when she said, “Heather can go into the triage room now and wait for the doctor there.”

What?

I didn’t have to wait?

I didn’t have to sit alongside the waiting room throng?

On Friday morning, just hours before this incident, I had read these words:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for us for the saints in accordance with God’s will. 

 New International Version, Romans 8:26-27

It was true.

On Friday morning, I never anticipated I would be going to an emergency clinic to have my hand stitched back together!

I never thought I would need a quick turn-around time in a triage unit. The fact that I was ushered straight into the curtain-draped triage room and attended to immediately – floored me. I was already a wreck. The pain was excruciating. I was embarrassed about how

I had hurt myself – it was pretty stupid! I had begun to grieve because I doubted I would be able to attend the women’s retreat. Truly, I felt weak and powerless.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness…

My care was not immediate. However, from start to finish, my wound was cleaned, stitched up, and wrapped up within an hour. As I shared, the good news was that my cut had not penetrated the tendon or muscle. It was basically a surface wound that could be mended and healed within the next ten days or so. I was given a tetanus shot to prevent any future infection. And then we were done! John paid our bill and we walked away from the even-more-crowded emergency facility!

Today, I looked up the Greek meaning for ‘intercede’ from Romans 8: 26-27. The Greek transliterated word for ‘intercede’ is entugchano. Not only does entugchano mean to intercede and to pray for, but at its root, tugchano means to hit its mark – as a javelin or arrow pierces its target.

Isn’t that amazing?

As Jesus Christ prays for us through the power of the Holy Spirit – His prayers hit their intended mark!

The prayers of Christ are divinely inspired to penetrate our heart at just the right time, in just the right way and for just the right purpose!

We do not know what we ought to pray for…

I was not able to leave for the women’s retreat when I had planned due to my pierced hand. However, my God was already tenderly preparing my heart for what would come! After I took some time to rest and compose myself at home, I believed I could still attend the women’s retreat! My pierced hand would not stop me!

I called upon some of my lifelong friends to pray for me for this God Encounter and then, off I drove to the venue.

When I arrived at the Hertford Estate, just outside of Johannesburg, I was treated to this beautiful room:

IMG_0244
Here is where I sat as I read through my bible on Friday afternoon.

I couldn’t believe it! This amazing room was all mine!

…the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express

I hadn’t asked for this marvelous room. I hadn’t asked for an injury either! Yet, because I was attending a retreat in which I knew absolutely no one, I was given a ‘single’ room. It was exactly what I needed –  a quiet, solitary space to rest – awarded with no knowledge of my injury (at least I don’t think so!). Since the start time for the retreat events would begin later in the evening, I was afforded even more time to rest, to pray, and to recuperate in this lovely space.

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit…

It was only the beginning to a weekend of grace, kindness and joy! It was a time in which my Lord spoke specifically to me and to the beautiful women who attended this glorious retreat with me!

IMG_0252
This is the building where we met during our time together.

How grateful I am for the intercession of my friends and family!

How grateful I am for those who prayed for me for this retreat experience whom I do not even know! (The retreat organizers asked women to pray for each retreat attendee!)

How grateful I am for the intercession of my Lord!

…because the Spirit intercedes for us for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

Be encouraged, My Friends! For truly, the prayers of Christ are divinely inspired to penetrate our heart at just the right time, in just the right way and for just the right purpose for the ultimate glory of His Kingdom and the glory His Name!

He prays and intercedes for me!

And yes, He prays and intercedes for you!

 

13 Comments

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  1. Thank yo for sharing this, Heather. It fed my heart today.

  2. I don’t understand how one can think that god would intercede for you to get your hand tended to quickly (although I’m glad that it was) but he doesn’t intercede for the millions of people who are suffering and dying in much more dire situations. It seems to me that either god had nothing to do with it, or god is an absolute monster who plays favorites with some of his children and leaves others to rot. Doesn’t that bother you?

    • Hi Evan, thanks once again for dropping by!

      I don’t believe that my God leaves people to rot – even though I am well aware that there is grave persecution in this world. And I don’t believe my God plays favorites. I believe in a Sovereign God.

      Honestly, Evan, I believe my God is at work in all things and in all places. Do I know how He is working in all of these things and in all of these places. No.

      This is where trust comes in for me. I trust my God and I trust my Savior.

      There have been horrendous things happening for centuries and centuries – you are correct when you bring this up.

      Where you and I differ at this point is that I look for my God at work in my life. I am grateful for what happened on Friday. You are sooooo right when you say there are so many bigger things in this life to attend to than my little hand injury. Yet, what makes this little thing significant is that my God cared for and attended to me – when I really needed some care. I really, really did.

      I am not indifferent to the terrible things going on in this world. If you knew more about where I live and the needs I see day in and day out, you would know that I do see a ton of pain and suffering. And one reason I am here is to help alleviate some of that – in the name of my God.

      No offense, Evan – but I will say it again – I don’t believe that my God is one that leaves people to rot. My God pursues. My God invites. My God loves. And yes, my God knows me and loves me too – in this 7 billion people world and that is just amazing to me. Jesus shared that in this world there would be pain and there would be suffering. It’s a fallen, despicable and awful world.

      And this is one of the reasons I share these stories is to say that in spite of this difficult world, God is at work! And if my God can care for me, He can and will do this kind of care for others. I know you doubt that now. But this is the message I will share for as long as I live. This is the Hope I have in Christ.

      Thanks so much for pressing me on this and if you want to push back some more, don’t hesitate. I don’t mind.

      • Thanks for answering! I try not to be offensive with my wordings but sometimes it’s hard to know how it’ll be taken so I’m glad you’re so open to this dialog.

        I guess I still don’t understand how to avoid viewing god as a monster if he looks out for one person’s minor injury while doing nothing about other peoples’ poverty, rape, torment, and death. If he does step in to allow someone to get a faster appointment in the ER for an injury, that proves that he is perfectly capable of stepping in and providing a starving child with food or halting the progress of a debilitating disease. Yet he doesn’t… at least not for most people. He sounds like a typical narcissistic parent: picking a golden child and a scapegoat among his own children, showering one with attention and neglecting the other. And while I think it is admirable for you to attempt to alleviate the suffering of others, the fact that god will take loving care of your needs and wishes but then ignore the desperate needs of others such that YOU have to take care of them reflects horribly on “god”. I simply don’t see how to avoid coming to the conclusion that god is a despicable monster if this is true, and I’m rather grateful that I don’t believe in god or I might have to believe such a monster is real and in control of the world. The only possible way to wiggle out of this that I can imagine is to basically just say “well, I don’t know and his ways are not our ways” which is not really an answer at all, but a dismissal of the problem. I just don’t understand.

      • Have you ever read CS Lewis’ book “The Problem of Pain?” There are some great thoughts. However, one of the biggies is that to have free choice in this world means that both sorrow and joy will result.

        Lewis contends that we cannot desire freedom to choose what we want in life and still hold God responsible for not preventing people from choosing to do evil or making choices counter to his desires for us. Evan, we either have freedom in this life or we do not. Blaming God for evil actions when men and women freely choose to do evil is not fair.

        Calling God a monster because pain and suffering infiltrates our world in my mind is misplaced. Suffering is an inescapable reality because of the choices of man – not God. If God spent all of His time preventing our pain – for every single person on earth – then He becomes an overprotective genie in a bottle.

        To say that God does everything I want and answers my prayers exactly as I want – misses the point of what I wrote about the other day. I didn’t even pray for what happened in the waiting room. I didn’t pray for the room I was given on the retreat. I gave credit to Jesus Christ for praying for and caring for me in ways I hadn’t expected.

        To say that nothing ‘bad’ happens to Christians is also untrue. Yes, we are His saints – those set apart by the holiness and grace of Jesus Christ because we believe Him to be our Savior and Lord. Yet, this doesn’t mean that we are shielded from pain, from illness, or other difficult things. I’ve had cancer, for Pete’s sake!

        As a tiny example, today our house lost power two different times today. Only our house and two other houses were affected on our street because the workers outside our house damaged the cables – sending us into darkness. It was a major inconvenience. There are both believers and unbelievers on this street. We were not spared the challenges of this situation – especially since my eldest son needs electricity to do his on-line school work. Did we pray for restored power – my middle son did, actually. And within a few hours it was restored and we thanked God for that. However, just because we are Christian doesn’t mean that God will reach down and say — no, not that house, Heather lives there with her family because we despise the inconvenience of no power? It’s a real pain in the neck at times — can you tell that this happens a lot in our part of the world?  It does. Why? Let me count the ways…. No, we suffer that inconvenience just like our fellow neighbors. It is a shared pain in the neck!

        Honestly, Evan, blaming God for the evil that happens in this world is not something I do. I believe man/woman needs to take responsibility for it. God is an easy target and scapegoat. Which makes me wonder why you blame Him in the first place – especially because you have no faith in Him.

        May I ask another set of questions?
        When God went silent on you a number of years ago, what did you want Him to say? Did you want Him to say something in particular? I ask because I honestly wonder what you most wanted to hear from Him. What did you need then? And I wonder if you still need that now? I’m curious. If you are game, write me back. If not, and you have something else to say, I’m game for that too!

        Thanks for writing, Evan. I am only sharing my perspective with you. There are far more learned people to answer you than me – like CS Lewis. Maybe check into the Problem of Pain. It’s a short book but has a pretty weighty message!

        Take care!
        heather

      • You say god can’t be blamed for pain because human beings cause it. But as you say, you’ve had cancer. No human causes cancer, it just is. The same goes for natural disasters, other illnesses, etc. So there is much pain and suffering in our world that has nothing to do with our choices and which god, should he have chosen, could certainly shield us from without robbing our free will. And then there are other forms of suffering, like poverty and hunger for which no single person is to blame, but rather entire societies of people along with natural circumstances. Why could god not intervene in some way to improve the lives of these people without overriding free will… perhaps by blessing their crops? And finally, many crimes that are directly the responsibility of one single person victimize someone else. I don’t see how it’s unfair to ask god to prevent someone from murdering an innocent child, even if that means overriding the free will of the murderer. We override the free will of criminals in our justice system all the time and, if you believe in hell, god certainly has no problem doing the same once we die.

        The problem that evil exists is certainly a significant one that I’ve had with the idea of a good and powerful god and, in the writings of Lewis that I have read (Mere Christianity) I don’t think he addresses it well. But even aside from that, my specific objection was not just the existence of evil, but rather the idea that god does intervene specifically and tangibly in the lives of certain people to benefit them and alleviate their suffering but does not do this for all people. If, as you say, Jesus specifically prayed and intervened for you at the clinic, why does he not intervene for people watching their children starve to death? Or intervene for the hundreds of refugees that drowned when a boat capsized in the Mediterranean sea? If god can and is perfectly willing to extend his hand to some people at some times, how can I not blame him for failing to do so in other situations? How can I when, if I had the power to save these people, I’d do it in a heartbeat? True, I am only a human and I can’t see the whole picture, but I don’t feel that’s a good enough reason for me to let a “god” off the hook for claiming to be good and capable of saving and then refusing to do so in almost all situations.

        And you’re right; I don’t believe in god, so of course I don’t actually think god had anything to do with the clinic or anything else. But if such a god did exist, I would not be able to worship him anyway, because he would be a grotesque monster in my opinion.

        Regarding your questions, I’m happy to answer. In fact, it was pretty perceptive for you to ask that question because I guess that’s a lot of why this post sorta struck a nerve with me and why I’ve commented so much. What I was hoping to hear from god in those last years was evidence that he’s real. All of my evidence beforehand had been “acts of god” like the one that you describe: a moment when I attributed some particular good fortune paired with a feeling of assurance to a supernatural intervention on my behalf. This was my “evidence” that god was real… the experience to back up my faith. But eventually, I realized that people of many faiths and of no particular faith at all had identical “evidence” for their own beliefs and superstitions. Not only that, but I realized each one of these incidents reinforced a very self-centered and echo-chamber-like view of the world. Whenever X happened and I decided X was good, it was god. Whenever Y happened and I decided Y was bad, it was the Devil, or maybe god testing me. God was conforming to my preconceived notions of what I thought he would do, not the other way around. And it was blinding me to reality.

        I realized how dangerous it was to view the world through this lens when others started using this exact sort of logic to abuse me. To paraphrase, many, many Christians would say “X happened, and I know god was behind it and was using it to reassure/guide/convict/tell me that I need to continue to abuse you.” And they weren’t just doing this because they were mean, evil people. They honestly believed this with all of their hearts and I couldn’t really argue with them because all of my evidence was of the exact same sort. All I could say is “well, X happened to me and I think it was god telling me the opposite!” Neither of us had any way to prove that one interpretation was better than the other because all of our “evidence” basically came down to our own cognitive biases reading natural events in a way that matched our preconceived notion of what god would do. Those notions were shaped by our own cultural biases, our interpretations of scripture, what other people said, etc etc, so they weren’t always just blatant self-serving manipulation. But there was no reason for me to claim that these “acts of god” were really anything other than natural events. Even the time that I thought god stopped me from killing myself made just as much sense or more sense if I looked at it from the point of view of a natural event. After all, if god could stop me from killing myself, why do tens of thousands of people commit suicide every year without a single squeak from god? It made me think.

        So I guess what I wanted from god was actual proof that he was real. Something that was more tangible than my human desire to see patterns in the chaos of life. And god never did offer me anything so I stopped believing. I started seeing the world without supernatural attributions and it made so much more sense. I no longer had to wonder why god spared me from killing myself but didn’t spare others. He never spared me and he never will because he doesn’t exist. But I will do everything in my power to spare others that fate. And maybe that’s why the idea of a god who can save people but won’t is so repulsive to me. Because I didn’t do anything to deserve saving anymore than the thousands of others who suffer. And if I could protect everyone of them from that pain, I would doanything. Absolutely anything. Godd*mn, I’m crying now, but this is why I can’t stand this idea of god. I would do anything to save these people. And if god can and won’t, I would never, ever worship him. Never.

        Sorry for the long, overly-emotional rant. :/

      • Hi Evan,

        We’ve certainly got a great thread of thought going here! Thank you so much for sharing with me! I ached for you when I read that you were crying over what you were writing yesterday. There is real grief and real wounding in you regarding your faith experiences.

        And this is the crux of the matter: faith. You are correct in saying that person x has this experience and then person y has this experience and each person potentially has the idea to attribute God’s intervention in some way. And I am sooooo with you that some people go a bit overboard in that regard; especially when they believe the evil one did this or that to them on the way to work. I think some Believers give the evil one more credit than he is ultimately due.

        Regarding the lack of God’s intervention for those in poverty or other difficult situations – what do you want God to do? How do you know that God is not intervening in a person of poverty’s life. I am with and serve lot of people who are in poverty. If you asked them if God is at work in their lives and helping them, many would say that He is! Do you think that their poverty should completely be eliminated by God? What role do these women have to play in their life? For to me, I have seen them empowered as they make good decisions to improve their lives and others. And yes, these women are women of faith.

        Faith is, for me, a faith in Jesus Christ, in God the Father, and the Holy Spirit as they work together to transform my life and then yes, build into the lives of others in His name.

        Evan, your faith experience was so hurtful. You have been significantly wounded by people who should have shown you love, peace and grace. Instead you experienced condemnation and ultimately death in your relationships with them. I’ve written to you about this before – but I think they were terrified by the choices you were making and then felt that your choices were harmful to not only you but to them. How can that not pierce your heart? How can that not affect your understanding of God – as Father and Jesus as Friend?

        I contend, and will continue to contend, that my God and my Savior Jesus Christ did not want that for you. Why didn’t they stop it? Why didn’t they protect you? Why didn’t they shake your family upside the head and knock some sense into them? Because – he gave them free will. A free will that led to your exclusion. Oh, Evan, I am so sorry about that and I am sure that God grieves this too.

        Jesus Christ was excluded and rejected and condemned as well – to the point of death. He is not unaware of what you have suffered and actually what you continue to suffer.

        I know you wanted something ‘tangible’ to show God was real. Evan, such proof is everywhere! As one amazing example, why does Venus (I’m using a space example in honor of you – Galactic Explorer) rotate in the opposite direction of every other planet in our solar system? If the planets resulted in a big bang, wouldn’t they all rotate the same? Or if that is not enough, why do all of the moons of Saturn rotate one way, but Titan, its largest moon, have retrograde motion to them? For me, this is evidence of God’s amazing creation!

        Perhaps you wanted a significant word or action that could only be attributed to God – that He was there and not just your imagination – I can’t help but wonder if He did speak and you doubted if it was real. How would He have spoken – perhaps even at that life and death moment when you chose to live and not die. Because in my faith life, I believe Jesus Christ was right there as you considered ending your life – for nothing separates us from Him. He is always present. Always near. Always calling.

        Today, you have chosen to stop listening. Instead, you have decided that people like me are dangerous and harmful. And you want to protect others from me. Yet, I wonder if we could have had space to meet last July – what you would have thought when we were face to face? Would you have seen a face of hate or would you have seen a face of love?

        It didn’t happen – primarily because my time was too jam-packed. However, I cannot believe that our on-line communication is an accident. It could end of course. However, I really value our bursts of communication from time to time. And I hope I am giving you a different impression of what Believers are like – even if you cast me with those who have hurt you.

        I continue to be grateful that you trust me enough to share what you do.

        I know I am not answering everything you want answers for – honestly, I cannot. I’ll do my best. Yet, the life I live on this earth is one of faith – faith in a God who loves me, and yes, loves you.

        Take care, Evan. I’m here for you whenever you need to rant.

        Blessings,
        heather

      • Thank you for continuing to converse with me. I value this as well… most particularly because it’s such a shockingly rare experience for me. Thinking back as hard as I can, I believe you are one of only two Christians that I would classify as “conservative evangelical” that has treated me with respect after knowing who I am. Think about that. Only two out of the probably hundreds that I’ve known in some way. So yes, you definitely give me a different impression, although I see you as an outlier rather than a sign that conservative evangelical Christians as a whole are respectful or safe. But that’s a pretty big deal and it’s why I enjoy that we can have these conversations so much. I don’t want to alienate myself from people of faith and be unable to communicate with them on account of our differences. And while more liberal Christians rarely have problems with me, people of your brand of faith are generally off-limits to me because the vast, vast majority of them refuse to treat me like a human being. So please don’t think that I think you are hateful. My communication here is such an awesome and rare thing because you are one of the only ones who is not. 🙂

        Regarding your awesome space examples (I am honored) us astrophysicists have some theories for why Venus rotates backwards (a large-body collision is a common one) and Titan rotates in retrograde (it was a wandering planetary body that was captured by Saturn after the formation of the other moons). I see the mysteries of the universe as an invitation go discover, as do you, but we are looking to discover different things I suppose. I look for a natural explanation first and I haven’t yet found something that doesn’t have one. That might lead us to wonder what sort of proof would convince me and honestly that’s a good question because I’m not sure. Most things that I can conceive of could still have a natural explanation, even down to “I’m hallucinating.” Still, I’m not so stubborn that I couldn’t be made to re-think if the evidence was compelling enough that my natural explanations seemed far-fetched or unlikely. In the end, if there is a god who is all-knowing, then they should know what it would take to convince me. Although convincing me would be only half the battle at this point, because if god was real, I’d have an awful lot of pointed questions for them to answer before I would consider them worthy of worship or loyalty. But first things first. I’d have to believe. And so far god hasn’t shown up and I don’t really expect one will. But I’m still here, so if they want to, I’ll be waiting.

        Thanks again for your chat. I’m happy to continue anytime.

      • Thank you, Evan. I appreciate that.

        I thought you might appreciate a space example! 🙂

        And once again you’re dead – on! You need faith to believe in God. How I look at this deal with you is that you want God to basically sit down with you, have a cup of coffee, and outline His proofs of existence. Then, you would have opportunity to engage and go after those pieces of evidence point by point.

        Well, Evan, who knows! It just might happen one day!

        The Lord did it for Gideon.

        Take care and have a great end to your week – by the way – I’m headed to Zimbabwe next week for ten days. So, I won’t have internet during that time. I can be in touch after that!

        Blessings,
        heather

      • By the way, I don’t want this to come off as if I’m minimizing your problem. I think I would probably break down if I was going to finally have some time to myself, something I’d looked forward to for ages, and then have it ruined by accidentally injuring myself and being in pain AND being crushingly disappointed. That situation sucked, no doubt about it, and I’m glad you got a good resolution. And that’s in no way changed by the fact that there are starving children in the world or whatever.

        But even if you had been the least fortunate person in the entire world Job-style, with your whole family dying and you afflicted with every illness known to man, etc, and god stepped in to help you, I would still have the same problem. Because it will still show that he is capable of helping all of his children, but he chooses not to, and instead lavishes his attention on a fortunate few while others suffer unspeakable pain. It just highlights that disparity more when our problems, while certainly not trivial, are also probably not the most desperate ones in the entire world.

      • Thanks, Evan. Taking a different tack – when you say that God chooses or choose not to help others is rather simplistic in relation to what happens in this world. Again, placing blame upon Him if something does or does not occur according to a human being’s liking.

        As you know I had cancer. I’m actually not considered cancer-secure yet. That won’t happen for another one and a half years. So, I am still very much aware that cancer could come back and I still have appointments to check to see that that cancer cells are not returning. For me, and I cannot say this is necessarily true of anyone else, but I chose to accept this cancer deal and journey with it. I chose to believe that my God was with me in it and would help me through it all. It hasn’t been a walk in the park – there were some scary times – especially when we didn’t know what we were dealing with yet. And it isn’t easy knowing that I am still here when others have died because of cancer. I am grateful for this life I have because I don’t believe I’m done here yet. I rely on and trust in God’s sovereignty in both good and difficult times. I could certainly have blamed God for my cancer. I chose not to. I’m not sure why I got it – there is little to no cancer in my family line. But I did. I think what makes us different at this point Evan, is that I know that no matter what happens in my life nothing separates me from the love and care of my God. I appreciate His Presence and count on it in both times of joy and times of difficulty. And the other thing that I think is pretty important to and which we don’t get into a lot because you camp on God – is that Jesus Christ – His Son experienced this place; the good, the bad, and the ugly. He was not spared any of it. And He still walked through it all and chose to give His life up so that you and I could enjoy the wonder of eternity through faith in Him. Jesus suffered and died – and rose again – to make all things new! And that includes this fallen place with its fallen people.

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