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25 May '13

The high wire of faith

Posted by T.J. Addington
Contributing Writer
Mary Ann Addington
When our son Steven was in 5th grade I was asked to be a parent volunteer on a 3 day class trip to Wolfridge Environmental Learning Center in northeast Minnesota. One of the activities was a high ropes course. Starting from a walk across a balance beam sort of structure, the course builds up to a thirty foot high Burma Bridge and ends in a zip line back to the ground.

The Burma Bridge was the most intimidating because one walks across on a single cable. Even being hooked into a cable above your head and cables at your side, you still have to step out onto the single line. After I coaxed and encouraged about ten 5th graders to go over the Burma Bridge, one youngster turned to me and said, “Mrs. Addington! Now it is your turn!”

This was not what I had signed up for, but I could hardly chicken out after telling all the kids that they could do it. As I was on the platform trying to figure out if there was any way out of stepping onto the cable, my fan club stood below. “Mrs. Addington, we know you can do it!” “Come on, Mrs. Addington, you helped us do it!”

With trepidation I take my first step out the cable holds and the line above is still hooked in. About half way across I even breathed enough to notice that above the trees I could see Lake Superior off in the distance. And to the delight of my fan club below I actually made it across the cable and back to terra firma.

Living by faith when life comes undone is much like walking the Bermuda Bridge. The cable is hard to walk, it is a long way down, and every step forward requires balance and the faith that the cable will hold and that the safety ropes can be trusted.

The first steps are the hardest but there comes a place where we actually start to breathe again. While we would never willingly sign up for it, we learn that we can take the step of faith, put our weight on the line and that the cable will hold the safety ropes hold.

Living on the wire of faith means sticking to the confidence that God is in control and can be trusted even when all evidence is to the contrary. During T.J.’s initial illness, I would be irritated with people who would say over and over how hard this must have been on his dad because he was a doctor and understood how sick Tim was.

I would think, “This is true, but give me some credit!” I am an RN with ER and ICU experience and had done of lot of research on MRSA and ARDS. I knew that this was really, really bad. There were numbers on his monitor that were worse than I had ever seen- except on someone who was dying. I could tell by the body language of the nursing and medical staff that they thought I was in lala land when I spoke of discharge planning.

Every night I would go to sleep at night listening to Lincoln Brewster’s “Another Hallelujah” and had to tell God that this would be my response to whatever happened the next day. Every day was like taking another step of faith on the high ropes, choosing to trust God.

I had to train myself to move from fear to trust countless times during the long ICU ordeal. “Fear not” is the most repeated command in all of Scripture because it is so easy to live in fear rather than in faith. It is a choice we make and it is really about whether we focus on our undoneness or on God.

My worst day in T.J.’s first ordeal in the ICU was when I received a call from his sister telling me to get to his room right away because his stats were terrible. I rushed back to the hospital from a nearby restaurant to find T.J.’s heart beating at 240 beats per minute. This was on top of his massive pneumonia, ARDS, septic shock and a failed mitral valve in his heart. His heart was desperately trying to compensate for the mitral valve failure and get oxygen to his organs.

The nurses hustled me out of the room so they could try and shock his heart back into rhythm. I went to a nearby room where I could see what was happening overwhelmed with fear. This was the worst it could be. Humanly speaking, T.J.’s heart would just give up. They could not do surgery to mend the mitral valve because he would not survive the surgery. It was God’s intervention or death. And that intervention had to be quick.

Sitting in that alcove watching the medical personnel around T.J.’s bed I wrestled with fear and faith in a way I had never done before. God had told me that it would be close but he would make it. Could I really believe that in the face of what I was watching? Was that rational? Could God really be trusted? Had I heard him right? This was one of the cases when the medical personnel would not even make eye contact with me because they knew the inevitable outcome. Indescribably fear gripped my whole body. I felt like I was about to go into a free fall from the high wire and there were no safety lines attached.

I chose faith over fear as hard as that was watching what I was watching. The staff were not able to shock T.J.’s heart back into rhythm and we knew that unless the mitral valve was healed there was no way he would survive. We put an urgent call for a day of prayer and fasting specifically asking for a miracle to heal the mitral valve. Across the globe those watching the blog (over 10,000 individual users) stormed the gates of heaven boldly asking for an outright miracle. Within that twenty four hour period it started to slowly heal! He was not out of the woods by any means but God was true to the words He had given me.
To this day, when T.J. visits his cardiologist he shakes his head and says, “How did you dodge that bullet?” They were certain that he would need surgery to repair the valve when he was well enough to have it – if he survived. On his most recent visit, the cardiologist told T.J. he did not need to come back.

One of the hard things is that God does not always do what we wish He would do. His ways are sovereign and we will not always understand His plans or purposes for our lives. But we always have the choice of focusing on Him or focusing on our circumstances. Our circumstances are unpredictable but His is always faithful. It is the choice we make between fear and faith when life comes undone.

God loves it when we choose to trust him! And it is as much as a choice as when we put our full weight on the cable and begin that hard walk. Trusting does not mean that we know how everything will turn out, but that we live in the confidence that God loves us like we love our kids and that He is in control. Trusting God brings peace, even when that does not seem logical.

Isaiah 26:3 has been up on my bathroom mirror since December of 2007:
You will keep in perfect peace
him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in you.

It is not about me! It is about keeping my mind and emotions focused on who God is. It is not about whether I have done all the right things, or even that I am trusting the right way. It is about keeping our minds steadfast on who God said He is and what He has promised to do which includes peace when all evidence says that cannot happen. Life on the high ropes is not about us- it is all about God, His grace, and our simple trust in Him. It’s putting our weight on the wire one step at a time.