Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Coma awakenings (pt 1)

One of the miraculous stories in our new book involves a young man who awoke from a coma of two months.  After that he remained in a persistent vegetative state for more than half a year longer.  Amazingly, though, he emerged from that condition too and he is walking today supported by a frame.  This young man’s story especially struck a chord with me because his journey (and that of his parents) was similar to my own family in a lot of ways. 

My own brother laid in a coma for three and a half months.  At the time, in 2004, he was a Christian but my parents were not.  I remember that dreaded family meeting at the hospital:  The doctors informed us there was “virtually zero percent chance” he would wake up after all these months.  And if by the minutest chance he did awake, they said, he would be a vegetable.  What quality of life would that be?  The family was urged (more than once) to allow the doctors to pull the plug.

My Dad and Mom could identify closely with the young man’s parents in the book.  They know that feeling of utter hopelessness and sheer disbelief at the doctors’ inability to do anything more for their child.  The dire situation not only weighed heavily on them; it engulfed them.  The spirit of death was literally hovering, waiting to swoop down and snatch its prize as soon as it was permitted. 

Sons, as is commonly known, are highly valued in Chinese families.  And so it is in my family.  For my Dad, in particular, seeing his only son lie there helpless, hooked up to all those medical machines, and seemingly lifeless and unresponsive—this brought him to the brink.  He knew there was nothing even money could buy to guarantee his son would live. 

My Dad left his village in China when he was 18 and made his way to Canada in 1952.  He worked very hard to "make his fortune" and having done so after many years of labor, retired about 20 years ago.  Many people shared with him the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the years he’s been in his new country, including his own children.  He had heard the gospel many times.  Yet he never believed in God.  

Neither was he an ancestor worshipper, a Daoist or a Buddhist.  He considered himself a reasonable, rational man who drew conclusions from his experiences in life.  His thinking was, "Where is God if I have to struggle and work so hard all my life?"

When my brother first went into the coma, I returned to Canada from Hong Kong.  Dad picked me up from the airport.  The first thing he said to me when we got in the car was, "Well, George, I hope God is on our side."  I nearly fell off my seat!  Was this unyielding non-believer of the supernatural realm actually acknowledging the existence of God? 

I responded, "Dad, I know God is on my side, and he's on [your son's] side.  The question is, is He on your side?"  The directness of the question surprised him.  He'd never thought of it that way before.  Silence was his reply. 

The two of us ended up having these short, statement-and-direct-question-back-to him conversations like this over the next few weeks.  The wheels were really churning in his mind.  He was wondering if God truly was for real and if He could save and heal.  He'd heard it all before but this time it was different:  Now he was desperate.

After a couple of weeks I decided to test my Dad to see if he was ready to accept Jesus.  In the interim he had seen his son’s wife become a Christian (which is a whole other story for another day), and he saw a clear change in her.  Despite the tragic situation she was no longer downcast or morose, but radiant with the joy of His salvation.  Every day she heard the same negative reports from the doctors that he did but, unlike him, she was full of peace and trusted in Jesus.  The vast majority of people who walked into the ICU ward wore sorrowful, troubled or, at best, expressionless faces, but his daughter-in-law was brimming with hope and purpose. 

When I asked at that time, Dad said, "After my son is better, I'll go to church."  That's when I knew: Hope had sprung.  In his heart Dad was already believing and trusting in God.  A major tide had turned.

To make a long story short, Dad and Mom confessed Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior a week later—before my brother woke up from the coma.  In fact, my brother would lie in the coma for another 2-1/2 months still.  But they already believed, like the young man’s parents in Christian China and the Light of the World, that Jesus Christ was the way.  They realized He was the source of life.

To me, the salvation of my Dad (and Mom) is just as big a miracle as my brother waking up and recovering from that coma despite the doctors' predictions.  Maybe even bigger.  So many years of prayer had passed—since we were children—that my sister initially didn’t believe me when I phoned her with the news that our parents had become Christians. 

There’s a false understanding that every miracle has to have a wow factor as if it were a trick in a David Copperfield magic show.  But that’s only one type of miracle, and thank God He is not limited to one!  According to the medical experts, my brother was not supposed to awaken from that comatose state.  Furthermore, he was not supposed to be able to talk, move his limbs or recognize his family either.  So every day that he wakes up now is another kind of miracle—because he can do all those things they said were impossible and more.  And like the young man in the book, he continues his rehabilitation and is gaining strength day by day.

In the New Testament Jesus performed miracles in a variety of ways.  Sometimes he made a clay mixture and spread it on blind eyes to make them see.  Sometimes he laid hands on the lame and then they were able to walk.  At other times, he simply spoke a word and it became so. 

One of the marvelous things about God is that He tailor-makes each and every miracle for each and every situation.  His timing for them is always perfect too.  When, by the grace of God, a person’s heart can change from stubborn unbelief to acceptance and surrender to Him—that is arguably one of the greatest phenomena period.  Never undervalue the miracle of salvation.

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