I was driving down the 401 (Canada’s busiest highway, for those reading from elsewhere)the other day, and I saw an ambulance heading to the city of Toronto, where many major hospitals are that are equipped better than many hospitals in the area, and it was coming from a town near where we used to live. It was serious enough to be making a 2 hour transfer, sirens blaring, in the hopes to save the patient on board. My stomach felt ill as soon as I saw it. Without knowing who was on board, or what was going on I immediately began to pray. I prayed for knowledge and wisdom for the doctors and nurses, comfort for the family, and strength for the patient, and of course for a positive God glorifying out come. I prayed “Lord, I don’t know if these people know you, but I pray that this experience draws them close to you, and if they do know you, I pray this experience draws those around them observing close to you!” After I finished praying, I thought about my own experiences with ambulances and what a traumatizing time they were, and then I remembered, I too had made the same long drive in an ambulance with my son 8 years prior.
I didn’t grow up in a Christian family, although I did believe in God. Without Biblical knowledge, or someone to direct my steps, I never truly understood God and thought he must really dislike me because the circumstances I faced were not ideal. So, my defense mechanism was to dislike him (and even say there was no such thing as God.)
However, on the day that I gave birth to my oldest child, a son, I couldn’t deny God’s existence in the overwhelming feelings of love and gratitude I felt instantly. I looked at his beautiful, perfect face and I knew that there was more to this than just random chance of a particular egg and sperm cell meeting. Science wasn’t enough to explain how instantly I’d have died for that beautiful boy, and so his birth changed the trajectory of my relationship with God.
Fast forward a while, my son was now 21 months old. I was so diligent about teaching him all that I could, including that money goes into piggy banks so that he would never ingest it. My now-husband was on his way home and had called to let me know. During that distraction, my son had grabbed my wallet and as all toddlers do was exploring what was in it. He found some arcade tokens, and some money. He put the money he had found into his piggy bank, but when I told him the arcade tokens weren’t money, I took them back from him to put back in my wallet and cleaned the mess up. Little did I know, he had saved one token balled up in his chubby toddler fist. After putting my purse away, my son started pointing into his mouth and almost immediately began vomiting violently. He literally threw up about 15 times by the time I called his Dad in a total panic. He was just about back and told me to get ready and we’d be off to the Emergency Room as soon as he pulled in.
An x-ray revealed the missing token I didn’t realize he had, in his esophagus. It was explained to me that had it landed any differently, he wouldn’t have been able to breathe and would’ve died, but because it closed off his stomach, that caused intense gagging and vomiting as his body tried to bring it up. We lived in a small town about a 2 hour drive from Toronto’s Sick Kids hospital, and the doctors did not feel safe operating, or have the proper equipment for his tiny body. They had to keep him in an upright position so the token wouldn’t move and transfer us by ambulance to Sick Kids. The ride was horrendous. I’ve never been so full of fear, worry and tremendous amounts of anxiety in all of my life.
When we arrived, they explained what they would be doing and they took my beautiful and perfect child from my arms. I didn’t know if he would be okay under anesthesia, I didn’t know if they’d be able to remove it orally, or if he’d survive if they couldn’t get to it if it moved in time. It could go easily, or it could go long, and brutally. They had no idea themselves. When they took him, his Dad and I cried harder than we ever had into each other’s arms. It was scary moment. My Father-in-law was with us at the time and reminded us that our son was in good hands, and the two of them left me alone to get some food as we hadn’t eaten all day, and in that moment alone, I prayed to a God I believed in but didn’t know on a personal level. I remember telling God there was no way I could survive if my little boy didn’t make it, that I needed to have him returned to me safely and that I would do anything, literally anything, if he answered my prayer and spared my son.
It was only minutes later that the Doctor came out and told us, he’s totally fine, it was super easy and quick and over within minutes. The best case scenario had happened and my child was fine. I cant even try to describe the relief I felt in that moment. But any parent who has lost sight of a child in a busy room, and then finds them can understand it was like that, but multiplied by a thousand. I hadn’t told anyone about my prayer, and I thanked God quietly, and kept the promise in my mind. It was 5 months later that my husband (my son’s Dad) and I got married, and it was after we were married that we sought God together and joined a local church. I always think of this story as the beginning of me coming to know God as I do now, a loving father. I kept my promise, even if it took a little while to get there, but within a years time I had accepted Christ as my personal saviour and my entire life changed for the better.
It hit me like a ton of bricks in that moment as I prayed for the person on the 401: Perhaps as we travelled down the 401, tears streaming down my face, and rumblings of nerves rolling through my body, and my beautiful boy on the stretcher that someone saw us and wondered who was on board, what was wrong, and even prayed for us. Maybe even many people prayed that this event would be God glorifying, just as I had prayed for the ambulance I saw. I think back on that day, and never really thought about what was going on outside the ambulance, and now I wonder if a spirit-prompted person had prayed for my son, and for me to have a ‘come to Jesus’ moment. I felt so overwhelmed by the emotion of knowing, that just as I, a stranger to the person passing me, stopped immediately and prayed for them and their life and family, that strangers did the same thing for my son and us.
Here, 8 years later, I had the chance to do the same thing. What a blessing for me, to be able to answer the promptings of the Holy Spirit to do something when there’s something to be done (even if all I can do is pray) and to recognize that my random prayer for a stranger may have made severe impacts, as someone else’s did for me. I felt so grateful for whoever prayed for us that day, not only that they prayed for us, but also that that was the start of this new life, in which God is our focal point. I felt like it was such a ‘paying it forward’ moment, or even coming full circle, and it was such a beautiful moment for me to reflect on God’s glory, the magnitude of all situations in our lives even when we don’t understand them in the moment, and how far I have come since that desperate prayer 8 short years ago.
Never underestimate the effectiveness of your prayers.
(Photo.. the actual token he swallowed, his little bracelets, the Poppa Smurf the paramedics gave to him en route, and a picture he coloured with the Doctor who explained the procedure to use that day.)