The Win that Softened a Most Painful Loss
By Gena Anderson
This is the latest post in a series where guest bloggers share how God has shown up in the stories they never expected to live. May these stories stir you toward hope and give you a glimpse of God’s goodness. Read previously published stories here.
Have you ever experienced a shift in your life so swift it left you with emotional whiplash? That is what happened when my husband and I were enjoying a kid-free getaway in Las Vegas. We had childcare arranged, restaurants reserved, and show tickets. Every detail was scheduled, until the unexpected changed those plans. We received amazing news in an early morning message: my dad had a kidney transplant match.
Proceeding with the surgery would come after many tests confirming the donor and my dad was indeed a match. My husband and I decided to stay in Vegas for the day and travel home the next day if the surgery did happen. Late in the afternoon, following the tests, we learned the transplant would continue. Though I wasn’t there personally, I’m told no one was more excited and grateful than Dad after enduring kidney disease for years.
The doctors assured everyone with their 100 percent success rate, Dad joked with the nurses, and we prayed hopeful prayers of gratitude for this opportunity of renewed life. Through phone calls and texts I told Dad it was his lucky day so I would place a bet for him, and asked him to pick a number. He said “64!” No surprise, that was his long-time lucky number, and though it wasn’t an option on the craps table, I planned to honor his request somehow.
A few hours later things took another sudden turn. For reasons unknown at the time, the surgery went from a success in progress to a mission to save Dad’s life. My husband and I were celebrating with a sushi dinner when first his dad called, then my mom, to tell us Dad was losing the fight of his life. Shocked, I walked outside the restaurant and tried to think. Should we jump on the next plane home? Would we be too late? Why didn’t we go home that morning? How did this happen? Why didn’t I consider the possibility of him dying? Why would God give us such hope and elation just a few hours prior only to yank it away?
As I mentally questioned and simultaneously prayed to the God of love, comfort, and provision that I know so well, I lifted my head to see a huge neon cross. I laughed. Of course, Las Vegas churches have obnoxious neon crosses. Jesus spent the majority of his time on earth with tax collectors, prostitutes, and societal misfits and I’m not sure there’s a city in our country that welcomes shady money dealings and sexual exploitation more than Las Vegas. God met us where we were. Jesus is still on a mission with the lost and broken-hearted, including me. That cross was the first glaring reminder that though things seemed dire God was still on the throne and simultaneously right beside me.
While the news came like a speed boat on smooth waters, I felt like I was walking through mud. The red-eye flight leaving in five hours seemed an eternity away. My husband asked if I wanted to wait in our hotel room but I said no. It seems crazy now that I chose to play craps at that time, but sitting in a hotel room staring at my phone sounded torturous. My husband cashed in for our chips and we started playing craps. Really, he played and I stood behind him in a daze until it was time to go. Still several hours from needing to leave for the airport, we headed to the show we had tickets for, to pass the time if nothing else. We cashed in our chips and the dealer gave back our cash plus some winnings. He counted the bills out in the efficient way they do and we watched mindlessly until he said the last number and our eyes popped.
We were handed back an additional 64 dollars.
My dad’s lucky number, the one he told us to bet on, the one that didn’t exist on the table, came back to us.
Maybe God wanted to confirm his presence and power over any situation and remind me that Dad’s life had just taken a turn for the best, though it wasn’t the turn we expected. Maybe at Heaven’s check-in, you get one last earthly encounter, like the righteous version of your one call from jail, and Dad was saying goodbye. I don’t think I’ll know for sure why God gave us 64 dollars until I get to meet Him myself. What I do know is that the God who sacrificed his son for me was there with me when my earthly father died, and He made sure I experienced His presence.
After our long-awaited arrival home I saw my family, and Dad’s face one last time, with no breath left in his earthly lungs. It wasn’t lost on me that if things had sped up the way I wanted I would have missed the hand of God reaching down into the craps table and among the crap I had been handed to give me a beautiful and intimate encounter with Him.
When you are painfully cast in a new direction, remember you haven’t been cast aside. There is rarely a better opportunity for intimacy with God than when you’ve been deeply wounded and your soul is ripe for healing and desperate for soothing.
If you are flying high on Aladdin’s magic carpet only to plummet when the rug is yanked out from under you, remember there is a God who will catch, comfort, and elevate you.
And if you are waiting, distanced from your desired destination, look up and around for the God of neon crosses and miraculous wins to move in your life exactly where you are.
About the Author
Gena Anderson is a Jesus-lover, writer, and nurse practitioner who loves to share wellness information and inspiration with the world around her. She is the author of The Well Woman: A Journey to Wellness Through Loving Jesus. She proudly holds the title of wife, mom, and the world’s most average CrossFitter. She loves writing, reading, traveling, and brownies. She’s working on that last one. She lives in Hutto, TX with her husband, Michael, and children, Jocelyn and Luke. Connect with Gena on Instagram and find more of her work on www.well-woman-blog.com.
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