Sometimes, you’ve just gotta laugh a little. Even when life seems serious. Jesus was a “man of sorrows acquainted with suffering,” but he must have had a playful side. His parables were often laced with irony and wit. He hung out with coarse fishermen. Sinners felt comfortable in his presence. Even little children were drawn to Jesus. And children usually steer clear of someone who is no fun.
We’re on day seven of our 21 Day Fast for Pastor Saeed. Some of you may be wondering if fasting works. I hope to encourage you with a story about one of the first times I ever fasted. In the end, there was an answer to my prayers, with a humorous twist that still makes me laugh. For me, the episode was unforgettable and opened my eyes to the power of prayer and fasting. It happened when my almost twenty year old son was nearly two.
“This Kind only Comes Out by Prayer and Fasting”
After the birth of a beautiful daughter and a fine strong son, I still felt like our family wasn’t finished. We had agonized through years of infertility before having our two children. People wondered why would we put ourselves through more anguish and expense when we already had a daughter and a son. I could only describe my feelings by explaining that it was as if someone was “trying to come to us.” And sure enough, just a couple of months shy of my fortieth birthday, our little Michael made his entrance into this world.
Our lives, which had become fairly predictable with a nine year old and almost six year old, took a sudden detour back to the world of diapers and midnight feedings. Things were made easier by the fact that Michael was a happy child. But he was also active, curious and always into something.
Michael’s curiosity as a toddler was the reason I had to call poison control three times in one week. He swallowed a penny, drank a bottle of ear drops, and ate half a tube of toothpaste all in the same week. This is still a family record.
Michael began developing sinus infections the winter before his second birthday. The repeated infections were resistant to antibiotics, and grew more serious by the day. This forty-something mother of a toddler was exhausted. Doctors were baffled. Our next step would be a series of x-rays to determine the cause of the infections.
Six weeks into this saga, I decided in desperation to fast for our son. I had little experience with fasting, but I was at the end of my rope. I wasn’t sure how one even did such a thing. So I resolved not to eat. Throughout the day, I went to God over and over with the same simple prayer: “Help, Lord…we’ve tried everything. Surely You know what is causing these infections. Please show me!”
After naptime, I let Michael venture outside to play for a little while. It was unusually warm for February and he had been cooped up for weeks. A few minutes later, he ran inside pointing to his nose. For a split second, I simply thought he wanted me to wipe it. Looking closer I caught my breath. A partially lodged brass pin-back (the kind used to fasten a sports insignia) was sticking out of Michael’s left nostril!
As I gently removed the badly tarnished (and very gross) pin-back, it suddenly dawned on me that this was the culprit of our forty-day ordeal! When I asked Michael how the thing got into his nose, he explained, in toddler language, what happened. Weeks earlier, he had climbed out of his crib one night and crawled up on his big brother’s bed. He unfastened one of the sports pins on his brother’s baseball cap and stuck the pin-back in his nose. Seriously??
We stood there, incredulous, Michael and I, half-laughing and half-crying. I could hardly believe what had just happened. And right at that moment, a calm, yet somewhat amused inner voice seemed to whisper the same words Jesus once spoke to his disciples. Words I have never forgotten: “This kind only comes out by prayer and fasting.”
*You can read the entire story in Mark 9.