Five years ago in one of the darkest and most hopeless times in my life God called out to me. My wife, Alison, had just given birth to our third child – our first baby boy. Within hours of his birth Witt was diagnosed with a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) called Aortic Stenosis. Initially the doctors were optimistic that Witt’s heart function could be improved with medications for now and then surgery as he got older. But at two months old while he lay in the pediatric intensive care unit, Witt’s heart grew sicker and the doctors told us that his only hope was with a life saving heart transplant. For the first time in my life I felt absolutely helpless. There was nothing that I or anyone could do to heal Witt. His heart would slowly and gradually begin to fail him and all we could do was watch and wait – wait for him to slowly fade from this world or for a horrific tragedy to strike some other family so that he might receive a new heart. Alison and I were devastated and fell into a deep and dark despair.
But in the midst of this darkness and despair God began to call out to me. I’m not talking about a voice in the burning bush kind of thing. He began to speak to me through the Body of Christ – through faithful servants like Gary Benz, Don Holloway, Larry Yarborough, and Albert Lemmons. These men along with deacons from Brentwood Baptist Church visited us in the ICU on a daily basis. They visited us on days when we were lost in despair and hopelessness and told us of God’s faithfulness, his love, and his mercy. They visited us on days when it seemed all our strength was gone and told us that “those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” They visited us on the days when our patience had run out and told us that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens”. They visited us on the days when we received good news and “we rejoiced exceedingly with great joy”. Through the ministry of these men I began to walk out of the darkness and into the light. My despair began to turn to hope.
Then one evening, as abruptly as our wait had begun our wait ended when we were told that Witt would receive the gift of life that night. We were immediately overcome with emotions. Of course there was joy that the hope Witt needed was upon us. But also sadness for the family whose tragedy was the catalyst for Witt’s hope. At midnight we prayed with the surgeon before handing Witt over to his care. There aren’t words for the emotions one feels when handing their child over to a surgeon knowing that he would be removing his heart and replacing it with a precious but cold and lifeless new one – all in hopes that it would begin beating once again.
It was a long worrisome night but by morning we received news that Witt’s new heart was in and beating. The days following his transplant were tough. The image of the doctors urgently performing chest compressions on Witt will always haunt me. But by the third day Witt’s recovery took off and three weeks later we got to take him home.
Witt’s story – by any measure – is a truly amazing and miraculous story. But to me the most amazing aspect of this story is how God used a baby boy with a broken heart – a heart that doomed him to a hopeless death – to show me how broken and hopeless my own heart was and how much I needed a new heart – a heart fill with the Holy Spirit – a heart that guarantees me a hope that will never fade and love that will never end.
Today, Witt is five years old and doing amazingly well. In looking at him now you would never know what he has been through. But the reality is he has a long uphill race before him. But really we all do. We will all face challenges, sickness, suffering, and we will all grow weary in this race. But I will always be reminded of how Jesus suffered. I will remember how he lived – how he ran his race. In Hebrews 12:1 we are challenged to “run with endurance the race that God has set before us”. In honor of what God has done in Witt’s life and in my life I will do just that. This blog is about my race.