Do you believe in miracles? I do, but I cannot explain them, something that as a science graduate many years ago, frustrates me in my curious pursuit of how things work.
I guess I should start by explaining what I mean by miracles, I’m talking irrefutable, creative miracles, ones that science can substantiate, cancer disappearing, blind seeing or in my case, bone that had disintegrated growing.
Why am I writing about this in a hiking blog? Well because inevitably on a long walk the subject of injuries comes up and someone always asks have you broken any bones, one such occasion happened this past week.
The Oxfam 100 walk is due to start in Melbourne in around 2 months with many practice walks taking place. Recently there was one held in the Dandenong’s, a 22km night loop from Olinda to Mt Evelyn. Several of my colleagues were participating so I decided to join for moral support and in preparation for a 4 day walk I’m planning around Wilsons Promontory in March.
We started out from Olinda with about 300 other walkers. The walking was mostly downhill and we made good pace, passing a lot of the walkers into the pit stop. With a good break, some sugars and hydration, we were back on the trail for the return to the car.
At about the two thirds mark, the landscape changes from the flat plateau we had been tracking to, to the final ascent. As niggling pains pushed for space in the forefront of our minds, the conversation moved to aches and pain and inevitably the near misses and worst accident stories.
After listening to others, it was my turn and I shared my bike accident stories, notice the plural.
At 15 years of age I was cycling madly down a hill gaining speed as I went. I wanted to get aired over a dirt jump, something I had never done before and never did again. After a few aborted attempts to jump I was determined to go over and not around it.
I hit the jumped rocketed into the air and simultaneously had that feeling of elation and dread, I don’t know how to land this thing! The laws of gravity command whatever goes up must come down and down I came indeed.
The bike hit the ground with an almighty thud, my left foot bounced off the pedal sending my leg through the bike frame as it hit the dry dusty dirt below. I’m still conscious this is a good sign I thought and no pain, maybe this was just a big dust up?
I got to my feet took a step away from the bike and crumbled, I couldn’t walk. Off to the hospital and a few X-rays later it was confirmed I’d broken my leg, a clean break right across the neck of the femur (upper leg bone with ball joint into the hip).
Fast forward a year, an operation, months on crutches and rehabilitation and I had fully recovered, the proud owner of a steel bolt and plate that held my leg together. I’d joined St John Ambulance (First Aid) at this point fascinated by their involvement in my experience and I was regularly attending Speedway, football and community events in this capacity.
One night after training I was riding home, yes on a bike like the one I had fallen off, as I had many a night before. We were travelling on a flat road just cruising, no real speed, when inexplicably my friend in front stopped. I ran into the back of him and you guessed it, fell to my left. My femur impacted the sharp edge of the gutter, shattering a bit below where the bolt and plate was located.
In a rerun of what felt like an old TV series I was back in the local hospital, airlifted to Darwin underwent surgery and rehabilitation, but nothing could be done to fully restore the bone damage. I was later to find out that the bone had no flex as a result of the bolt and plate and shattered like a china plate, the eight free floating fragments were screwed back together or removed with the result that my leg was now 2.5 cm shorter than my right.
For the following year I walked with a limp and a cane, you can imagine how much fun that was at school and it was no more contact sport for me, which wasn’t really a problem given my lack of sporting ability with a ball.
One non-descript Sunday, a Sunday like any other, our small church had a visiting minister, not uncommon for our little mission church to be supported in this way. Robyn Green was a singer and she had come to share her talent of music with us. At the end of the service, as was our practice we had an altar call, really just an invitation for someone to pray with you about anything.
A call for anyone who wanted healing was made and it felt like all eyes were turned to me. It’s hard to hide a major accident like mine in a small town let alone an even smaller church of about 50.
Before I knew it I was sitting in a seat, legs out straight cradled in someone’s arms for all to see just how much shorter my left leg really was. I’m going to pause for a minute here because we probably need to have a conversation about faith, before moving on.
If you’ve read my “Where it all started” post you’ll know my faith story, but that didn’t stop me having reservations about what would happen in the moments shortly to be lived out.
While I have chosen to believe in one God, whose son Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, was unjustly accused, crucified, buried and rose again that we might be forgiven of our sins, reconciled to the Father and live a life free of the accusations of the devil. I’m not at times without doubt and confusion in my analytical mind with how some of the theology of Christianity in particular aligns with our observable world.
Faith for me is this super simple (kids get it really easily) but strange concept that bucks the western world thinking of, unless you can experience it with your physical senses, it doesn’t exist. In scripture faith is described as the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not yet seen or being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see. It’s important to understand that for me this faith works when in placed in the person of Jesus Christ, not in myself or someone else, any other god or the universe at large.
I sat in the chair as people started to reach out their hands and pray. I guess something that must have looked quite strange if you were peering through the window, but really just symbolic of standing as one and in one agreement of our request to Jesus.
I recalled a scripture story, as I looked for something to anchor this unfamiliar experience in. I’d read plenty about miracles in the bible stories and had listened intently to one of our early ministers who had been a seasoned missionary in Papua New Guinea. The things he would talk about were the stuff of fairy tales and legends.
Could miracles really happen today and in Australia and in this little remote bush town and to me? The Gospel of Mark holds an account of a man who brings his deaf son to the disciples for healing, but nothing happens, he is taken to Jesus and Jesus challenges the father, saying “if, there are no “ifs” among believers. Anything can happen”. No sooner were the words out of Jesus mouth and the father cried “Then I believe. Help with me my doubts” Mark 9:23-24.
Sitting in that seat, I couldn’t really hear the prayers that were being said I was captivated by the passage and scripture, I said to God, I believe, help my unbelief. In that moment an intense heat (which didn’t feel painful, but you knew was hot) entered into the soul of my foot, rising up my leg to the knee, like water filling a cup. I felt it embrace the lower part of my femur like a hand around a stick and pull, my leg instantly grew and by the time I opened my eyes my left leg was as along as my right leg. To do this day, some 30 years on it has remained that way.
I gave the only response I could, thank you God! Overjoyed by what had just happened I was at the same time confounded by what had just happened and clueless as to how I was going to explain this at school.
Can I prove God is real or that he did this miracle, no. I know from this experience and praying for others who have also been healed from a variety of ailments, that there is power in the name of Jesus.
I’m not writing this to convert anyone, change your way of thinking or convince you of something you don’t believe. I’m not that influential and anyway it’s not my job. I’m called to share the good news of the gospel and be a witness to the grace, forgiveness, mercy and hope that is found in the overcoming story of Jesus death, burial and resurrection. You make up your mind.
Do you know what a witness is, one who can give a first-hand account of something seen, heard, or experienced. That is what I am called to be for Jesus. I don’t know why some get healed and others don’t. I don’t why I was healed all those years ago. I know it has been a mainstay of my faith and when I’m attacked by doubt or wrestle with a “Kingdom of Heaven” response to a changing social framework, I cannot deny Jesus is my Lord and Saviour, or that stuff happens when we put our faith in him.
A few years later I met a beautiful woman who has been my wife and the love of my life for the last 21 years. We were riding on my motorbike on a non-lit regional road outside of Townsville. As we rode across a bridge accelerating out of the cut in the road, a kangaroo jumped out onto the road hitting me halfway between my ankle and knee, spinning around and fracturing my wife’s ankle, we did not crash, we both remained conscious and I was confused by how the bike was still operating. You see I could not get my right leg back on the foot peg and imagine a cracked crank case leaking oil everywhere. It wasn’t the crank case that was cracked it was my tibia and fibula, my leg was dangling in the air attached to the rest of me only by tendons and muscle.
My wife tapped me on the shoulder to stop. I stopped the bike, still clueless about what had happened to my leg. As we slowed the bike tilt slightly and my leg crumbled under it. My wife dragged herself out from under the bike and hopped the dark and lonely road to hopefully hail a car.
The next car that came through had blankets and a mobile phone. Doesn’t sound that miraculous until you realise this was 1992 and mobile phones were very rare only carried by a select few. A few hours later and I was out of the operating theatre, another rod in leg and thankfully no loss of length. What most people find miraculous in this story is that we didn’t fall off the bike.
The miraculous extension of my leg and protection in the collision have allowed me to live a completely normal life, well that was subjective statement. One could argue a life lived trusting Jesus is rarely normal. It has allowed me to take up skiing and get back into my passion for walking which is where I started this post and will finish.
In the last quarter it was all up hill, we’d stopped talking about ailments because we were out of breath just climbing step after step. The first 800m went so fast and the first 800m that was now the last on the return felt like 8km.
We were all pleased to make it back, confidence building in my colleagues for their tilt at the Oxfam 100, all the best with that boys.