Photo by Nicole Tarpoff
Infallible and strong. A superman daddy, in her eyes. He’d been in the marines too—but that was before she was born. He was a giant not only in his work—he successfully ran his own businesses—but also in his faith.
The man lived and loved and breathed Jesus. He wanted anyone and everyone to know the Provider like he did—as an “against all odds” God. Prayers and Psalms decked his storefront; they were on his lips just as much. He led hundreds, maybe thousands, of people to Christ. Tom even spent time with addicts and DUI offenders, bringing Sunday services or Bible studies to jail. He loved people who were sometimes called “unlovable.”
His exemplary efforts weren’t out of pride or spiritual self-acknowledgement, but out of a plain and ordinary calling to bring others into the family of Christ.
And that’s how he thought of himself—ordinary. Not the sort of ordinary that is self-deprecating, but the kind that is humble through the honest knowing of one’s self. He liked to build things and people—to restore them.
Yes, he was strong. He was healthy. He was able. He didn’t just live life, but brought it with him to anyone who would take it.
When she got the call, the sorrow hit deep and sharp. The news took the very center of her heart and snapped it half. There was an immediate chasm where the future should have lived.
You see, it was too soon. He had “crunching lungs,” she said. It was pulmonary fibrosis—a fatal disease.
He stopped building. He stopped visiting his grown children and his little grandchildren. He stopped because he couldn’t make it up a few steps or down a slope.
He stopped being superman.
He stopped restoring old things.
And they lived that way—between hope and death, prayer and mortality, future and finitude. Their whole family was caught there. The intervals of life stood quite still—yearning, perhaps, to gasp breath into an oxygen-less reality. They existed within a ceaseless liturgy of last rights where death was imminent.
And then there was a glimmer. It was like the sliver of light you’d see under your parents’ door when nightmares struck as a little child. You knew you could go in and feel cozy and safe and loved.
For them it was the promise of a new pair of lungs—working, breathing.
But, you see, it wasn’t a door wide open. It wasn’t jumping-up-and-down-on-the-bed. He was old—73. Not old enough for memorial but not young enough for a new organ. So, there was hope, yes! That hope, though, was held with kid gloves.
Not for his little girl, though. No. She knew a set of lungs would be his. She took heart in faith. Not the kind of faith that says everything will be rainbows, unicorns, and tutus. It was the kind that looks to Jesus, the Provider, and waits with hope—and anticipation.
There were complications. All the antibodies in the new lungs had to match every disease his old lungs had faced. And he had lived a long life of health and sickness, like anyone. The doctors would have to clean out his old antibodies to make a match, which meant a long process of pumping blood out, filtering it, and pumping it back in. He was already weak.
Because of his age and height, it was a challenge to find lungs that would be a right fit. To open the possibilities, they were asked if he might accept lungs from an overdose patient. The answer, of course, was yes. Their dad had already lived among and ministered to them—of course he would accept. They were like family to him and there was no fear there. The risk, however, of contracting HIV from the new organs was high.
So they waited. And he grew thin. Gaunt, maybe. Not like her super-dad. And so, not like himself. The breath was slowly leaving his body. The odds were against him. But faith hoped in Provision.
Like a shiver of excitement, the phone rang. And she just wept. There were lungs! But her stomach was twisting and nauseous, and her emotions confused. Life for her dad meant death for someone else. And they knew it was probably a young person—who most likely died from an overdose.
So the tears were of relief and sadness, joy and pain, hope and heartbreak.
But, against all odds, he would get his lungs. Against all odds they would remove machines and he would breathe again. Against all odds, the Provider—Jehovah Jireh—would take the last offering of an addict and exchange it for life, for wholeness. Restoration would be inserted between life and death because of an “Against All Odds” God.
Author’s note: I love this story because it makes me wonder. It makes me wonder if one of the addicts whom Tom saved in prison could have been his lung donor. It makes me wonder how Tom’s family will someday minister to the family that lost their loved one—and I am sure they will. Or, perhaps the drug addict’s family will minister to them. It makes me wonder what goodness the future holds.
A Million God Stories is a Christ-centered ministry which offers a platform for Christians from all streams of Christian faith to give praise for how God has worked in their lives. Christ heals in infinitely creative ways and we acknowledge that His way of helping may differ from person to person.