When God Says No
Sheldon cut his hand off.
The only place I get service at the property is on the third step up the ladder under Judah's loft bed. I'm crouched beside the ladder leaning on the window with my paint roller dripping paint onto the unfinished floor.
I re-read the text several times. Then I started getting other notifications. They were from the first responders of the call trying to get ahold of my husband. Micah is a police officer who works third shift, so he was still sleeping when the gals in dispatch were trying to reach him.
There's been an accident.
I kept thinking it must be wrong information. They must have meant to say he cut his hand. He must have a pretty bad cut on his hand, and they just worded it wrong. This is how rumors get started, people. No way he cut his hand off. My first thought was that he is one of the most talented musicians I've ever known. And he's not just talented. Sheldon joys in playing music. The piano suits him, and serves him, and he brings the worship to us every Sunday at church. Did I not mention he is the worship leader at our church?
He couldn't have cut his hand off.
Now the thing about Sheldon is, he is Mr. Personality. If I had to describe Sheldon in one word it would be...
He seemingly came into our lives out of no where. One day we made the drive to one of his family businesses, a chicken eatery, OMG Rotisserie in Athens, about an hour out of town. We heard they had good chicken (THEY DO.) and far be it from us to let a silly thing like distance get in the way of some good comfort food.
From that day on, he and his wife, Bethany, have been staples in my family's life.
He and Bethany bought an old Post Office in our city's downtown and they had been renovating it for months. It is an enormous, historic, beautiful building. It was during this renovation process the accident had occurred.
Initially, we were praying for his life. He was life-flighted to Columbus, and taken to emergency surgery. Once we were given word that he was stable, focus shifted toward concern over his hand. They did re-attachment surgery, and the following week was an emotional roller coaster of waiting to see if the hand would thrive or not. Toward the end of the week, the prognosis of keeping the hand was looking grim.
Sheldon began livestreaming from the ICU to his family, friends and to our church family, keeping everyone updated on his status, and asking for prayer. His fervor and passion touched so many people as he publicly pleaded with God as tears streamed down his face. #savethehand began trending, and his videos started going viral.
I can speak for our church family that we all watched breathless with expectation and joined in our brother's pleas, for his hand to begin thriving so he could keep it, and that it would function again.
He captivated hearts of people who didn't even know him. I watched as his story spread, his vulnerability and faith on display now for thousands of people. His faith was inspiring, as his prayers went up publicly before God. Not just his prayers, so many of us were praying. We waited nervously for updates. We checked up often. I feel like I can speak for our whole church body that he was on all of our minds, constantly.
You never know how you'll act in a situation until you go through it. You may think you know. But you find the true quality of a person in crisis.
After a long week of praying, believing, and pleading, surgeons had to make the call that the threat of infection was too great. The circulation in his hand had to start flowing. It didn't. They amputated the hand in surgery.
After word started trickling in, you could almost sense a collective disappointment that God had not allowed Sheldon to keep his hand. If God has the ability to heal, then why didn't he? A sense of defeat was an unwelcome punch in the gut for lots of us.
But then Sunday came. Sheldon made his way to the front onto the stage were he had so many times, belted out praises, and led us into praise and worship in better times. Now he came in, a man who had reason to be disappointed. A man who had to have felt the sting of rejection, the blow of being told "no" by a Creator who could say yes.
Sheldon could have stayed home for that matter, why was he here?
I remembered back to a few years ago when God had told me no in a situation. This particular "no" was devastating. I walked into church late on purpose. I had been crying and I didn't want anyone to see me. I slipped in late and stood in the back. I had come to do something. My eyes were tear stained and swollen. My head pounded and even the lights from the stage hurt since I hadn't slept, and had been crying so much.
I walked into the back of that church defiantly that day. Ok, God. You told me "no" and it nearly killed me. Guess what I'm gonna do? Praise you anyway. Take that, God.
I knew by all standards of reason, I should be too angry to enter into praise and worship. There are unwritten rules that we should sulk and wallow when things don't go our way. I felt defeated so I should be defeated. But I slinked into that church, lifted up my rebel hand, and determined to be steadfast to God even though he told me no when he could have said yes.
Sheldon came into the house of God that Sunday to defiantly worship. Since I still remember what it was like to worship rebelliously, tears streamed down my face when I saw Sheldon move forward. There have been few instances in my life that I've ever witnessed anything more inspiring. I also felt excitement stir in my spirit, because I have never had God move in my life so drastically than after a season of defiant worship. It all started for me that day I dragged myself into the House of God to face the God who told me "no."
When we are told no, that is when we need to worship the most. Anyone can worship in times of plenty. I would have been less impressed if Sheldon's hand had grown back overnight and he walked up there and worshiped. Well, duh. Anyone would worship then. A non-believer would worship then.
But to lift up your voice, and praise the Lord of Hosts when you can't see a solution in sight, to praise through the sting of rejection, MAN. It gets me excited because I've been there. God might say no, but if he does, it's for a purpose. I don't know what God's gonna do next in Sheldon.
In 600 BC, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stood before a belligerent Nebuchadnezzar who promised them assassination by fire if they did not bow down and worship the statue he had set up. They did not want to die, I'm sure. Still Daniel 3: 17 records them saying, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it,….18 BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT….we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Sheldon had been given an EVEN IF HE DOES NOT opportunity. And he defiantly walked up to the Lord and worshiped anyway.
I am sincerely thanking God today for Sheldon. So many of us are in circumstances that we wish we could desperately change and when we can't, we are tempted to become hardened, to turn our backs on the God who we feel turned his back on us.
Maybe this is your even if he does not opportunity.
What will you do?
P.S. At his first visit to discuss his prosthetic hand, the physician said, "I heard you played the piano. Well, You'll never do that again."
* Thank you, Sheldon for sharing your story with so many of us. You are inspiring & a beautiful reminder that we CAN defiantly praise. I can't wait to see what God does next. 💙