Set aside your skepticism. Cast away doubt. Miracles do happen.
And I'm feeling sort of guilty about it.
The miracle in this case is Carley Jo, my great-niece who came into this world with a badly diseased heart.
As an infant, her doctors had hoped to delay heart surgery until she was older and much, much bigger — about 75 pounds or so. And for the first few years of her life she seemed to be doing well. When you watched her chatter and play — both nonstop — it was difficult to think of her as dangerously ill. It was only when she would occasionally come in from playing, pale and trembling, to tell her mommy that her heart hurt that you realized what a precarious life-and-death struggle was being waged within that tiny chest.
When she was 4, her doctors announced that the surgery could be delayed no longer. As difficult as it would be to perform open-heart surgery on a 35-pound child, they simply had to proceed — immediately.
At first the doctors appeared to be pretty positive about Carley Jo's prognosis. But as the day of the operation approached, medical confidence seemed to wane.
The day before the surgery, Carley Jo's parents met with the surgeon who would perform the operation. The esteemed physician, a man of considerable skill and significant reputation, sat with his head in his hands, rubbing his temples, as he talked about how hard the operation was going to be, and how he wasn't sure he could do it.
Not exactly what young parents want to hear from the man who will be literally holding their daughter's heart in his hands.
"Look, if you're not sure you can do this, or that it's even going to work, why are we doing it?" Carley Jo's mother, Michelle, wanted to know.
"Because I'm certain of what will happen if we don't do the surgery," the doctor replied.
He didn't need to explain.
Michelle and her husband, Brian, were painfully aware of the consequences of that option, which really wasn't an option at all. Of course they would ask the doctors to perform the surgery. And they would ask God to perform a miracle.
Which is exactly what he did.
To say that the operation was a success is a little like saying Michael Phelps has been a successful Olympian. Not only did they do the needed repairs, but they were also able to take care of another problem that would have required future surgery.
The surgeon — the same guy who wasn't sure he could do it — said he couldn't have done it better.
And he wasn't being boastful. He was in awe.
"That wasn't my best work in there," he told Brian and Michelle after the operation. "That was better than my best. I can't really explain it other than to say I had help."
Carley Jo agreed. The day after her operation, she told her father that there were angels in the operating room.
"Did you see them?" Brian asked.
"No," Carley Jo replied. "But they were there."
Nobody familiar with the situation doubts it. Fourteen years later, Carley Jo is a bright, beautiful, enthusiastic high school graduate, and we're still grateful to the surgeon, to the angels and to God.
But I can't help but look around and see other children who don't fare so well. Children whose surgeries are less successful. Children who never make it to surgery. Children who suffer abuse of all kinds. Children who desperately need an angel — until they become one.
Where is their miracle? And why did our miracle come through when theirs did not?
If you're expecting to find answers to those questions here … well, that would require another miracle. All I can offer is faith, trust and hope. Faith that God loves all of his children. Trust that he knows what is best for each of them. And hope that he never runs out of miracles.