In the spring of 2010 I was given thee most life-changing news that any dude can ever receive: I was going to be a dad. When my jubilant wife told me about our little miracle, several things happened:
1. My lungs stopped working
2. My vision went fuzzy
3. The sound left the earth
4. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” began playing in my head, specifically the moment where Freddy Mercury sings Momma…
The next thing I knew, my wife was snapping her fingers and waving smelling salts under my nostrils. When I came to, I hugged her, sweat dripping from my forehead and palms. Is it possible to feel absolute joy and absolute terror simultaneously? That is the best way I can describe those moments. I had never fully imagined that I—Andrew Schwab, me—would be a father. I still see myself as a child with a beard.
After the initial shock wore off, I became the “man-on-a-mission” version of myself. I read every book there is to read on the subject of fatherhood. I watched films and documentaries on Netflix and basically did everything in my power to prepare myself to become the best dad ever.
I also did something that, in my mind, was of the utmost importance: I made a deal with God. The deal was, I would strive to seek Him daily and be the best man I could be from that moment forward. He would, in turn, give my wife a smooth pregnancy/labor, and we would get a healthy child. It was like an insurance policy. It seemed like a fair trade, and I planned to hold God to His part of the bargain.
All went according to plan for nine months. I prayed every day for my wife and daughter (yes, we found out we were having a girl a few months in), and we were excited to welcome her into the world. When my wife finally went into labor, we drove to the hospital, checked into our room, and things proceeded without a hitch.
I was stoked. My kid was coming soon, and it was going to be a fun, safe, and enjoyable ride-much like the “roller coasters” at Disneyland (You know, the rides that aren’t real roller coasters, but rather mini, family-friendly rides with no death-defying drops or loops).
As my wife labored, we could hear our baby’s heartbeat, which echoed around the room via a fetal heart rate monitor. It was steady at about 150 BPM (which is healthy for a full-term infant). This heartbeat became the soundtrack to our final hours before we met our daughter, Ella. As we waited, we postulated on her appearance and talked about our new life with antici- pation.
Then, it happened. Out of nowhere, like something out of a nightmare, Ella’s heart rate suddenly crashed. In seconds, it dropped from 150 to 20 BPM. Something was going terribly wrong. I didn’t believe it at first. I was in complete denial for about thirty seconds, even as several nurses began scrambling wildly around the room. I truly did not believe God would allow anything bad to happen because of our deal. As the seriousness of the situation began to sink in, it felt like my safe Disneyland ride had instantly become an out-of-control train of terror. Doctors began flooding the room. They unhooked machines, and tried to place an oxygen mask on my wife, as they rolled her out the door. My wife and I shouted, “Is she going to live?! What’s happening?! What went wrong?!”
No one had answers. They just raced my wife down a long hallway, off to a surgery they were calling a “crash c-section,” telling me I had to stay behind. I watched as my confidence, my deal with God, and all of my hope sped away from me into that surgery room.
After several minutes, a nurse walked in with a garment that looked like a HASMAT suit. I put it on, waiting to sprint the second they would allow me to enter the surgery room. Hands down, those moments were some of the most difficult I have ever endured. At first, I was so shocked I couldn’t even weep. Not knowing what was going to happen was tortuous. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. All I could do in the midst of all of the fear and uncertainty was ask God what He was thinking…
Why, when we had prayed so diligently for nine straight months that the labor would be smooth, were all of our worst fears now being realized?
I wasn’t just let down. I was pissed. Pissed at God.
As I levitated down the hallway of the hospital (because at this point I felt like a ghost) and the emergency room doors swung open, the scene inside was like something I had only seen on TV. There were at least twenty people in the room. I think the entire staff of the maternity ward was in there. It was chaos. People were literally sprinting around the room, shouting orders at one another, scrambling to get our daughter out alive. There were countless machines. I can’t even describe the scene adequately with words. Suffice it to say that this was a full-blown emergency.
Then, I looked down at my wife, Allison. She was trying to get someone to talk to her. She kept shouting, “Is she OK?!,” but no one would say a word. Then, she looked up at me with tears in her eyes.
I knelt down and touched her forehead with mine, and we sobbed together. It was the hardest I have ever cried in my life. And it was the hardest I have ever prayed. In that moment I knew what it was to be forced to completely trust God, as the situation was completely and totally out of my hands.
I prayed, “JESUS, PLEASE HELP.”
Before that moment I had never truly prayed to God with all my might. It was the first time in my life I realized I was 100% reliant upon His intervention. And those three words were the only ones I could muster. But would he even hear me? Was He even there?
Seconds later, I looked up and saw my daughter being carried over to the other side of the room by several doctors. She was pale, limp, and lifeless. She was the color of a newborn who had been without oxygen for the better part of 15 minutes. My heart dropped yet again.
All I could see were doctors surrounding her. They began trying to revive her, and as they did I stood up and began running toward her. Several doctors pushed me back down in my seat. I was on the edge of a cliff, not knowing whether or not Ella was going to live, and I wasn’t even able to look at her. And all the while, they were still operating on Allison.
Then, after what seemed like an eternity of waiting, they waved me over. I levitated, again, and pushed my way through the blue-gowned medicine men…
And there she was. Alive. Alert. Breathing. She met my gaze, and it seemed like the face of Jesus was looking up at me through those gorgeous, Disney-princess eyes. I watched as she actually began to fight the doctors, grabbing at the tube in her throat, pooping and peeing all over them all, as if to say, I’m fine, you idiots, get these machines off of me!
In an instant an ocean of peace washed over me, and I knew with that both my wife and daughter were going to be fine. I didn’t have an ounce of concern. God had met me in that surgery room. He was there with me more than I had ever felt Him before.
After several days of recovery time, mom and baby were released from the hospital and both were 100% healthy. And I learned a valuable lesson. There are few moments in life where we utter such desperate prayers that we rely on Jesus wholeheartedly. Instead, we casually make deals with God, thinking that if we are good or obedient, he will keep us from displeasure and uncertainty. We generally live with a hazy comfort in our daily lives, in denial, thinking we somehow have control over our existence. The reality is, we are reliant upon Him for every breath in our lungs, because life is a fragile thing. We never know if tomorrow is going to come, or what is around the next corner.
God wants sons and daughters who are desperate for Him. More specifically, he wants children who are aware of how desperately we truly need Him. Whatever it takes to keep that reality on the forefront of our minds, we need to do it. Then, and only then, will we seek God with the urgency required to know Him closely. The Psalmist had it right:
The LORD is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear Him; He hears their cry and saves them. The LORD watches over all who love Him, but all the wicked He will destroy.—Psalm 145:18–20
The more we get to know Him, the more realistic our appraisal of our own situation, the more desperate our prayers, the more we rely upon Him. In fact, to know Him more is to pray to Him more fervently, and to rely on Him more wholly.
I left that experience after the birth of my daughter knowing what true prayer is: crying out to God in the realization that I have zero say in the outcome of a particular situation. If we will seek God in this way, our lives will change. We will become different people. We will be transformed from cold machines to living organisms and life will never be the same.
This is an excerpt from The Tin Soldiers book. It is a book for men looking to know God more. It is an easy read, just like this blog entry. We will begin a 52-week study based on the book and study guide in January at Crossroads Church of Denver (every 1st and 3rd Monday of the month at 6:30 PM) and www.thetinsoldiers.com. I would love for you to be a part of it. For more info, follow The Tin Soldiers on Facebook and Twitter. Grab a copy of The Tin Soldiers book and Study Guide here, or get a copy of the ebook here.