It was April of 2005 and I was a newly pregnant woman as well as a nurse. I could not have been more excited to be having our first child. God had called my husband and I to start a church in Raleigh, North Carolina, so we would be moving in a few months to begin our preparation. I went in for my first “routine” prenatal exam at my Obstetrician’s office. At the end of the appointment, where I had blood drawn and a sonogram to look for our baby’s heart beat, my Doctor said that he would see me in about four weeks, as long as all of my tests came back ok. As soon as he said that, I suddenly had a pit in my stomach, but chalked it up to “new mom jitters”. I walked out of the doctor’s office that day excited to have just seen a tiny heart beating and amazed by the miracle of life.
Several days later, my Doctor called. He began the phone conversation with things like “I’m so sorry…. I don’t know how to tell you this, (long pause) but…. your lab results say that you are HIV positive.” I was stunned. I sat there on the other side of the phone. I knew what he had said, but did he really just say THAT?! All I could muster was a breathless, “What?!” I couldn’t breathe.
I was driving in busy Dallas traffic when I received this phone call. It was all I could do to get home. I knew my husband would be waiting for me there and I had no idea how I would tell him this news. I cried the whole way home and begged God not to let it be true. But, my doctor had just told me that the anti-body test had been repeated several times and then, the Western Blot confirmed that I indeed was HIV positive.
In the first hour after finding this out and having to break this terrible news to my husband, I said to him, “How can we start a church? We need to move to an island where no one knows us.” Yes. I said that. It’s amazing how irrational we can be in moments of crisis. I also said, “I’m so sorry for this baby. How could we do this to a child? Why did we get pregnant?” There were so many unknowns and the more I thought, the worse my view of our future became.
This was life altering, as you can imagine. It stopped us in our tracks and forced us to make a decision. In those days, between redrawing my blood to retest it, we fell before the Lord on our faces in tears, buckets of tears. We told God we believed He could heal. We told Him there was no other place we would turn. We knew He had the words to eternal life and we knew that we would follow Him with our lives no matter what He allowed. There were many conversations during those days. Many big prayers prayed in the quiet of my heart as well as with my husband and many scriptures were read that were foundational to us believing the truth, instead of the lies the Enemy would have loved for us to believe.
Later that night, after crying loads of tears and calling my parents to tell them what was happening, we began to search the scripture. It was just all we could do to ask the Lord for a word. My husband began reading in James 4:2…”we have not because we ask not”. “Shanna” he said, “We are not going to have HIV, because we didn’t ask God to take it away.” I loved that he was saying “we”. I knew I wasn’t alone in this. We prayed. We begged God for a miracle. Then, we asked our dear friend Marc, who is a pastor to come over. He laid his hands on me and prayed that God would fill my body with new blood. I remember that prayer like it was yesterday. I’ll never forget thinking, “Wow! I wouldn’t have thought to ask for new blood!” If you have never been through something so life altering you may not understand. If you have, then friend, you know exactly how much I anticipated new blood running through my veins!
“We have not, because we ask not.” So we asked.
We understood that God didn’t have to heal. In fact, at the time, being only in our late twenties, we had already experienced enough life to realize that sometimes God chooses the very difficult things to bring glory to Himself. I think this is a terribly difficult concept though. It’s easily said, but not easily lived. Because, when you are the one whose life is about to drastically change, your real concern is not often “God’s glory”, but rather, for your comfort. I understand this and I wrestle with it still.
The Lord used one passage of scripture very powerfully for me. It is found in Mark 9 where a father brings his demon possessed son to Jesus. He must be at the end of his rope, after-all he has a son who literally couldn’t be taken out in public and when he was, it was dangerous. I think I have it bad when my children grab grape juice off the aisle at the grocery store and it falls down in slow motion and breaks. This man had a son that was throwing himself into fire and getting burned and then into water and almost drowning! I imagine this man felt a little like we did. He was shocked, tired and probably a little mad about his situation…but he had hope. He brought the little hope that he had and placed it before Jesus. Their conversation went something like this…
“Jesus, my son is demon possessed. Look at all he is doing! If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”
Jesus: “If I can? Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the father responded, “I believe! I believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!”
I was there. I believed that God could heal me, but would He? It was all too big for me. I was a young woman who was pregnant for the first time. I was already in love with a little baby that had just begun growing inside of me. I feared for her future. I feared for mine. But I had hope, because I knew God. I laid the hope I had before the Lord and begged Him for healing. I had determined that no matter what the outcome, God would get the glory.
God did choose to heal me! After further testing, the new vials of blood came back negative for HIV. The lab was so confused by all of this that they went back to my old vials of blood and they too came back negative! I have been retested several times since then, because this is standard protocol in pregnancy. With each of our other 3 children, I have been reminded of the great big miracle God performed in my life. Each of their lives screams of His amazing grace. Praise Him!
Looking back almost 8 years later, I see God’s hand all over my life. I see how much more I love Him. I see how hard church ministry really can be and how much we needed to know the strength of the Lord in such an intimate way. We needed to know that nothing is impossible for the Mighty Healer. I thank God continually for His grace in my life and will certainly never get over this miracle. I also see that Christians have a great responsibility to love those with this disease. There are HIV+ orphans who need to be adopted into a loving family and there are many others who simply need to receive life-saving medications and some who need to hear the hope that is still offered to them through Jesus. The church can make a difference here! We need to be a safe place for those whose life has been affected by HIV/AIDS. Jesus didn’t shy away from the sick, in fact, he touched them and shared the hope he came to give. So, how will you respond?
To God be the glory, great things He has done!
Our life verses:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21