Introduction: Broken Hearts and Lost Faith

A decade after his daughter is born with complex congenital heart disease, a dad realizes a buried anger has caused him to lose his faith in God.

Twelve years ago, my daughter was born with complex congenital heart disease.

This is sort of a blanket diagnosis doctors give because it is more politically correct than saying, “This ticker’s a hot mess,” which, when it comes right down to it, was the truth of her situation. Most folks, I imagine, while watching their newborn struggle for life, might run in one of two directions—either towards God, or away from God.

I would expect that even the atheist would turn a thought or two on God while watching the vitals monitor record every heartbeat, flash changes in the blood-oxygen saturation level, beep with every fluctuation in blood pressure, temperature and breaths per minute. The intricate dance the different organs do with one another is more wild than anything ever witnessed on Dancing With The Stars. I didn’t realize it then, but I had turned away from God.

After my daughter had her last open heart surgery, I began writing a book for her—a book about what it’s been like to be her dad; how wonderful and awful it has been; how I’d change many things, and yet can’t imagine anything different.

I also thought it would be a perfect book for other parents whose children face death…the situation not only turns your world on its head, but also shakes bits of sanity out of you like loose change from your pockets.

You see and hear the change fall and scatter, yet all you can do is let it happen. You convince yourself that no one can possibly understand what you’re going through, all the while you desperately search for someone who does understand. While writing, I found myself reliving many emotions until I finally needed a break.

I shelved the project for a few weeks, and when I returned to it and read the rough drafts I noticed something unexpected. Every chapter ended with some thoughts on God and faith; questioning, doubting, feeling angry. And, boy, was I angry.

How did I not notice this anger for nearly ten years?

Once I recognized it was there, I noticed a nagging feeling, a betrayal, a sadness and desperation. I realized I had questions; questions that I just didn’t bother asking for nearly a decade. The short of it all was that I was bitter and angry for what my daughter has faced in this life.

I wanted to know why. The doctors had no explanation. Her condition “just happened.” But it didn’t just happen; it happened to my baby. I wasn’t comfortable with it all being due to random chance, and I wasn’t comfortable with the idea that God intended (or perhaps allowed) her condition to happen.

When I realized that this was how I truly felt, I began to ask all sorts of questions on faith—questions that led to ever more questions, snowballing into something huge, heavy, and overwhelming.

That’s where this story begins.

I imagine there will be people who get offended by the random thoughts I publish here, but my hope is that I can connect with folks who, like me, have more questions than answers.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dot March 10, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I look forward to hearing more...
Carol Paraskevas March 10, 2012 at 06:23 PM
I to have a child with a congenital heart defect. He has Transposition of the Great Arteries. I found that for myself it was best to put his life in Gods hands, not mine. God gave us this most wonderful gift and I am so very thankful for him. These truly are Gods children. As a parent it is very hard to have faith when you are faced with all of this, but our kids are here with us. For this I have faith. I am by no means a holy roller. I bet I break several of the Ten Commandments on a daily basis. And I do not attend church faithfully, but I do know God is still holding my son. And I also know He is holding your daughter.
John Rae March 11, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Thank you...I'm excited about sharing what's been going on.
John Rae March 11, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Good morning, Carol...thank you for your thoughtful comment and sharing a bit of your story.
Nile Tallman March 12, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Wonderful heart felt article. As a father, I sympathize with your pain at watching your own child struggle with a serious condition. My daughter became very ill just after she was born and we too faced the possibility of losing her. It was a nightmare and unless you have faced it, people can not understand the complexity its emotional impact. Luckily our daughter is now just fine. I wanted to offer some perspective from a non-believer. The experience did not drive me either to religion or further away. I will say that I did not struggle with the "Why me?" or "Why my child?" questions because they were irrelevant to the way I perceive the universe. Anger is a natural feeling in these situations but I did not have a higher power in which to direct it. I instead directed it at the staff of the hospital who could not figure out what was wrong with my baby. (I'm not saying that was right or wrong. It was just my emotional response.) I feel that I was spared the spiritual struggle that I know some experience with such situations because I didn't have one to begin with. I had enough going on emotionally, I can't imagine having all that weight on my shoulder's too. Please do not misunderstand me, I am not intending to disparage anyone's beliefs and the strength they might gain from them. I am in no way down playing or disregarding your experience or anyone else's. I just wanted to share my perspective.
John Rae March 12, 2012 at 03:04 PM
Thank you, Nile. When my daughter was born, my reaction was very similar to yours. It wasn't really about God. It was mostly about "fix my baby." It wasn't until much, much later that I realized that somewhere along the way it became something about faith. I appreciate your feedback, and look forward to reading more.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »