Any Delaney, 22 years old, had become an Ensign in the United States Navy 14 months earlier. After her initial officer training, Ensign Delaney was ready to serve her nation in any manner for the greater good. While on duty in the Persian Gulf, she became gravely ill. She was in sickbay for three days before the ship’s decided to send her to a military hospital in Germany for additional medical care. While in Germany, Ensign Delaney reached her lowest point when it became clear to her that she was going through not one battle, but two. One battle was a battle of physical pain that the medical profession could not determine the reason or reasons for, and the other with self-pity.
“Chaplain, I’m almost at the end of my rope. In all of my life, I’ve never suffered like this ever! I’ve known good health with just an occasional cold once in a while. I’ve had doctors check me and check me. I’ve had nurses poke me and poke me to draw blood and they still can’t tell me what’s wrong. They’re telling me that they are planning to send me home for further observation and testing. I don’t think I can take much more of this, chaplain!”
“Well, Ensign, you know what you can do at this point don’t you?”
“No, I don’t.”
Taking a brown handkerchief out of his pocket then tying a knot in it, the chaplain said. “I’ll tie a knot in this handkerchief as a symbol to you as a way of saying ‘hang on’. When everything else seems to fail you, look to God and hold onto Him for your answer. He’ll pull you through like nothing else will. I’m also suggesting you place your trust in Him. That is why I’m giving you this handkerchief in a knot.”
The chaplain’s words were like medicine to Ensign Delaney’s spirit. At the time, Ensign Delaney felt her future in the Navy looked bleak; her health seemed uncertain, even intolerable, if she thought of it in terms of days and weeks. But if she could just find a way to hang on, maybe she would get better.
Once the chaplain left her, Ensign Delaney asked the nurse to get her three more handkerchiefs. She took the handkerchiefs, tied them onto the one she was given by the chaplain and hung it onto the railing of her hospital bed. When the pain came or when self-pity took over, Ensign Delaney would grab hold and say to herself, “In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I can work through this whatever this is that causing me my problem. I know You are me, Oh God! You are my refuge and my strength.” And holding on just five to ten minutes at a time did wonders for Ensign Delaney. Although the best doctors in the military and from civilian medical institutions could not diagnosis Ensign Delaney’s illness and pain, she miraculously came through her mysterious illness and pain in 33 days following its onset.
The notion of using a symbol in this manner at first appears odd, but it is not. Throughout the history of humankind and Christian history, symbols have played powerful roles. Most Americans have a sense of pride when they see the Stars and Stripes flying over a public building. The majority of Christians feel a sense of triumph from the most significant and magnificent of all human symbols—the Cross!
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