Lying in his hospital bed, 51-year-old heart patient, Dr. Marcus Belzer, aimed his TV remote at the televangelist preaching about hope.
“Yeah, right, put your hope in God,” he smirked, flicking off the TV.
The only hope that matters is hope in yourself,he mused, thinking how he’d worked hard to become a doctor, only to almost die.
Again, my hope is gone.
His mind drifted back to that dreadful summer afternoon back in 1961.
Although it was four decades ago, Marcus could still smell the smoke. Sobbing uncontrollably, he’d stared into the caring dark eyes of his old Jamaican grandmother and questioned her. “Why, Nana, why? Why is our house burning down?”
She had gently dried his tears with her sullied apron and said, “I don’t know why some folks hate us just because we love Jesus.”
He could still picture her looking up into the smoke-filled Jamaican sky as she added, “They may have burned down our house, but they can never take away my hope in you, oh Lord!”
“But Nana,” he’d asked, as an ambitious six-year-old, “what about your sewing business? All your equipment is gone.”
“My dear little Marcus,” she’d replied, “You just have to forgive these evil folks and fix your hope in God.”
The same arsonists had burned down a church earlier that month in Kingston. Their evil work had then moved into the countryside where they attacked any believers they could find. The six-foot wooden cross in front of the Belzer home had marked the family as an easy target.
He still remembers how the firefighters had walked up to them, heads downcast. Wrapping their strapping arms around them, they’d said, “Sure wish we’d been here sooner. You folks have anywhere to stay?”
Not long after Nana had scribbled information about her cousins in America, they were off to their new home across the waters.
Here they found hope as a loving Jamaican community of believers helped them rebuild their lives.
Yet, whenever Marcus stepped outside his community, he faced another kind of hatred. Just because his skin was black, he had to go to the back of the bus whenever he went to town. And there were the restrooms and water fountains, labeled “white” and “colored”.
As they settled into their new homeland, Marcus couldn’t understand his grandmother’s relentless hope in God, but loved her intensely. He was devastated one fall morning in 1968 when he was called out of class to her bedside where she lay dying.
Through tears, he pleaded with her not to leave him. She said weakly, “Never give up on your dream of becoming a doctor, my dear Marcus. And above all, just make sure we spend eternity together. You must forgive everyone---Don’t leave this earth without hope in God. “
Then she closed her tired eyes and slipped into eternity. Marcus kissed her cold forehead, crying, “I hope I see you, again, Nana.”
If there was a heaven, he was sure she went there, but he wasn’t so sure he would be joining her. And he still had questions…. How could a loving God allow his house to burn down when he was only a child? How could a loving God allow racial prejudice?
But thinking how Nana had high hopes for him, he worked hard and received a scholarship to medical school.
Although he’d enjoyed a rewarding career as a heart surgeon, he had to retire early, at age 56, when his own heart almost failed him. Having almost died, he was starting to ponder Nana’s dying words about spending eternity with her.
At least I had a godly grandmother. Surely that counts,he’d been wondering.
Then, flipping back on the TV, he almost switched the channel. Instead, he froze when he heard the preacher point his long, skinny finger right at him and shout, “I don’t’ care if you had godly parents or godly grandparents….God doesn’t have any grandkids!”
Through tears he bowed his head and prayed a simple prayer….
“I forgive everyone, including the arsonists and all the racial bigots who’ve ever hurt me. Please forgive me, Lord, and make me your child.”
Immediately, he felt the heavy burden that he’d been carrying for most of his life lift from him. For the first time he saw his enemies through God’s eyes and not his own.
The God of his saintly grandmother was now his God and his only hope.
God had given him a new heart.
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