Nabeel, faith and noes.

Nabeel Qureshi was a most educated youth minister.  Most never attend med school, maintain the years of A’s it takes to get and stay there, and they don’t face proliferating possibilities like Nabeel faced.  He wrestled to be a doc on three continents, to retell his conversion from Islam on six continents, and encourage this newest generation’s dreams.

I suggested he write a book.  To keep it simple.  To reveal his story as a form other Muslims could follow simply.  Not easily, but distilling complex questions into simple steps Nabeel took to follow God, Allah, he thought.

He grew into a warrior.  I watched postings to YouTube and the web and laughed aloud, “Be the first on your block to merit your very own fatwah!”

Then Nabeel was married, having a beautiful child and dying of stomach cancer as Muslims cheered wildly at life’s cruel judgment.  I prayed God to heal him.  I posted one such prayer to this blog.

God said, “No.”

People apologize for God, and bend the light on the matter saying, “God healed him, He just healed Nabeel by taking him to heaven.”  Touching sentiment.  God said, “No” to healing Nabeel and extending his impact here.  Nabeel died.

How does faith look after that?  For Nabeel, watch his haunting YouTubes on our hope in Christ out of this world into the next.  Beautiful.  Courageous.  Faith-filled.  Watch them.

For me it’s a gut kick.  Worse than watching your college team get man handled by a 3A high school squad.  Having been injured to the point of dying, I know that if I choose who prays for me, I want them praying for me like I’d pray for me to live.  If you hide behind, “whatever is Your Will, Father” in some non-invested theologically secure place, then save your breath.  No one knows if those prayers get answered.

Yes.  It’s harder to pray like cheering for your team, like cheering for mom if she’s sick.  Yes, the let downs are harder, but prayers uttered in wildly cheering faith is what I hope for if it is me, my child, my wife.  Those answers stiffen your prayers for decades.  Will you ride with me?

When we get off, finally, on the other side, I’ll introduce you to Nabeel.  He cheers from the other side now, see?



Occasionally, I react to life with numbness.  Unintentionally, my body does it for me.

I work, teach, research and interact with students and others.   That weekly roller coaster starts Sunday afternoon early and runs through Thursday night, late.  Then add a few appointments for Friday and Saturday, projects, wonderful intrusions by kids and grand kids, an upkeep on ten acres and my week feels packed plus.

Then a close friend of Jill’s commits suicide.  Cat is sick – again.  Car dies in another city with wife in it.  The repairman pronounces the washer on life support, two weeks max.  Two projects stall.  Cash flow in one business is non-existent.  Two couples are divorcing, barring divine intervention.  Divine intervention’s response time seems slow.  Twenty small things all clamor for attention.  Bodily functions are not in the green zone.  Two may be redlining.

And I notice I am numb.  Something happens – again.  It is as if my nerve endings retreat a few millimeters inside the skin: insulated.  I feel less.  My heart beats, but places emotions offline for now.  My mind focuses on what’s before me, but all other incoming information is on alert — unless it screams its importance self-evidently, it’s pushed into background noise.  New thoughts must present themselves as salient with no emotional volatility or they go into a pile.  Oh, and life, as witnessed by paper and file piles, is backlogged.


I can fight numb, except sometimes it is my body’s way of saying, “Your ticket has been punched.  The Conductor is not passing back through the car for a while.  Shut up.  Pull in.  Breathe.  We will get back to you.”  Maybe I should rest inside numb for an hour or day.

Numb is not quite like shock.  Even if they fell alike, they are cousins, not the same person.   Numb seems to arise in response to an agglutination of antecedents.  Shock usually slipstreams behind trauma: singular, pronounced trauma.

I am numb.  The day is beautiful outside.  I will attack one more pile of paper, and go sit out on the deck to see if the dogwood tree will join in with the redbud trees this year.  It has languished the past two years, but maybe it will escape its cool numbness and blossom.

I might as well, too.  In an hour.