Whatever You Bind on Earth

by Rebecca Dawson on January 07, 2019

Whatever You Bind on Earth

Bind...Bound...What do those words mean to you?

Have you ever given it any thought? I had not until one day I discovered, that is what my first name means. To bind, but to bind what? Scripture is filled with verses on binding (and loosening) but one of my favorites, and one applicable to our story is this, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col. 3:14.) This is a story of love, true love. Between God and his children. Between a husband and his wife. Between humans, to ensure life eternity. It is a beautiful story, but not one without the cost of suffering.

Chuck and Amy McWhirter were married in May of 2012 with great expectations as any newlywed couple would have. After only a year and a half of marriage, however, God threw them for a loop, clearly giving them the choice to bind or loosen the strings of their relationship with Him as well as one another; they just did not know it yet! Chuck recalls that even while he and Amy were dating, Amy’s equilibrium would be a bit, “off.” He said she might stumble into him when walking (although perhaps secretly wishing she did that accidentally just to be close) and also that she frequently had headaches after sneezing and/or laughing. Often, the headaches would become so severe, Chuck would have to take her home as the pain was absolutely unbearable. Just over a year after they were married, Amy saw her ENT doctor (which occurred frequently) and he referred her to a “headache specialist.” The headache specialist sent her for an MRI upon which Amy was diagnosed with both a bulging disc in her spine as well as “Chiari Malformation.” Chiari Malformation (CM) is a malformation in the cerebellum (the back part of the brain closest to the neck.)  CM is a congenital issue that discriminates not by race or sex and is usually never diagnosed (or even considered) unless an MRI has been conducted (for any number of reasons.) After Amy’s diagnosis, she was then sent for physical therapy. Her first and only (spoiler alert) session she recalls was on December 17, 2013. The session itself was unmemorable, accomplishing little.The next day Amy recalls she had another doctor’s appointment downtown. On the way to her appointment, protected by the strength of her husband’s F150, she was rear-ended by an Expedition traveling 75 mph. The thoughts Amy had about dying (over CM) were solidified by the impact; however, as you know, she is here to tell the story! After the accident the doctor who had been seeing her regarding her CM refused to treat her any longer. She was now considered a trauma case, far beyond his scope of treatment.

It had taken three months to get an appointment with her initial doctor and now Amy was starting over. After days of calling neurologists, Amy was able to secure an appointment with doctor Dong Kim, director of Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann in the Texas Medical Center.  Dr. Kim is known as the number one expert in Chiari Malformation. Side note, he was also the doctor who operated on Congressman Gabrielle Giffords, saving her life after she was shot in 2011. Dr. Kim performed several more MRIs on Amy and noted the miracle it was for her to still be alive. Apparently a simple slip in the kitchen with CM could cause a person to become a paraplegic because they are significantly more susceptible to spinal paralysis. This was yet another Godly intervention because the prescription of physical therapy could have killed her! For the next six weeks, prior to Amy’s scheduled surgery, she was only able to sleep sitting up with pillows surrounding and supporting her, after her body gave out from pure exhaustion, experiencing relief even if only briefly.

Surgery was scheduled for February 6, 2014. Chuck remembers the week very well. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, binding takes place most quickly via an emotionally charged event. Binding is not only for the husband and wife team that drew ever closer through the previous and current events but also both Chuck and Amy as individuals in their relationship with their Heavenly Father. Chuck remarks that his faith and trust were magnified as the realization hit that “God has her {Amy} and him through it all.”  It was not simply a matter of professing it, but an actual realization deep within their souls - the part of a soul that only Divinity can access and bring peace to.  

Amy recounts a different realization that although as she was taught by her earthly daddy to “pull herself up by her bootstraps” and to prize independence and health, she became fully dependent on God, her husband and the doctors.  Amy said she is incredibly thankful for the ways God chose to break each of them and to draw them closer to Him. This reminds me of the various fractures in bones. A compound fracture, for example, occurs when a bone is completely broken apart, separated, if you will. The bone may grow back together properly or if misaligned may be prone to a host of other problems if not handled correctly.

Amy and Chuck’s events were indeed compound fractures. God severed bone from bone, only to grow them back together in His perfect alignment. “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Indeed, the Word penetrated both Amy and Chuck, piercing literal bone (spine) and piercing, figuratively, the hearts of the couple through their shared suffering.

Amy’s surgery went well, as did the induced coma (for pain management and to prevent movement) for a couple of days post-op.  For those who are not aware, pain management is a significant part of healing. Without proper pain management, a patient is likely to go into cardiac arrest, suffer a stroke or any other host of medical travesties. Personally, at the bedside of my father, a nurse reassured me propofol is given the nickname “Milk of Amnesia” so the patient remembers the pain no more (their brain registers it but instantly forgets it). And Chuck, also aware of this knowledge, sat at his wife’s bedside and as soon as her blood pressure began to rise (signifying the brain’s awareness of pain), he was able to press the button for her upon which a magical dispensing of some sort of propranolol would be released throughout his wife’s veins, helping her also to have a more restful recovery.

Now, if you were beginning to think the story is about over and oh, what a happy conclusion, I must warn you, their story gets even more difficult after surgery. Amy was able to come home within the week, needing regular care and help with everything from bathing to eating. Just a few days after Amy came home, Chuck’s aunt (who was like a second mom to him) was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer. And only a week and a half after that, Chuck’s father suffered a heart attack and ended up in a coma. Chuck comments that he would go to the hospital to support his mother, continue to work his occupational job, but have to be on call for Amy (there were at least four emergency room trips post-op due to pain), and to also try to be as emotionally available to the rest of his family as they walked through the sufferings of both aunt and dad.

Just six weeks after Amy’s surgery, his father passed away. Another month later, his aunt passed away. Amy said she spent the days in bed praying for her husband and Chuck claims that when he came home, despite Amy’s pain, she was putting Chuck back together as he grew through his own grief. Both Amy and Chuck remark, however, that in addition to one another, the Pastoral Care team of our church led by Brother Rex Forsyth and the Helping Hands Ministry led by Dr. Jim Hastings were incredible blessings as they helped with planning and orchestrating funerals as well as developing wills and other legalities that needed to be handled. I most definitely attest, despite the fact that neither of these teams get much attention, that they are one of the biggest blessings Sagemont church offers.  They are the unsung heroes that traffic in the pain of our church family and follow closely the words of Jesus when He said, “ ‘Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ ” (Matt. 25:34-36) “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matt. 25:40) Those verses sum up both our Pastoral Care ministry and our Helping Hands ministry perfectly.  The McWhirters’ hearts, my family’s hearts, and the hearts of countless families of our church can never express the gratitude rightly deserved to such wonderful ministries.  Thank you, Brother Rex and Dr. Hastings and each member of your teams. Your hearts and service are never without notice and deep gratitude!

Fast forward to the fall of 2016. Chuck began feeling a stirring for ministry that he had, in fact, felt at a much younger age! Chuck had discussed the calling at that time (many years ago) with his granddad, his hero, and a much-loved pastor of over forty years, but eventually shrugged it off. One morning as Chuck was wearing paths in the floor, according to Amy, she told Chuck he needed to give whatever he was obsessing over to God. Chuck’s response to his wife, “I gave it to Him five times before breakfast!” However, he heeded his wife’s guidance and spent the next two months daily pleading with God for wisdom and discernment. At his grandfather’s funeral, Chuck’s grandmother mentioned that his grandfather never ceased praying about whether God’s desire was for Chuck to enter full-time vocational ministry and Chuck needed to settle the issue! The feelings, the stirrings were now becoming overwhelming and causing severe restlessness.  Indeed, he needed to settle the issue! Amy reinforced her husband’s call and said wherever God was leading them, they would go, sell all their stuff, do whatever it took to follow Him and His plan for their lives.

This leads us to the McWhirters’ newest adventure, the answer to countless hours of prayer: Ratio Christi, a Campus Apologetics Ministry used to disciple both college and high school students.  The ministry helps equip these students in a deeper understanding of how and what they believe, so that they may be able to give a defense of their faith. The latest research by George Barna and David Barton presents a staggering statistic that between 75-85% of college students who have made a profession of faith prior to college walk away from their faith during their college years. Two key factors in young adults making this decision seem to be due to both intellectual skepticism as well as doubt.  University professors plant seeds of doubt and unfortunately these young adults often have faulty foundations with multiple cracks. They are unable to dispute the claims of Ph.Ds in secular universities. This indeed is incredibly disturbing as the historical, scientific, and philosophical evidence for the truth of Christianity is astounding!

Chuck’s role as a Ratio Christi Chapter Director is to create, grow and facilitate student-led clubs on the Rice campus that give the young adults a platform to discuss the topics they are confronted with on campus, including the questions they are asked, the challenges they face as well as the doubts that arise in their own Christian walk. His role is to also assist local churches in better equipping their high school students to give a defense of their faith. Chuck disciples students on how to share the gospel boldly; to know why they believe what they believe, to have intellectually stimulating, Christ-centered conversations with a variety of individuals who may struggle with doubt and or skepticism. It is a training akin to overseas missions with the slight difference of the location of the mission field, their own personal Jerusalem (population in which they live/study/work.) Amy is also involved with Ratio Christi, serving beside Chuck in all he does, and will be pursuing a certification from Biola University in Christian Apologetics. Her heart is for equipping parents in how to train their children in the home to know God and know about God.

Ratio Christi has over two hundred chapters internationally, many of them local, including Sam Houston State University, Texas A & M College Station, Texas A & M Victoria, University of Texas, University of Texas San Antonio, and Houston Baptist University.  Rice University is the first chapter to be established at a local, Houstonian, secular university, with prayers for expanding into University of Houston, University of Houston Clear-Lake, A & M Galveston, St. Thomas and many others.

Chuck and Amy indeed have their work cut out for them.  Although I do not pretend to know the reasons God chooses to do what he does, it seems apparent to me that if suffering produces endurance, God has been teaching Chuck and Amy great endurance! As a mother of five teenagers, I attest to the level of endurance it takes in raising and training them well, answering to God for how I equip and train them. Working with teenagers and young adults takes great endurance!  I do not say that in condemnation. I say that because, THEY are our tomorrow, but only if we feed them properly Today. They are the investment worth investing in! Chuck and Amy remind parents and grandparents that foundations must be solidified at home.  It is not the church’s or the school’s job to equip children and teenagers; it is the job of the family. Ministry begins at home, and then is built upon by organizations such as the church, Ratio Christi, youth groups, Campus Crusade, etc.

I am going to close by bringing up again the word bind. God uses suffering often to bind us closer to Himself as well as other Christian brothers and sisters. Being fully bound to God is an absolute necessity to fight the god of this world, to defend the faith that we were entrusted with, and to fight evil when she wears the costume of higher education and secularism. We know that Amy and Chuck are bound to one another and even more importantly to our God. Do you know to whom you are bound? What about the next generation on the cusp of running our nation?  Do you know to whom they are bound? How might you get involved to ensure the next generation binds itself to the giver of life, the only One who can truly save? As the old saying goes, Change begins with...Me.