The Unseen Story


The Mystery of God

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I’m Brad from Southern California, transplanted to Dallas, Texas, with my wife, Ashley of 14 years now. We have three little kids, Roman, Smith, and Stoneleigh. I am the executive director of Treasured Vessels Foundation, an anti-trafficking agency. This is my story about why I follow Jesus. I guess I’m really a follower of Jesus because my parents started following Jesus, which is not that exciting of a story. But the reason why they follow Jesus is much more interesting. And that goes back to when I was four years old. 


When I was four years old, I came into my parent’s bedroom, and said, “I can’t pee.” And it hurt very much. And as any good parent would do, they told me, “Yes, you can…just go try.” This persisted enough that they took me to the doctor, the doctor did some tests and said, “You’re fine.” My parents remember the doctor’s advice was he’s probably just trying to get attention. You know, “Why don’t you give him some tough love this will pass it’s just a phase.” 


I remember my mom saying like, “Oh, that doesn’t seem to fit. It seems weird.” And knowing her does seem weird, because she was a helicopter mom and always, always giving me more attention than I wanted. So, yeah, this problem went on. And they kind of did the escalation to specialists and I think a couple of hospital visits. Ultimately, every time they would test more things, they would say things are fine. I understand this period went on for about a month. 


It was painful, and my parents were kind of freaking out, as it became clear that it was a significant issue, and they didn’t know what to do. I understand that they had done two ultrasounds so they did one and it didn’t reveal anything. And then the doctors said, Okay, let’s kind of go back through and do everything we’ve done again, like another round of bloodwork, and they did a second ultrasound. 


It was a second ultrasound that revealed I had a cyst, meaning just like a sack of fluid attached to my bladder, the size of a grapefruit. And so they said, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know how we missed this or how it didn’t show up on the early ultrasound or any of the other stuff, but we got to take this out if it ruptures, it’ll kill him.” My parents were freaked out, they prepped me for surgery the following day and then they were going to do this emergency surgery. Cut open my abdomen and take this thing out. 

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My mom had been going to a church, a little Southern Baptist Church, in Northern California. She called them not knowing what else to do. She had attended a few times, but my dad was totally uninterested. Little backstory there, my mom grew up, kind of, like, Catholic adjacent, and had like a low level of faith. 

My dad was abandoned by his dad to womanize and open a bar in Reno when he was 16. So he is the type of guy that pulled himself up by his bootstraps. He was literally alone in his parent’s house because mom had left Dad because she was getting beat up. And so he was alone at 16. Living in his parent’s house, buying groceries for himself. His Dad would come back every two weeks or so, and give him grocery money. He would go to school, surf, smoke, and take care of himself. And so the way he looked at other people, especially the church was like, those are weak people who need a crutch and that’s not me. I’m tough. I can handle things on my own. So that’s where my folks are coming from. 

My mom called up this church that she had attended a few times, and she was bringing me along. And to her surprise, they said, “We want to send out pastors, and they can pray for your son.” She, you know, had never experienced anything like this. So she said, “Okay.” I know now that this was Oakland, and the church was in Danville, Oakland Children’s Hospital to the church in Danville, California. It’s like 45 minutes that these pastors drove out to come to pray for me. It was two of them, it was the lead pastor of this little church, probably 200 person, church, very traditional Baptist, and the youth pastor. They come out and I vaguely remember this part. 

I remember them being there and they asked my mom, and my dad was there too, if they could lay hands on me and pray. My dad laughed. He’s like, nope, not for me. You guys do what you want. But I’m not gonna stick around, this is weird, hocus pocus stuff. And my mom’s just like, sure anything. So they lay hands on me and prayed in faith for immediate healing. The prayer was something like, “Jesus heal his body right now while we are laying hands on him.” When they finished for sort of like, to put the proof in the pudding. They said, “Well, Bradley, why don’t you try to pee.”  I go into the little bathroom or whatever. And when I came out I said, “I peed!” 

The pastors had faith, but also they were kind of surprised, you know. Because you never know what’s gonna happen in a situation like that. I now know this. My mom, of course, immediately was just like, “It was Jesus! He is real, praise the Lord,” while running down the halls. And they tell the doctors and the doctors are like, “Right, okay, well, we’ll see about this.” And so, they did a third ultrasound. I think it was the next morning now, and they were still going to do the surgery. But first let’s do the ultrasound and see what’s happening, you know, because medically or, scientifically, he’s urinating without any symptoms. So, they do the ultrasound and they’re like, it’s not there. This thing that we saw with our eyes is no longer there a day later! 

So yeah, I go home with no scientific explanation. But they say, “If he has symptoms or whatever, come back, but for now, there’s nothing for us to do.” And so for my mom immediately, life changed. She’s following Jesus for the rest of her life. For my dad, you know, he kind of hears the story secondhand because he wasn’t there. It took him some time, I think to process what he believed happened. And the way my mom tells a story is that he had this standing golf session with my grandfather, every Sunday morning. He wasn’t willing to give that up. But a few months later, he said, “Can I take a look at your Bible, like, I just kind of want to read through and see what’s in there, I have never spent any time with it.” 

So that started a new season where he kind of explored some things. Then the next season he moved the golf session to Saturdays instead of Sundays so that he could attend church with my mom. And that was kind of the start of his life change. I’m 42 now so, almost 40 years later, they still follow Jesus. And it did change their life. And I mean, for me, that’s kind of why I say, My testimony is, that I was raised by Christian parents and I still follow Jesus now at 42. And this episode was the thing that started at all. 

If the story ended there, it would make a lot of sense to me. And I’d say, Man, I got this great testimony and would love to share it with everybody I can. But it doesn’t end there and that’s the troubling part, for me. Flash forward a year after this happened, and the symptoms came back. I go into my parent’s room and again I say, “I can’t pee. It hurts.” And you know, they are baby Christians, you know, my mom for a year, my dad for a few months. And I think they went right back to the natural, you know, so they took me back to the doctor, actually don’t know, I should ask them if they prayed for me again.

But they went right back to the doctors and this time they knew exactly what to do. They checked me out, you have a cyst on you’re attached to your urethra. And so, the same course of events, prep me for surgery. They said when they gave me, the gas, the general anesthetic, when I relaxed and laid down my my abs weren’t covering up what was inside of me and they said, this thing just bulged out of my abdomen. So it was totally obvious when I was unconscious and so they cut me open, they take the thing out, sew me back up. I heal and my life goes on. I’ve been fine ever since. 

All that happened when I was five years old. And so, now I’ve got this testimony. I still follow Jesus, but the story has, like, kind of this weird ellipsis at the end of it, and maybe even a question mark after that, you know, healed by God. Miraculous. But I still needed the natural. I still needed science to leave me in good standing, I suppose. And so, I wrestle with that a lot. 

In the church I go to we talk about the mystery of the gospel, and there’s a lot of mystery in it, of course. And I just kind of wrestled with, part of me is angry with God like, “Why wouldn’t you just heal me?” Why wasn’t that a good enough story? Why did I have to go through something else that sort of made the story less meaningful? Yeah, I think, I worry about sharing my testimony. Because it’ll like, maybe I may harm other people’s faith. You know, like, if it were a clean one-and-done story, you know, miraculous healing, I would be enthusiastic about sharing it. But I think I hide it more, because it sort of leads people, I don’t know, where it leads people, you know, it could almost lead somebody to the natural versus the supernatural, you know, because that was the part that stuck. 

So, through my life, I have dug deep into faith and science, and all the spaces where they overlap. And I enjoy it when science and Scripture intersect. And so much so that I was going through a season, where I was reading all these books by William Lane, Craig is an astrophysicist. In the books, they come up with these arguments for intelligent design or the fine-tuning of the universe. It’s fascinating stuff to me. 

I had this this guy at a charismatic church I was in and we would call him a prophet, and he would talk to people and share things with them. I was a little skeptical about it because many people would say, he really shares truth, you know, he’ll read your mail, and he’ll encourage you in your faith. And I wasn’t really a believer, in that until he kind of read me my mail. And he addressed this pursuit that I was on to justify faith and science marrying. In this short session with him, he said, stop trying to work it all out. Whoa. I felt like a very, very kind and almost comical rebuke in the Spirit. And so I did. I said, I’ll let it be, you know, and that’s kind of why I land on the mystery of the gospel, like, let it be mysterious. You know, I feel like so many pastors tried to give their congregations, all the answers, and we just don’t have them. Scripture, I would say, purposefully doesn’t give us all the answers, so that we seek God. 

There’s an excellent book by Mike Erie called Astonished, where he talks about why God hides, it talks about how there’s always a gap. And like, if there wasn’t a gap, we wouldn’t seek God, because we would not need to. And I guess that has been a place of hope for me. Through the years where I’ve been on a journey. I think a lot of it has been a struggle. But I think I may be coming to a place of finding comfort in that discomfort. You know, like, much of my professional career, much of my marriage, parenting hasn’t been black and white. I think we’re forced to live in these in-between spaces.

And that is the gospel. The now and not yet. Jesus has overcome evil, but he’s coming soon. He’s not come yet to complete his job and to defeat evil completely. And so yeah, I don’t know. Maybe this story helps me with that and helps me wrestle with the mystery of the gospel and why God seems to hide sometimes and why he seems to say no, sometimes. Why he has a still small voice, which is so frustrating. I wish he would have a loud, clear voice. But he doesn’t. 

Yeah, I’m hopeful that this story resonates with somebody who doesn’t have a real clear path to God. Maybe they continue to struggle, even though they’ve found hope in Christ, are part of a community, they’ve got kids and a wife and a job and maybe on the surface, their life is put together, but they’re still struggling with why things don’t work out the way that they should. Maybe the story is a beacon of hope for them. That would be my hope. 

Now I've got this testimony. I still follow Jesus. But the story has like kind of this weird ellipsis at the end of it, and maybe even a question mark, healed by God, miraculous...But?

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