Shattered Prayers, Kenneth Ching’s recently-released memoir about parenting a son with special needs, is connecting with readers in ways they don’t expect. Readers are saying:
“Ching’s writing is moving, gut-wrenching, humorous, honest, captivating, challenging, and raw. When it comes to speaking into and about pain and suffering in the face of faith, this memoir is a breath of fresh air.”
“Shattered Prayers is a raw and honest look at how one father responds to suffering and doubt as well as an individual understanding of how God works. Not at all what I expected, and refreshingly so.”
We meet the author—and his signature blunt, but heartfelt, tone—from the first lines, in the book’s preface:
This memoir is a true story, and I’ve tried to remember and write down all the details as accurately as possible. … This story isn’t about me presenting a picture of how a Christian should behave, think, or feel. Instead, I’ve tried to capture how I actually felt, thought, and behaved during this trial in my life. The main reason for this is that I hope other people who have been through or are currently going through similar trials will read this and see that they aren’t alone, and that the raw, messy, contradictory experiences of faith and suffering are shared by others. …
Another reason for writing this memoir is to show how God can meet us when we’re at our worst. Perhaps he is especially available to us when we’re at our worst. It’s the sick who need the Great Physician. It’s those in the darkness who need the Light. It’s when our wounds are raw that we need the Balm of Gilead. If we had all the answers, we wouldn’t need faith. If we had it all together, we wouldn’t need a Savior.
Interested? Read a sneak peek from chapter four below. In this excerpt, Ching’s son Joshua has been diagnosed with Pierre Robin Sequence and transferred from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Reno to a larger one in Salt Lake City.
One day there’s a commotion in the NICU. A young woman yells for help. Doctors and nurses rush into the room. A baby’s body is jerking and spasming as if electricity were coursing through it. A doctor tells the woman that all they can do is let it pass. So everyone stands there and watches the baby’s seizure. It lasts for a very long minute. The doctor tells the mother that he doesn’t know what’s causing the seizures. The medical staff leaves, and the woman sits and cries.
It seems like I should do something, but I’m not sure what.
“Do you want to pray?” I ask the woman.
“Yes,” she says and closes her eyes.
We pray for the boy, Zane. We pray God will heal him and help the doctors treat him. It feels almost impotent and cheap to throw words at seizures, but what else can we do? Everyone in the NICU prays. It seems to be an ingrained response to crisis. I’m not sure prayer works anymore, but I have to keep trying. Maybe God will do something surprising. Or maybe it’s like when everyone was abandoning Jesus, and he asked Peter if he wanted to leave, too, and Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” I keep praying because even if I don’t know how he works, God is our only hope. I wonder if it annoys God that we only come to him as a last resort.
I look around our area of the NICU. There are four patients, including Joshua and Zane. One tiny girl is in an incubator, and a blue florescent light shines from above her bed to treat her case of jaundice. Another baby girl looks normal except for the heavy bandages around her torso. She was born with some of her intestines on the outside, and she had surgery to put them back in.
In the NICU, praying feels like hanging over a cliff by a slender thread. It doesn’t offer much security, but you hang on because there’s nothing else. And you can’t help but hope that you might find a way to climb up that thread and arrive at safer ground.
I can see why people say religion is a “crutch.” You lean on it when you’re desperate, when you’ve got nothing else. Before Joshua was born, it’s like my belief in God was just a comfortable abstraction. … And maybe now the only reason I’m praying is because I’ve totally lost control of my life. I wouldn’t be praying so hard or so often if my son weren’t sick. I only truly pray when I’m desperate—not because I don’t believe in God, but because most of the time I don’t need him.
Does that mean God isn’t real? Is God just a fantasy I conjure up in times of need? Maybe, but you’d think I’d come up with a better fantasy. I can’t help but believe there’s a God overseeing this whole mess, and I can’t help but pray to him, even though I doubt he will answer.
Keep reading Shattered Prayers, now available on Vyrso.