Saturday, April 9, 2011

Gifted Hands: the Ben Carson Story -- faith and prayer impact a surgeon's life

Director: Thomas Carter, TV 2009. (NR)

I don't normally watch made-for-TV movies, but this DVD was a family Christmas gift and we found time to watch it as a family over Spring Break vacation. It was worth it. The story offers an inspiring biography of one of the world's leading neurosurgeons whose faith is evident.

Raised in a single-parent home in the 1960s, Ben Carson (Cuba Gooding Jr.) faced numerous obstacles, from both inside and outside. Externally, there was poverty and prejudice. Internally, he had a temper that eventually led to his attempt to stab a classmate. It was his heartfelt prayer to God to remove his anger that brought him freedom.

Anger itself is not a sin. After all, Jesus himself demonstrated a righteous anger over the money-changers' sacrilegious use of the temple (Jn. 2:14-16). But most human anger veers towards sin, which is why Paul wrote, "In your anger do not sin, do not let the sun go down while you are still angry" (Eph. 4:26). When anger has dug its claws in, it can be extremely difficult to remove. Carson shows us the best way: prayer. God wants to change us, working from within, and when we invite him to do so, he never lets us down. However, he might not answer in the ways or in the time frame we desire.

Ben and his brother watched hours of TV each day, and consequently found themselves failing in school. When his illiterate mom (Kimberly Elise) enforces a strict regime of limited TV combined with a reading program (two books per week with an expected book report on each), both boys' grades improve. But it is the gift of faith, her belief in her sons, that makes the difference for Ben. Someone believes he can be as good as the educated white boys in his school.

If nothing else, this film emphasizes the power of a parent's message. We have a tremendous opportunity to craft our children's self-concept. When we deliver positive words, our kids will believe them and be reinforced. If we deliver belittling, negative words, we will destroy their self-confidence. How critical it is, therefore, that we be careful what we say to our kids. We must not only be "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (Jas. 1:19), but we must speak words of wisdom and truth with love and gentleness (Eph. 4:15), words that will build up not tear down (1 Thess. 5:11). Such words will be the seeds that produce fruit in adulthood.

The film traverses Carson's life chapters, from Yale to John Hopkins, allowing us to see a little of his journey. We see him feeling free to experiment with new medical procedures to save lives. The focus of the second half is on the specific novel surgery to separate two Siamese twins conjoined at the head. Other doctors had operated on such craniopagus twins, but had managed to save only one. Carson was not willing to see either die, and so spent weeks researching a new way to perform the surgery. Ultimately, he led a 70-member team in a successful 22-hour long operation.

Throughout, it is clear that Carson has faith, praying every day. He even mentions this to the German parents of the twins. Faith forms the foundation for this man's life.

We may never become world-famous like Carson, but we can choose to exercise faith as he did. We can pray, believing that God will answer and will lead us to be the people he desires us to be. In doing this, we not only find eternal life in Jesus, but we discover our heavenly father's belief in us.

Copyright ©2011, Martin Baggs

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