Monday, May 3, 2010
Jesus Makes me Strong - letting me See that What Looks like a Curse is Actually . . . a Blessing!
The 23rd Psalm is so beautiful, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever".
God's words were the furthest thing from my mind when I accompanied my pregnant wife to the hospital for a 'check up'. She was seven months pregnant, had been in just the day before and there were 'some concerns'. The baby didn't seem to be growing much and it's head was a bit small. My wife had noticed that the baby rarely moved - the baby had been VERY active.
A heart monitor was attached to my wife's swollen belly. All was fine for the first few minutes and just as my worries began to subside the doctor announced, "I'm not getting a heart beat". However, after a few seconds, he heard it again. A few more minutes went by and again . . . no heartbeat. The babies heart stopped beating another 3 times over the next 20 minutes. Finally, the doctor told us, "You're baby is in distress and is dieing. Unless we take it out now it will die".
Jesus said, "Peace I give to you, my own peace I leave with you, not like the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." Later He added "I have told you all of this so that you may find peace in Me".
Things began to move very fast. My wife was prepped for surgery and I was left alone with my fears for 10 minutes. Remembering the Psalm in my distress I tried to pray it. My heart was bursting with grief as I cried out to God to save my baby.
A nurse came, took me into the operating room, where I found my wife crying. I held her hand and caressed her, trying hard to assure. The baby was soon out but I couldn't see it from behind the cloth they had set up. I heard the urgent voices of the doctors and nurses and, a few moments later, a doctor rushed by me toward the door, holding a tiny limp creature - my son. Later, we were told his heart had stopped beating in the womb - that he had been born dead - and that it took another five minutes to bring him back.
Jesus said, "In this world, this life, you shall suffer many trials. However, be encouraged. I have overcome the world".
The next 24 hours were hell. The doctors were not optimistic and said our baby would probably die. We prayed with breaking hearts. A few hours later the doctors said the baby was on life support and that he would soon be back for our decision as to whether to withdraw life support. More hours passed and the doctor told us that we didn't have to make that terrible decision after all; 'God made it for you. Your baby will live'. However, with a tone of regret, he told us that his life would be very hard. Our son had a seizure condition (epilepsy) and would have cerebral palsy (poor/limited control of his body). He also indicated that our son would have serious mental disabilities.
King David in the 23rd Psalm said that, even if death is overshadowing him, he WILL not be afraid. He knows almighty God is with him and so is confident and relaxed, at peace, even though surrounded by enemies - people who want to kill him. He is actually so relaxed that he feels free to enjoy the many and varied blessings of God, material and spiritual: a 'well spread table', the sweet fragrance of the oil anointing his head and a goblet of wine so full with the blessings of God that . . . it overflows with joy! This peace remains unshaken - even when surrounded by hate, danger and the possibility of death!
We named our son Luke after St. Luke, the writer of the Gospel and the 'good physician'. He weighed only 1 1/2 pounds at birth. During the 7 weeks that Luke was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) we saw many newborns that had serious health issues - some worse than Luke's. Some of those babies died. We began to learn to count our blessings as well as to pray for other suffering babies (and their parents).
Nearly 8 years later our son still wears diapers, can't walk or talk. There are very few things he can do for himself. He doesn't understand much nor can he tell us what he needs. However, he is a happy boy - given to smiling and laughing, getting 'goofy' - and his mom and I are happy he is around - grateful that he knows he is loved and is able to show us, in small ways, that he loves us.
Many people express wonder at how 'strong' my wife and I are. However we aren't strong at all. The experience broke and crushed our hearts. We survived, just like Luke did, by God's grace. The strong and gentle hand of God was there to steady and strengthen us (with faith and hope) - to give us peace (mend our broken hearts) when it became too much for us to handle. The Lord IS our shepherd - keeps us strong in our daily struggles - especially when worries for Luke's future rise like a threatening sea.
St. Paul said "The Lord is near. Never worry about anything; but tell God all your desires of every kind in prayer and petition shot through with gratitude and the peace of God, which is beyond our understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus". St. Paul was right - it doesn't make sense for a person to feel peace after one's hopes and dreams are shattered. Yet, through God's mercy, I know this peace. Jesus said that He wanted us to find 'peace in' Him. I did, as well as God's limitless goodness! Through prayer, I know that Jesus is near, guiding, comforting and blessing me. So . . . I offer Him words of praise in gratitude for blessings seen and unseen, and for this mysterious peace and indescribable joy, gifts of His love. I joyfully proclaim with King David, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever".