Almost 4 months ago, our lives changed. In many ways. Next Friday night (minutes before midnight) it will be the 4 month "anniversary" of the moment complete and mind-numbing shock entered our lives. "Your baby son has leukemia. We believe it to be an extremely rare kind and needs to be admitted right away." The following days consisted of information that never carried a positive message or outlook on Ethan's life. "His spleen is extremely large and on the verge of rupture due to the certain cancer cells that are growing inside. Before we have a definitive diagnosis we need to begin chemotherapy right away, otherwise he'd not survive a ruptured spleen." After little over a week or so we received concrete evidence that proved the kind of leukemia that had attacked Ethan's little body. "Overall, childhood leukemia is quite treatable with a very high success rate... however... your son's particular strand is extremely rare as only 3 out of a million children get this particular form of leukemia and treatment will be quite difficult. The chance of long-term survival is 50/50." And then began the search for a bone marrow transplant donor. "Unfortunately, nothing about your son's case is easy. Due to the genetic makeup of your child, finding a donor match has been quite difficult. The best we can find is a cord blood donor that is a 4 out of 6 match, however we do feel this is the best option for him and need to move forward as opposed to searching further."
That is a very small synopsis of the information we'd been given over these past 4 months. And though all of it stands out fresh in my mind (how could it not?). What stands out even more is when his doctor recently told me, "It's amazing how well your son has done so far. In the very beginning, we were honestly not sure if he'd make it as there just isn't a lot of information out there about JMML, but look at him... he looks just great. He's done extremely better than we expected. It's amazing."
And that's why the verse in Corinthians has become so important to me.... your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. I have taken that verse to mean that any statistic we've been given, any research that appears to know how a child will respond or what his/her quality of life will be like... means nothing, compared to God's ability and desire to overcome these obstacles in our lives. I'm learning that He wants reasons to show us His power. He allow trials so that we can revel in His glory. There is a purpose to everything He allows to touch His children. And every situation, even most horrid in our eyes, is an opportunity for us to believe Him. An opportunity to see Him work wonders in our lives. So, if I'm going to hold fast or believe one thing or another about Ethan's life, I'm going to believe with complete walk-across-the-tight-rope-with-a-blindfold-and-no-safety-net kind of faith. At least that's what I've strived (and will strive) to do.
I've believed since April 20th when I felt a direct peace from the Lord that God was going to do a miraculous healing in Ethan's body. I thought maybe we could avoid having to go through the transplant, but later realized that however Ethan was cured would be a miracle and I didn't want to put limitations on however God wanted to work. And since that day, God has given me countless reasons to hope and believe in His power and His plan for Ethan's life. But it's even more than that.... but I'll explain in a minute.
Now, that's not to say that I've not struggled.
In fact, the struggle has often been quite an obstacle. Not a struggle in believing for the healing in Ethan's life right now, but struggling to believe that there is hope and joy after this for my life and for mine, Adam and Ethan's lives together down the road. In a sense, struggling and learning to wait for hope to come and learning to believe that it is coming, even when it's too dark to see it. Struggling to understand faith and coming to terms with what true faith really is. Struggling with letting go of certain desires for a time and be willing to trust that better days are ahead and desires will be restored. Struggling to trust that our lives are fully guided by the Lord's hands. And believing that those hands are filled with never-ending love, blessing, power, protection and all things good... even when they look to be guiding us into pain.
All along I've expressed this quest for the kind of faith that is unmistakeably evident in each of the scenarios in which Jesus' miracles were preformed. Just look in the Bible at Matthew chapter 9 for a few references. The little girl who was dead, yet Jesus gave her back to her family. The woman who had so much faith that Christ was who He said He was, that if she could only touch the hem of His robe, she'd be healed. She did. And she was. The two blind men who cried out for the mercy of the Lord desiring to be able to see again. Jesus healed them and that day forward were able to see. Or look in another account in the Bible and you'll find the story of the men who fought their way through the crowd and believed so fervently that Jesus could heal their crippled friend that they lowered him through the roof of the building so this man would have Jesus' attention. He did have Christ's attention. And the man got up and walked out.
I'm so touched by these examples, and there are many more... and before, my level of understanding would have stopped at the fact that "miracles happen". But I'm learning so much more. Much, much more. And I fear this will be a feeble attempt in explaining it to you.
For instance, if you look back at the story of the 2 blind men in Matthew chapter 9, in verses 28-30... "And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” And their eyes were opened.
Now, growing up in a Christian home and in Christian schools, there is no telling how many times I've read those words. But lately, they've taken on a whole new meaning. And I don't mind admitting that it's a little unnerving.... but in a really good way.
"According to your faith".... there are many times that Jesus answered a request with that response. What does it mean?
Or what about the words of the verse, Matthew 21:21, "So Jesus answered and said to them, Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done."
"If you have faith and do not doubt"... that's in there for a reason. Those words are the key. And that concept, even command, is throughout the Bible. Faith and Believing, ridding ourselves of doubt. Ridding ourselves of the need to "see first". Ridding ourselves of the control we think we have. If we could just do it... if we could simplify our faith, our belief system... I read somewhere that trials enter our lives to help us "unlearn" something... some bad habit we've added to our belief system. Some wrong idea of God we've accepted along the way. It really is something very hard to do.
I mentioned long ago that I don't believe in random coincidences. I believe there are reasons and purposes to things that happen in our lives and that in those ways, if we're paying attention, God is showing us something. Well, last weekend I went to Barnes and Noble while Adam stayed with Ethan. I needed to exchange a few books and was REALLY wanting a new book to jump out at me. I stared at all the titles in the "Christian Inspiration" section for a long time. Actually a VERY long time. I hadn't realized that an hour had passed while I was looking. I grabbed a few books and found a seat there in the store. I read through a few pages, looking for something, but I wasn't finding it. At this point, it had been close to 2 hours and I knew Adam would be wondering what happened to me, so in a sort of disappointment that the Lord hadn't given me anything, I took the books back to the section I had scoured for so long. Right before I left to go buy a few cute books I found for Ethan, I spotted the title of a book that I must have looked right over many times...."Believing God" by Beth Moore. Now, I don't normally talk about books I read because I don't mean to suggest an author or their message is for your life, however I must say, this book was written for me... and I need to share this with you because it is confirming for me everything that I've wanted to know these past few months.
I didn't start reading it right away. I actually didn't start reading it until last night (I'm only on chapter 4). But God has used her words and Scripture references to already pierce my heart in an extremely meaningful way. I've been hovering over these thoughts and concepts about what faith really is... about what it is to believe God... to believe that this life is a gift from Him, and it's meant to be enjoyed through Him, but I struggled with actually connecting the dots. Yet, I have to tell you, it's amazing the picture you see when Someone fills in the lines for you.
What kind of life would we live if we truly believed the Lord. Not just believed in God, but believed every Word He's given us. Nothing about our relationship with Him is without faith. If we've made the decision to become a Christian, a child of God, then we had to extend faith that Jesus is the Son of God, was crucified for our sins, and rose from the grave after 3 days. If we can believe that, and not question, then why do we (or I) question the rest of it.
A verse that comes to mind can help me illustrate what I mean...
Jeremiah 29:11 - For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Yeah, but.... my son has cancer. Yeah, but.... I just went through a divorce. Yeah, but.... I just lost my job. Yeah, but.... my kids are all grown and I have no more purpose.
No. Stop. If you can believe that through Jesus you are going to go to Heaven one day, then believe the rest of it, too! The Lord says clearly... to give you a hopeful future, in spite what the pit looks like now.
There are so many other examples. He continually asks us to believe... to have faith... and it will be done. Is it really that simple? In a sense, yes, I think it is. I do not mean it to be so simple that we can rub a lamp and God will act as our "genie". But I do believe that we often times limit God's power because of our little faith. I don't know that we mean to do it... but I think that we ask and think so much smaller than we should. "Lord please bless this/that family". "Lord please help this/that person to find a job". "Lord please heal this/that child". Are they often times empty words because they weren't spoken with the appropriate passion or zeal in full faith that not only could God do that thing, but that He would do it?
Trust me, I understand this is a fine line. There are instances in which a prayer, spoken in what we truly believed was full and sincere faith, aren't answered in the way(s) we hoped. But does that change who God is? No. And it doesn't mean that there wasn't a purpose. In fact, the purpose of the unanswered prayer may have very well been more significant than if the prayer had been answered in the way we had hoped it would be. But, again, if we believe part of God, then we have to believe all of Him.... Romans 8:28 - "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose".
This overall concept has strengthened my heart. For months I've been sharing with you the revelations of "faith" that the Lord has continued to bring across my path. Walking on the water, the corvette, the devotional book with reference after reference of "faith" day after day... it's all coming together for me now, and even still I feel I'm just on the brink of all that there is to learn. But in just one day from now, all of this preparing, this spiritual strength-training will be set in motion. Hence, this is where the rubber meets the road for me.
Monday, we will leave for Boston, and enter into the world where I have zero control. There is no, "well, if God doesn't come through for me, then I'll just do ______ myself". No. There's none of that. Simply because there is nothing I can do to save my son. There's nothing I can do to spare him any pain or complication. For the first time in my life, I think I might understand what Abraham felt like when he walked up the mountain with Isaac, mentally preparing himself that God might possibly take his son away from him. The complete vulnerability of truly needing God's mercy. And yet, at the same time, I think I might also understand the apparent calmness that Abraham exudes in the words of Scripture. He knew his God, and he believed the promises He'd given.
He had faith. What else did he have? Nothing. He had the odds-are-against-me-I've-been-asked-to-sacrifice-my-son-but-I'm-not-worried kind of faith.
And in the end, his son's life was spared...
... from even the slightest of pain.
Oh Lord, I'm almost there. Your truth is within my grasp. Help me to grab hold fully and to be simple. I know Ethan's life will be given back to us. And if I know that wonderful miracle is ours, then I know I don't have to accept that he will have to suffer through the healing process. Your power is not limited to one blessing. You've given us the gift of Heaven, eternal life, through believing You are who You say You are. But You do not stop there. You've also given us this life on earth to live fully, to enjoy fully, and to know you more deeply. Protect him, Father, from any pain or complication. Ethan is your chosen vessel, to spread your Word and your power. Please protect him from any harm as You carry out your wonderful plan for His life. Thank you for what my son has taught me. Thank you for being so very sweet to me in what you're doing in my life. I will remember, Lord. And I will tell the wonders of Your hands. Amen.