…plus God

I will never forget the swirl of emotions that tore through my heart the moment the doctor said, “I don’t know what is wrong with him.  It’s obvious that there is something going on but I don’t know what it is.  You need to get him to another hospital.  I will call ahead and have them waiting for you when you arrive.”  As I write these words, tears begin to fill my eyes and I can feel that same fear rising within me.

He was our third baby, our second son.  I remember when I was expecting our second child.  I worried that I would not have the capacity to love this new baby as much as I loved our first-born.  Now, as the mother of four, I can confidently say that as each new gift of life was given to us, I discovered a love so deep that at times it scared me.  As I held my sick 3 month old son my greatest fear began to grow in my heart.  I loved him so deeply that the fear of losing him overwhelmed me.

I have been a believer for most of my life, having come to know the Lord as a child.  I grew up in a Christian home and received most of my education at a Christian school.  I even studied theology for my post secondary education.  I really thought I had this whole “Christian” thing down pat.  Then I became a mom. 

Like all moms, I marveled at this new creation that I had been blessed with.  This new little person was mine, or so I thought.  It was all I ever wanted out of life.  My goal ,for as long as I can remember, was to find a wonderful man who would love me forever and have a house full of kids.  By 2004, I had everything I wanted; a home, a wonderful man to share it with and three beautiful children.  I was content, so long as nothing disrupted my plans, then everything would be just about perfect.  Then I woke up on September 8th, 2004.  God was about to step into my “perfect” world and ask me the one thing that terrified me the most.

We arrived at the larger hospital and just as our doctor had said, they were waiting for us.  We were immediately taken into an isolation room, but we were not told why we were there.  My prayers had begun a couple of hours before when I realized that my infant son was ill, but now they became much more intense, almost panicked.  A new doctor came in and started talking to us about the next test they wanted to do.  It was a spinal tap.  The fear that had threatened me for the last few hours began to drown me.   I now knew what they were looking for.  

I really should have known better.  My entire life has been built on the understanding that God is in control and that He has a plan.  But you see, knowing this was really the root of my fear.  This was my son’s life we were talking about now.  I loved him more than I loved my own life.  If I could have been the one sick, I would have traded places with him in a blink, but I could not.  This was out of my control.  Everything in me began to plead with God, “Not my baby boy, please don’t ask this of me.”  And then something happened that I’m not even sure I have the ability to describe in written language, but I will try.

We moved to another room to start the test.  My baby looked so tiny as he lay on the hospital bed.  I remember saying to my mom later that, as I looked at him, I had never seen fear in a child’s eyes the way I saw it in his that day.   That’s when I stopped pleading with God.  I had never felt God’s presence this intensely before.  I now understood the peace that passes comprehension that Philippians 4:7 refers to.  Although His voice was not audible, I very clearly heard Him speak into me, “I love him more than you do.”  My fear left.  I looked at my son and began to sing, “Jesus Loves Me”, the song I sang to him everyday while he grew inside my body.  Then I prayed the pray that I told myself I would never pray.  I said… (this is harder to write than I expected),  “Okay, God, he is yours.  I know you love him more than I ever could, and if you need to take him home, then please give us the strength to walk this road.  I can’t do this without you.”  It was the hardest prayer I have ever prayed, but strangely it was also the most freeing. 

In Tozer’s chapter on God’s Immensity he talks about two kinds of faith; nominal and real.  “…nominal faith is faith that accepts what it is told and can quote text after text to prove it.” [pg. 18]  But real faith “… is faith that depends upon the character of God.” [pg. 18]  Most of my Christian walk has been walked in “nominal faith.”   That Wednesday evening in September, God was asking me if my faith was real.  Could I look to His character and know that no matter what happened in the next few moments, hours, days,  I could truly say, “God, I love you more.”  Was I willing to let go of my son’s hand and still hold on to my Father’s.

When we think about idols in our cultural context we tend to think about those things that are tangible, materialistic.  It’s easier to recognize when I have put my need for “stuff” or my job, before God.  What about those relationships that He has blessed me with?  What about my spouse?   My children?  My friends?  Do I have everything I wanted …plus God, or is God my everything?

 Tozer explains it well when he says, “God may send it all to you and let you have it.  But it is always with the understanding that He can take it away again and you won’t grumble.  You still have God, and God is all.” [pg. 35]

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matt. 16:25,26

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6 Responses to …plus God

  1. Lucia says:

    Susan,

    I want to thank you for including me in your e-mail. As I was reading your words, I began to think of my own faith. Sometimes I struggle with the fact that I need to be in control. Do I trust God? Yes. Do I know that He works all things together for good? Yes. But at times, I think “how in the world can (insert situation) be turned into good?” There is no way! I have faith but I second guess. Does that make sense? Then I think, you either trust or you don’t. You have faith, or you don’t. I don’t want to be a lukewarm Christian. I want to be boiling hot! As pastor said in Church on Sunday, our spiritual muscles must be exercised just as our physical muscles are exercised.

    Sometimes when I am anxious I sit back and think about God’s words… “Be anxious for nothing”, “Do not fear”, etc. and at that moment I remember that I have to trust God for everything, not just what I think HE can handle.

    I do not have children so I cannot sympathize with your exact situation but I pray that if I ever have to through what you did that I will be strong enough and mature enough in my Christian walk to flex my “faith muscle” as you did.

    You have a beautiful way of expressing your emotions through words. Thanks again!

  2. Such an excellent post. I can still see his tiny body, burning with fever, being rocked on your shoulder, and feeling as his grandmother, a love and protectiveness that was overwhelming. I also remember the way you stepped out in church, publicly taking a stand in faith, daring to declare that you believed that God would heal him. This public expression was so unlike who you were then, so private (I thought.)..

  3. Marilyn says:

    Amen, Susan.

    It is good to hear/read your words! I was beginning to wonder if anyone realized what ‘faith’ meant anymore. I can’t count the number of fellow believers who, since learning of my husband’s leukemia and searching for words to say, have said, “We are trusting God. After all, lots of people get cancer and end up living a long time.” Lots of variations of that. I knew they meant well and were also processing their own shock and grief.

    But my peace does not come from cancer statistics. My peace comes from knowing that God knows what He is doing and can be trusted. There is great freedom in coming to the point you found difficult to describe. It is usually quite hard to capture in words moments of divine interaction. You have done well. Keep writing!

    Marilyn Yocum

  4. Angcat says:

    Hi Susan,

    I remember this too, though we didn’t know each other so well back then.
    Now look at your big (though still little) boy.

    This is well written. Hmmm, another writer in the school…

    🙂

  5. Roxanne says:

    Good example of what real faith vs. nominal faith is. I think in our lives most of the time we live in the “nominal” faith category and often it is only when we are put into desperate circumstances that we have no where else to go other than to trust God. It is only then when we truly put our complete trust in God isn’t it. I mean, we all say that we trust in God all the time but I think most of us actually trust “ourselves” to handle most things. It’s like last weeks chapter in Tozer’s book (chapter 2). We live our lives day by day(and all the business that has to get done in it)……plus God. It almost makes me wonder if it is actually possible to live in the category of “real” faith at all times. I’m sure it must be possible, but I don’t see myself getting to that point anytime soon. My life is just so busy and stressful a lot of the time that it is hard to focus on God ALL the time. Don’t get me wrong. I have a few examples in my life where I can definitely say I trusted God completely. Isn’t it awesome that when we put our complete trust in God instead of ourselves, he never fails. So many prayers I have prayed and some have been answered others have not. However, all the prayers that I have put complete trust in Him to handle, he has answered. I suppose that would only further prove the point that “real” faith is what God REQUIRES of us.

  6. Stephanie says:

    What an amazing testimony and challenge to us all. We develop so many attachments in life that have the potential to distract us. I liked that you added plans and relationships to the list of things that can obscure the priority of our relationship with God.

    There’s a part of me that feels better when I’m in control. I find comfort in the small things because they are easy to label and manage. Life has a way of crashing in on that illusion of control and we discover that our carefully crafted foundations are resting in the sand. Understanding this doesn’t necessarily overcome the apprehension I feel when I try to let go.

    Henri Nouwen writes:
    “To wait open-endedly is an enormously radical attitude toward life. So is to trust that something will happen to us that is far beyond our imaginings. So, too, is giving up control over our future and letting God define our life, trusting that God moulds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear. The spiritual life is a life in which we wait, actively present to the moment, trusting that new things will happen to us, new things that are far beyond our own imagination, fantasy, or prediction. That, indeed, is a very radical stance toward life in a world preoccupied with control.”

    I’m glad that God is patient and has a Father’s heart for us. I usually feel resentment toward people who only seek me out when they need something from me. Yet God uses these circumstances to reach out to us and encourage our rest in Him. When God does meet us in a moment such as you describe, His character is revealed to us in a transformational way and our knowing of Him is different. Our relationship with Him experiences a growth spurt, true faith develops, and our fears of trust are overcome.

    Thanks for sharing so openly from your walk.

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