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