Monday, November 7, 2016

Chapter 11: Thankful for Courage

I'll let you in on a little, tiny secret: I'm working on self-publishing a book. It's about all the ways we're thankful in each season of this journey. Here's a snapshot...

Chapter 11
Thankful  for Courage
            Courage is a deep word. I think if you were to hold that word in your hands, it would feel round, like a stone, and heavy. Very weighted. It would press deep your into your palms, and you would need to summon the strength of your fingers to flex and hold it firmly, but it would not be so heavy that it could not be fully held. And when I think of the word courage, my mind pictures its physical state to be round. Never-ending. No real definite beginning, and no real ending. Not abstract or jagged. Not distorted or complex. Smooth, round, heavy, yet able to be held, and felt, and experienced. I believe the very act of holding this word would cause your heart to flutter and knees to be weak enough to still stand, but at the same time you would know that you were meant to hold it.
            I’ve been reading through the stories of Kind David recently in order to get a better grasp on just who this king was whose line would be included in that of Jesus. While reading 2 Samuel, I came across the section titled, “David ‘s Prayer of Gratitude” at the beginning of chapter 8. As I read through the lines of text that reveal how King David went before the Lord in prayer and thanked and praised the Lord for all of the mighty ways that the Lord had protected, guided, led, and redeemed David and all of Israel. At the end of this prayer, David basically says that yes, he will build a house for the Lord, just as the Lord has asked. To clarify, this is not technically a house for the Lord, so much as it is a line for Jesus to eventually be born into. What the Lord was really saying was that He had included David into the line of Jesus and that Jesus would inherit that role of King over the eternal kingdom, just as David was king over God’s people here on earth. Incase you’re a bit lost: God was going to use David for something mighty and BIG.
            And instead of backing down, David showed gratitude to the Lord for finding such favor in him to be chosen for this.
            Scripture says in 2 Samuel 7:27, “For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you.”
            I love that prayer. I had to read it a few times for it to sink in. When God asked David to do something, David answered that call with courage. I looked up a few other versions of the Bible, and each one I found used the word courage. Courage is defined as the ability to do something that frightens someone, and in biblical terms, that can also mean the ability to do what the Lord is asking them to do, regardless of what earthly men would say. I’m thankful to see the vulnerability of David as he confesses that he needs courage to do a task that the Lord is calling him to.  God placed a calling on David, and David responded, with courage and thankfulness. That calling was the Lord using David in the great lineage of Jesus. I think David recognized such an enormous calling was before him to keep his eyes focused on the Lord, and to continue to be an example of one living for the Lord. Did he mess up? Yes. Did he make bad choices at times? Yes. But did David stay true to the heart of the Lord and keep Him in focus? Yes.
            I guess that’s how we responded when we first began to discover the pieces of the puzzle that was Chloe’s diagnosis and then plan of delivery and treatment. We knew that God was placing a calling on our hearts to give this child life, and with that meant clinging hard to all that God had already taught us and all the way’s He had already led us and protected us in order to give us the courage that it would take to accept this calling. God did not just ask us to do this suddenly. I think that the Lord led us gently into this season.
We did not even take the time to consider alternative options when faced with the news of our first ultrasound with Chloe because we already had the knowledge that the Lord creates us each to be fearfully and wonderfully made, and our daughter was no exception. In our hearts, we already knew that God doesn’t make mistakes, especially when He is designing a child, a person in His own image. To say that Chloe, or any other child born with a deformity or abnormality or trisomy or anything that man believes is deemed unworthy of life, is to say that God made a mistake and didn’t get this one right. But when you stop to consider that God makes us each fearfully and wonderfully in His own image, then perhaps His own image is beautiful enough to be perfect even if that image is different than what society says is normal. Perhaps that image is still His, even if it bears a Hypoplastic Right Heart and a mosaic trisomy. What if it takes a broken heart to be used to remind us that God is in control, that He is beautiful, that He can teach us compassion and love and grace and wisdom through this tiny heart? I don’t think Chloe’s heart needed to be perfect to teach us that. I think the Lord has taught more about who He is and what He is about and how to love and live more like His Son through the seasons we’ve traveled with Chloe.
            But it took courage for us to embrace each of those things. It took courage to look death in the eye before her heart surgeries and heart cath and say that our God was still good. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. In our darkest moments with Chloe, we felt the closest to the Lord and in the surrendering of our will to His. Courage to be vulnerable with this journey. Courage to live out each day fully, even the fearful ones and the messy ones, even the lively ones and joy filled ones.
            And all of that started slowly, gradually circling around the same truth, that God was good and for us and for this child that was being designed intricately in the depths of my womb. That’s where the roundness of the word courage comes in. We didn’t see it coming when God allowed me to conceive Chloe. Our breaths slowly echoed that word as we watched the screen on every single ultrasound over four long months. We wouldn’t know the extent of it until we met her upon her entry into this world, when she drew in air to her lungs through that cleft lip for the very first time. This same courage grew with each surgery, each time we’d face uncertainty, and each time we would learn to stand up and advocate for our daughter. C.S. Lewis wrote that, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality.” The courage itself has always been building, always circulating with strength, and always will be, even to the day that Chloe might go to be with the Lord, because the Lord has called us to this task, and we choose to follow Him.
            That brings me to the most courageous part of all. The courage to let go. With our daughter, she’s a grey zone baby, as I’ve mentioned before. We simply do not know, based on all of her unique set of circumstances and rare trisomy, how many days we have with her. In the words of one of her NICU doctors, “It could be three days, three weeks, three years, or thirty years.” There’s this sacred, secret dance of grief that we play in the background, always wondering and fearing quietly if today is the day, or is this week the week? Not every day. Not every week. But it’s there. That’s the part of courage that I dread the most. The someday saying goodbye. For now, we learn to accept the small bits of grief. That she can’t quite yet sit up on her own. That we can’t hear her voice or the word mama with her trach in. That she’s half the size of her peers. That she’s developmentally very far behind, and that only time will tell how far she will advance. At this point, she cannot crawl, or walk. We know there’s a bigger grief that will one day come, and we pray for courage to accept that day, whenever it is for her. But for now, we choose to embrace each moment, and pray for the courage we’ll need to face more in the future.
            We’re thankful that He is our guide in this. Our family is grateful that we have a God who is bigger and mightier than we could ever imaging, and that the Lord is the one equipping us with the courage needed in this task to raise our medically fragile daughter, and allowing us to be brave enough to love her without any guarantees in the face of this calling.  


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