Friday, September 13, 2013

The Fire and The Knife

English: Abraham embraces his son Isaac after ...
English: Abraham embraces his son Isaac after receiving him back from God (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We followed the doctor out of the waiting room to a quiet corner by a window.  He held an X-ray up and gazed at its murky surface.
“We’ve got problems,” he said gravely.  “The urethras are incorrectly placed.  They should be at an angle that does not allow urine to flush back into the kidneys from the bladder.  That’s why she continues to have infections, and it’s damaging the kidneys.”
 The lump in my throat continued to grow while the doctor talked.  She had had three kidney infections in the last four months, unusual for a two-year-old.  His tone was reassuring.

“Call the office to make an appointment for the surgery.”  My mind refused to hear anymore.  Becky was my sixth child.  She had already had a few problems in her short life.  We got past her allergy to milk.  She had a minor eye infection when she was a month old.  But surgery was more than I could think about.
 I already had my hands full.  My oldest child had just joined the army.  He was in Boot camp.  The next son was in trouble at school and with the law.   The three girls were busy with school.  I couldn’t seem to register this information.  “God, please don’t do this to me,” I prayed.

A nurse brought Becky to me.  She clung to me still groggy from the sedation.  They kept telling me the test was not painful.  It made me mad.  I knew it was necessary, but to her it was severe abuse:  restrained and violated.  And, worse yet, there would be more.
Today was Friday.  I called to make the surgery appointment on Monday.  I wanted to get it over with as soon as possible.  Her kidneys were being damaged as long as we allowed the condition to persist.  The nurse couldn’t seem to understand my urgency.  She wanted to wait a month before scheduling it.  I pressed for a sooner appointment.  She finally set it for two weeks. 

 I asked the church to pray for Becky, but I was the one in torment.  Becky quickly returned to normal after the ordeal of the test was over.  She held her own against the older kids and demanded respect from all. 

 As soon as I had the appointment, I sought comfort in the Bible.  I wanted healing without benefit of surgery.  I prayed God to fix it.  The scripture I found was not what I wanted.  Genesis 22:1-18 tells the story of Abraham taking Isaac to Mount Mariah to sacrifice him, and Hebrews 11:19 describes Abraham’s faith as sufficient to see Isaac raised from the dead.  I didn’t want to talk about Becky in terms of death at all  I read it and cried.  For three days I tried other chapters:  Psalm 23… but nothing spoke to me.  Daily I returned to Genesis 22 and Hebrews 11:19. 

 I could not give my child to this surgery.  I could not release her to the uncertainty of anesthesia and scalpels and strangers.  I had no choice.  If she didn’t have the surgery, the damage to her body would continue and worsen.  That would be total loss.  I couldn’t deny her the chance for repair and freedom from illness.
 After I read Abraham’s story for a while, I began to see his faith.  I also saw I had no power to restrain the hand of God from taking her if He chose to.  My only recourse was to trust God.  I believed he was a loving God.  If she died in this surgery, I could want no better hope for her than to be with God.    But Abraham’s faith was rewarded with Isaac.  He was freed from plunging the knife into the breast of his son by the provision of a substitute.  I knew I was not called to sacrifice my child, but I was required to yield her in my heart.  If my submission was not complete, I could not claim God’s promise in Hebrews 11:19.           

 After about three days, I quit looking for the soothing scriptures.  I needed to understand  the story of Abraham in every detail I could. 
Becky had a swing in the back yard made from an old tire.  She lay in it and I read stories or poetry or sang to her until she went to sleep for a nap.  While she slept, I read about Abraham.  Every day I gained new truths.  Every day I came closer to Abraham’s faith.  Every day it was grindingly hard.

 I had no power to give her life beyond what I had already done.  I could commit to this surgery and pray that the doctor was wise enough and skilled enough to fix the problem.  I could release her to his scalpel and pray that God would be as gracious to us as He had been to Abraham. 

 Now came the really hard part:  Could I truly give her to this surgery?  So much in me wanted to say no.  Still I had to take this monumental step of faith.  I just wanted it to be over. 

 Sometimes I do the things I have to do, the hard things that tear at my heart and  my reason, the bitter things that grind in my mind and my soul, and God in His grace accepts that sacrifice and grants me peace.  I took her to the hospital on Sunday evening for the surgery on Monday morning. 

I  hate waiting rooms.  The conversations are demoralizing and the atmosphere is morbid, but the preacher and his wife came to sit with us.  It helped a lot.  The doctor came out afterward and said all the good things.  I had supreme relief, but I still faced her discomfort and healing.  It was all downhill now.

 On Saturday they removed all the tubes and drains and we went home.  I have had few experiences of joy, of true exaltation like the one I experienced when I walked into church on Sunday morning carrying Becky.  I was not prepared for the realization that this momentous thing had happened, and we had not missed a Sunday in worship.  My heart filled with joy and my eyes filled with tears.  God was good.

 On Wednesday we took her back to the doctor to have the stitches removed, and it happened again.  The doctor did not work on Wednesday afternoon, but we were taken in through the back door.  Becky was very reluctant to let him touch her, but after we got through the initial phase of that meeting, she drew up her courage and the stitches were no problem. 

 As we walked to the door, the doctor looked at the nurse and said, “Would you believe what I did to her a week ago?”  Again, my heart swelled and I felt her weight in my arms and the vitality of her life pulsed against my chest.  Yes, God is good.

When I read the story of Abraham going to Moriah carrying with
him his son and the fire and the knife, I knew the agony in his heart and the arguments he voiced to God.  I surely didn’t feel the 
stalwart courage I saw in Abraham.  After this, I think he may have
been as fearful and broken as I was. 

I formed a new definition of faith: Faith is acting on God's word when I have no experience or confidence that assures me everything is going to be fine. I learned to claim his promise and leave it in his hands.

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