Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sometimes Miracles Hide

"There's value in the struggle.  Don't run from it. 
Don't attempt to avoid or abort it. 
You see, the struggle is part of your story,
and one day it will be for God's glory." 
~ Pastor Greg

A few years ago I listened to Joni Eareickson Tada speak about her spinal cord injury - the one she sustained when only a young girl of 18; the one that left her quadriplegic.  Joni's 64 now, just a year younger than I am.

What she conveyed the day I heard her speak was this:  she wouldn't trade her life, even if it meant she'd be able to walk again.  In her own words:  

"Even though I have rough moments in my wheelchair,
for the most part I consider my paralysis a gift.
Just as Jesus exchanged the meaning of the Cross
from a symbol of torture to one of hope and salvation,
He gives me the grace to do the same with my chair.
If a cross can become a blessing, so can a wheelchair.
The wheelchair, in a sense, is behind me now.
The despair is over. There are now other crosses to bear,
other "wheelchairs" in my life to be exchanged into gifts."

How like God to hide a miracle that might otherwise been seen as a tragedy. 

Like Joni, we have friends that have recently endured a huge hurdle of their own in the form of infertility.  No amount of planning or medical aid helped.  The years dragged on, and the young couple nearly despaired of ever being parents to their own flesh & blood child.  But ... (and there's ALWAYS a "but" with God), there came a day when they discovered ~ to their utter joy & amazement ~ a child had been conceived.  Come to find out, TWO children had been conceived.  The twins began to grow right along with their thankfulness to God & their dreams for the babies.

Somewhere, in the course of a routine pregnancy visit it was discovered that one child (a girl) was developing normally, the other (a boy) was not.  He had Down Syndrome.

After the initial shock & sorrow subsided, these two began preparing for the gifts God had granted them.  Gifts.  From birth onward, both children have been seen as and treated as normal.  And to anyone who'll listen, they proclaim the unspeakable joy in seeing God's hand in it all. 

How like God to hide a miracle in what might otherwise appear to be heartbreaking.

Last week we had the great pleasure of returning to Arizona for a long overdue visit with family and friends.  At the heart of the visit was the delight of sharing time with two of our favorite people:  Pastor Greg & Lori.  As many of you know, Greg has been battling a neurological disorder known as M.S.A. (Multiple System Atrophy), which behaves much like Parkinson's & Lou Gehrig's combined.  The prognosis isn't desirable, and ultimately it means an abbreviation of Greg's life.

(Greg & Lori ~ 2009)

I cannot count the number of times I heard the word gift from these two in relation to the M.S.A. ravaging Greg's body.  Oh ... make no mistake, they've shed plenty of tears.  And the road they're travelling is hardly easy or one they'd have hand-picked.  They are young (early 40s), and they have four young children (15, 13, 11 & 7).  

With each passing week Greg loses more-and-more functionality - laboring to get out bed, remain on his feet, walk and talk.  He undergoes various treatments, some of which sound a lot like torture to me.  Yet somehow he manages to make his way to his pastoral post most every Saturday night & Sunday to encourage his flock.  He also makes his way to the football field many a night & weekend to coach his little Raiders.  Lori has graciously become his primary caregiver ~ a unique gift she has claimed as her very own.  The quote I've shared above is but one of his (and her) powerful beliefs.

How like God to hide a miracle in what might otherwise be deemed a curse.

What do these three stories (and many like them) have in common?  These dear ones are not victims, but victors.  They've allowed God room to bless them, even in their difficult times.  Their afflictions, though weighty & challenging on the human scale, are light & momentary on the spiritual flipside. 

Their trials are gifts because, as Pastor Greg so powerfully tells us, there is value in the struggle.

These are my heroes.

And sometimes miracles hide.