Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Ethan's Mission

"Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." - Jesus
I met a little girl named Hadley today. She's about a day and half old right now, was born premature, and with some pretty serious health problems. I looked at her in a glass box in a Neonatal ICU. She is beautiful. Really. I'm not just saying it because she's a baby.
She had to make it in the womb of her mom until yesterday to have a fighting chance for survival. She made it...but not without help, and not without great sacrifice.
Hadley had a brother named Ethan growing in that womb right next to her. Early in the pregnancy, Ethan had even more serious health problems than Hadley. Something happened in his little body (I think it had to do with his bladder) that was lethal.
Even though his little body probably couldn't make it, Hadley really needed his brother to keep living, and his heart to continue beating long enough to make it to yesterday, or she probably wouldn't make it either.
I got to sit next to the bed of these two kid's beautiful mom this morning. Her son only lived a short time after the delivery, but long enough for his parents to meet him and hold him and know him.
This awesome family gets to live the rest of their lives knowing that Ethan was no mistake, and really no tragedy. Ethan was sent to accompany Hadley into this world, and to help her make it safely. This was Ethan's mission.
Someone (I can't remember who) told me of the touching scene of mom and dad holding the sweet and beautiful body of their son, and mom whispering to him, "Thank you, son, for bringing us Hadley."
I can picture Ethan's spirit, strong and secure and perfect, standing in that room looking on this powerful scene and the beginning of the beautiful fruit of his short life, and whispering back to his beloved mom with a giddy and satisfied smile on his face, "You're welcome, mom. Thank you and dad for having us."
The nurses wisely took a picture of the twins together. Those pictures are now beloved treasures...a permanent record and tribute to Ethan's mission that he fulfilled totally, completely, and successfully.
How blessed Hadley is to already have had a friend and brother that can express to her no greater love. And to have parents who are ready to receive her who will do the same thing.
I can just see Ethan looking up into the eyes of His Heavenly Father, who with a loving smile is whispering words to him, too: "Well done, good and faithful servant."
May all of us end our lives as faithfully as Ethan.
May God bless this family, and this beautiful and emotional beginning.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I met a guy named Tony this week.
Tony was walking funny, like he was injured. I asked him what was up. He told me that 13 days ago, he gave his kidney to his dad, who was in need of a transplant.
I perked up instantly, and heard myself say to him, "You did? No way! That is cool!" I wasn't sure that this was appropriate, but I said it before I thought about it (a semi-common mistake of mine).
Tony put his head down with a satisfying smile, thankfully, and then looked up and said, " was cool."
I asked him all about it, and he graciously gave me the details. His look told me he was wondering why I was so on the edge of my seat about his special gift to his dad. Maybe you are, too.
Well, about 2 1/2 years ago (right, dad?), my dad found out he was in need of kidney transplant. He went onto dialysis, and onto a waiting list.
It hit me hard when I thought of all the unknowns about donating a kidney. But when my dad told me, I said (somewhat reluctantly, and full of fear of the unknown, but wanting to do the right thing), "Dad, I'll give you kidney." And then I waited for his response...
I didn't wait long. As if he had prepared his answer for such an offer from any of his sons, he said, "Nope. I'll be fine on dialysis." And then in his usual, unstoppable optimism (a trait that I am so grateful to have inherited from him in double portion), he added, "All the signs say that I'm a great candidate for a transplant before too long. I'll be just fine."
He then added, "You may need your second one later."
At the time I didn't argue with dad. My fear of the implications of the voluntary surgery right then in the heat of the moment prevented me from being stubborn about it. Even though I think I told my dad 'thank you', I don't think I ever told anyone how very relieved I was with his response.
In a talk I did on the very next Father's Day, I replayed this story to my church family, saying, "It was out of deep love for my dad that I offered him my kidney, and it was out of my dad's deep love for me that he refused it."
But something triggered in me when I met Tony. I imagined the same interaction between him and his dad, but 13 days ago, they had a very different outcome play out. I can imagine Tony getting up and saying at his church, "It was out of deep love for my dad that I offered him my kidney, and it was out of my dad's deep love for me that he accepted it." I don't think that Tony's dad loved his son any more or less by receiving the offer. And I don't think my dad loves me any more or less by refusing mine.
(SIDE NOTE: I am grateful for whoever donated their kidney to my dad. I guess in a weird sort of way, that person donated the kidney to me. Because I wouldn't have two of them if it wasn't for them.)
Okay, so if it is true that it is the thought that counts, then I gave my dad a kidney. But Tony has a scar on his side that I don't have, and is doing healing from his gift that I didn't do. Not that I needed any more evidence, but this showed me once again that I don't think it is the thought alone that counts.
I wonder if, when I told Tony that my dad refused mine, if something triggered in him?
I wonder if my dad had any feelings of unworthiness at receiving such a gift from me? I wonder if Tony had any feelings of wonder at why his dad wouldn't refuse his? Neither of us even thought to talk about this stuff as we were celebrating the unity we had at the opportunity of giving such a special and sacrificial gift to our fathers, who we love. In the end, we both got to love our dad's with the same offer, and we both received love from our dad's in different ways.
In an episode of the current hit TV show, LOST, one of the dudes had a flashback to an interaction with his long-lost dad, who faked deep love for his long lost son who he tracked down because he was in need of a kidney. He emotionally manipulated his son into the operating room, disappeared from the hospital as soon as it was over, and again removed himself from his son's life. It was desperately painful to watch such pain inflicted on a son by a Father, especially in the under the guise of love.
I guess Tony just made me long for the blessing of actually loving my dad through actual sacrifice of myself. And it was neat to see someone who did it for his dad.
I praise God for the opportunity Tony and I had to offer ourselves to our dad's, who love us deeply right back.
Not that I'm hoping for it, but next time, dad, I might argue with you a little bit.
I love you and thank you for yours.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

How Jesus Transforms...How I Join Him

Disciple: I am such an incompetent weakling. Why would you invest in me when I promise to be so difficult, so resistant, so ungrateful, and so quick to turn against you?
Master: Because I believe in you. Your difficulties, resistances, ingratitude, and momentary betrayals have nothing to do with me. They have to do with you not seeing what God sees in you. But I have eyes that can see nothing else.
Disciple: How will you get me past my limiting beliefs? My wounds? My fears? My defensiveness? I have seen how horribly these things control me.
Master: I will stay with you through it all. Until you can see what I see.
Disciple: What if I say no? What if I refuse you outright? What if my fear and pride make me choose the life of pretending and call it freedom?
Master: I will stay with you through it all. Until you can see what I see.
Disciple: What if I spitefully rebel against you to get you to leave me alone? What if I rally others and convince them that your "ways" are not good and I get a whole army of people to agree with me?
Master: I will stay with you through it all. Until you can see what I see.
Disciple: What if I attack you outright? What if I kill you for wanting to change me? And what if I get many others to agree to help me?
Master: I will die willingly at your hand. It is not in me to fight you, or hurt you, or defend myself against you. And my submission to death by your own hand will be the ultimate proof to you that I will stay with you through it all. Until you can see what I see.
Disciple: But you will be gone. What if, instead of being inspired by your humble submission to an inferior, I pridefully think that I was right? You will be gone. What will you do then.
Master: I will rise from the dead. And I will stay with you through it all. Until you can see what I see.
Disciple: Teacher, you are much to high of a creature to do such things for a lowly man such as me! Why would you do such a horrible and wonderful thing?
Master: Because I am Truth and I am Love. I am incapable of doing any other thing.
Disciple: Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man! I can not bear the thought of walking through this fire that will come if I stay with you! It is too much for me!
Master: It is too much for you, but it is not too much for me. I will stay with you through it all. I will bear it all. Until you can see what I see. Walk into the fire that you work so hard to avoid. It is a consuming fire, able to burn away all your sins. It is a refining fire, able to shape you into my own image. It is a painful fire, to be sure, but it is good. And soon, my disciple, you will lead others into this same fire, those I will send you to.
Disciple: And what am I to do then?
Master: You are to do then to them, what I am doing now to you. You are to give up everything and be my disciple. You are to be Truth and Love. You are to be incapable of doing any other thing. My promise to you is that it will be life, and it will be life to the full.
Disciple: This is a hard thing to believe, Teacher. And you believe this to be true for everyone?
Master: Do you want to leave?
Disciple: Where would I go? You have the words of eternal life. My heart stirs when you speak. My mind races when you talk. My soul swells at the sound of your voice. My strength returns only when I listen to you. Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.