A few days ago I got a call from a friend asking me to join her for a few hours one day as a volunteer in a local school for developmentally disabled children and adults. The plan was to provide a spa day for the girls and young women there. There would be multiple stations where the girls could move from one to the other for manicures, hand and foot massages, etc. While we worked with each of the girls it would be a great opportunity to chat with each one, get to know them, and to just generally love on them and make them feel special.
As it happened I was available on the day in question and was happy to participate. I looked forward to the experience of going to a school that I had never visited before, though I had heard of the work there many times. I will confess that sometimes, as I anticipate volunteering, my mind will begin to convince me of what a noble work it is that I am doing. And before long, rather than seeking to serve and bless others, my mindset becomes one of piously helping those who are less fortunate than me.
During my time there at the school, I had a few minutes to chat with one of the young ladies. I believe she told me her name was Carol. She was quick to tell me that she would have a birthday next month, and when I asked she told me she would be thirty-three. She then went on to explain to me that she had been born three months early and that she was so small that she was able to fit in the palm of a person’s hand. I couldn’t resist asking her which hospital she was born in and she told me Ochsner.
Now these details may not seem important to you, but my oldest daughter will also be having a birthday, at the end of this month, and she will also be thirty-three years old. And, like Carol, my oldest daughter was born at Ochsner, more than three months premature, and fit in the palm of her father’s hand. In fact, Carol and Christy were born just eleven days apart and would have both been in the neonatal intensive care unit together.
Can you just imagine how God put this meeting together? In the middle of my sanctimonious piety about volunteering, God allowed me the sweetest of blessings – meeting Carol. He reminded me of His goodness and of how great my Christy’s journey has been. He reminded me that the night before Christy was born the doctors gave her just a 20% chance of survival. They then told us that if she did survive she would live her life in an institution, deaf and blind, never able to communicate with us or do the things that other children did. As I met and talked to Carol I couldn’t help but note that amidst her sweet disposition and friendly manner, she lived with great physical and developmental challenges every day of her life; while my daughter defied the odds to earn multiple college degrees, pursue her profession and live independently as a wife and mother.
My first inward response was, of course, one of thankfulness and amazement that I had the opportunity to meet this remarkable young woman. But as I drove home later in the day, there was another realization that hit me. If you know me or have followed this blog, you know that over the last four years I have wondered why we did not have a different outcome during Michael’s illness. Why could he not recover and thrive after his transplant like so many others? Why did he even receive a transplant if his life would only be lengthened by a few weeks?
Today, I began to remember that I have been on the other side of that coin. I have been the one who received the most positive outcome from a difficult situation, while others did not. I have been the one to walk out and leave the hard days behind me, while others dealt with difficult challenges day after day, year after year. And in that situation, never once did I ask God, “Why?” Never once did I think about all the others who dealt with the disappointment of broken dreams and the heartache of “if only”. And here God led me to another layer of gratitude – the gratitude that no matter where I am, and no matter what the outer circumstances look like in my life, my God is always there with me, growing me into His likeness. I may not see His hand at the time and I don’t expect to ever understand His ways, but I know that, whether I get the result I seek or not, my God will cause all things to work together for my good so that I may become conformed to the image of His Son.
God, may I not look to the visible and temporal results on this earth, but may I trust You to use whatever means necessary to make me more like Christlike.
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18