We are now at D-day minus 8 to the next adventure in the great school of our lives as a family. When our daughter Nell was 4, she was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis, a genetic disease that causes tumors to grow along the nerves of the body. The most interesting cases (may you never be interesting to research doctors) are centered in the brain, where Nell's has always been.
I call our struggle the great school because Jesus Christ has taught us all so much through the terrors and trials and frustrations and miracles of this journey. My standard summary of blessings has been that the lessons are invaluable, but the tuition is very, very high.
Suffering is the great school; there just might be a connection between the spiritual immaturity of the average American Christian and the fact that we spend more on pain relief in one year than what would be necessary to guarantee every man, woman, and child on the earth safe drinking water.
We must pick up our cross if we are to follow Jesus. I have been reflecting as Nell's surgery comes closer on December 23 on the cherished illusions we use to deflect our call to pick up the cross.
Nell should not be, by all medical studies and probabilities, who she is. Almost all NF kids have severe learning disabilities; Nell is #1 in her class. Almost all NF kids are of extremely short stature; Nell broke through 5 feet before she stopped growing. God has miraculously removed 3 threats to her short life, which no doctor could adequately explain.
I grew so confidant of triumph, that I thought we had crossed into the promised land when puberty finally passed, and what had been described as the worst that this disease could throw at us was in the rear view mirror.
This neurosurgeon has brought us back to the reality that there is still a lot to face in front of us. Every suffering that we have weathered was dismissed by a brush of the hand, a sigh, and an exclamation of "Boy, I'm glad that's over!" We now have to face the reality that that exclamation is just another illusion. There's always going to be something else.
The Lord led me to a new understanding of what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 12: Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’
The cross stays with us, to remind us that we are weak-- that Christ is our strength. Three times I have thought that we had left this disease behind us. No matter what happens next Tuesday, Your grace is sufficient, Lord. Let your power be made perfect in our weakness.