I have dear friends with a medically fragile child, Jimmy. He is full of light and joy, and 100% boy, but every day is a gift to him in a way that most people will never understand. His digestive system does not work and he is fed by a line that goes directly to his heart. The only medical solution is a full digestive system transplant at some point when he's fully grown. He's five. Jimmy would not be alive except for his parents' determination, every day, not to let him die.
At one of our support group meetings, we were talking with Jimmy's mom about his situation. She shared how she and so many friends pray for his healing every day. She struggled with feeling like God didn't hear her prayers because this saga didn't seem to have an end in sight. Is God really paying attention?
Holly said that Jimmy's condition was like this giant mountain and God just ignored her desperate, mother's prayer to see it picked up and cast into the sea. Did she lack faith? Why didn't God do something?
A New Perspective
In the middle of the conversation, I got a mental image that felt like a word from the Lord. Sometimes the mountain doesn't move all at once. But when you step forward in faith, it takes a step back. It might not look like the mountain is moving, because it's still there. But it's scared of you.
With every step she has taken, that mountain has moved a little bit. When he was an infant, Holly scoured the globe and found the one hospital that knew how to treat his condition. Her son's condition is so rare that there's one doctor in Boston who treats everyone in the world who has it. Like the Good Shepherd, he knows each one of them by name. She found him, even though he was a thousand miles away.
This kind of thing has happened more times than I can count. His parents and family have structured their family life around making sure that he can get the medical care that he needs to stay alive.
More and more people have gotten involved. Since Jimmy's doctor is in Boston, he has to travel there for the many surgeries he's had. His immune system is fragile enough that flying commercially could give him an infection that could kill him. Holly discovered an organization called AeroAngel that connects families with critically ill children to people who own private aircraft and fly the child to get the medical care that they need. Jimmy gets to fly in private jets like a Silicon Valley CEO.
The love that keeps Jimmy alive is like a tornado. Or maybe Holly is like a tornado. A relentless and unstoppable force that sweeps up everything in its path. I have so much respect for the grace with which she bears the cross that God has given her to carry. I don't know that I'd be able to do so.
At another support group meeting, we were talking about being members of the Body of Christ. I posed the question, "What part of the body do you think you are?" Holly's answer floored me. She said that she felt like she was one of Christ's open wounds. The pain of watching her son's suffering seemed neverending. There was no way to conceal this suffering, which never goes away. Besides miraculous healing, it's hard to imagine a solution that doesn't involve even more suffering.
In her response, I hear echoes of St. Paul, who said that he is completing in his own body the sufferings of Christ. The wounds of Christ release His love, His mercy, His life. By bearing this cross, Holly and Michael are sweeping so many people into a saga of relentless love. We'll never know this side of heaven how many lives are being changed by encountering a love that is so self-giving, so relentless, so self-emptying. It is an encounter with God, who lives in them.
Step by Step
So the mountain doesn't move. Much. But the crowd at the base of the mountain grows. The wave of prayer builds. Creation itself holds its breath.
I don't know how this story ends. But I do know the God who gathers a mother's tears and holds them next to His heart. I am praying for the day when the tidal way of prayer finally sweeps that mountain into the sea. Join me.