Thursday, June 8, 2017

When You Hold a Dying Child

Today I held a dying child in my arms. I wish I could say that is an unusual occurrence, but it is not. In fact, it happens almost every day.

We currently have three such children in our home. The neurologist has told us that two of them, Edy and Analia, have no chance apart from a miracle. There is simply nothing we can do except to love them while we wait for Jesus to take them home. The third child, Yasmin, had a neurology appointment today. We have been told that a shunt might extend her life, but we will find out more after the appointment with the neurosurgeon tomorrow. Regardless, this will extend her life, but not save it.

We have had five children die in our home in the last four years. That is one the challenges of having a home for children with special needs. They often come to us frail and weak, with their lives already slipping away. We fight for them, but sometimes they just cannot be saved.

And these dying children that I hold are not just in our home. On Sunday I sat next to my friend, Rodney, after being called to his bedside early that morning. As soon as I saw him, I knew he was dying, and there was nothing I could do. So, I sat next to him as he took his final breaths in this life and watched him slip away to Jesus.

So today, as I held little Analia in my arms, death was very close on all sides. I am not trying to be morbid, I am just being real. We are surrounded by death, and that can be so very hard to face. But it is also a wonderful reality check that helps us to know what is important. And I need that. We all need that.

We live in a sound chamber of noise as this world tries to scream at us. It tries to convince us of what matters…what is important. And it does a good job of convincing us. The noise frequently drowns out the still small voice that gently leads us to real meaning and importance. It happens to me regularly. And, unless I am mistaken, it happens to you as well.

The news blares about hearings in Washington DC and how our country hangs in the balance. Financial advisors warn us of the importance of our retirement accounts. Commercials tell us how important our insurance coverage is. We are pounded from every side with how important the safety and security of our families really are. Plus, we all really need to have the newest phone and car. And our homes are kind of crowded with all the possessions we own. And the noise continues.

But there is something about holding a dying child that quiets that noise. As I held little Analia in my arms this morning, the noise faded. And I remembered anew how little in this life is really important. Certainly none of the above really matters.

In that moment, I was reminded how insignificant politics is. Because our elected officials do not care about the life and death battle of children in a distance place like Guatemala. The politicians in Guatemala don’t even care. Nothing that happens in DC or Guatemala City will ever really make a difference in the lives of the truly hurt and broken.

I was reminded how insignificant theology is. So much time spent studying, debating and arguing who God is and what He is really like. I find myself chuckling at the idea of finite men with finite minds claiming to understand our infinite God, when in reality they haven’t even scratched the surface of one of His toenails. And in the microscopic examination and word studies, we often miss His heart and passion for the broken world around us. Meanwhile, He invites us to come and know and love Him, not study Him.

I was reminded of how insignificant every possession I own is. I would trade them all if it could save Analia or Yasmin or Edy or Rodney. It is all a pile of rubbish compared to a single life that is created in the image of our God.

I was reminded of how insignificant so much of what we call “the church” is. The buildings and services and programs and budgets…so very often it all just a disguise of faith wrapped around tradition. And so very often it embraces those things while ignoring the priorities of Jesus Himself. We embrace the trappings while ignoring the poor, the widows, the orphans and the broken. We welcome the clean middle class to our carpeted sanctuaries while rejecting the sinners and disenfranchised beyond the door. And that “church” become insignificant, to both God and the world around us.

I was reminded that there is very little in this life that is true and really matters. It could likely all be counted on one hand. But those few things are so very real and true and important. Those few things are worth living and dying for.

So, as I held that dying child, I was also reminded of how good our God is. I felt His grief for our broken world and personal states. I felt His goodness contrasted with the ugliness and brokenness of this world. And I know, more than ever, how very good He is, even in the midst of suffering.

(Last week I received a message from a genuine skeptic. He has lots of doubts, but he is open and willing to address his doubts by seeking answers. He asked me, “Daryl, you are surrounded by suffering and death. Has that affected your belief in the goodness of God?” My answer was simple. “Yes, it has made me even more convinced than ever that God is good and that He is love!”)

I was reminded of the depth of His great love, for both Analia and me. I recognized, even as I was overcome by profound love for her, that His love is far greater. And, in that moment, His great love surrounded us both.

I was reminded how important the true church is in this world. We are the hope of this world to know the Answer. And the true church is still out there as a remnant…and it is growing. And I knew that, as I held her in my arms, the church was holding us both. Because of God’s work through the church, I was holding her in my arms in a safe place. The true church is out there, giving, praying, serving, loving, encouraging and moving forward. And I believe in that true church more every day.

I was reminded of how wonderfully insignificant and significant I really am. This one is a hard one to explain, but I will try. I am insignificant in that my life really doesn’t matter in comparison to the Gospel and God’s heart for the world. I am expendable as God sees fits, and He can take my health, wealth and life in order to accomplish His heart and mission for the world. I don’t really matter. And yet, when I surrender myself to Him and His mission, I matter. In fact, that is the only way that any of us truly can ever know true meaning and significance. And, as I held Analia in my arms, I knew how much both of us matter to Him.

And I was reminded how wonderful and precious life is, no matter how short or long it may be. And, even as I hold dying children on a daily basis, I dare not forget to celebrate and live to the max this life I have been given for as long as I have it to live.

There is so little that is truly important in this world. But the things that are, are really important. And we all need to be reminded of that. So it would probably be good for all of us to occasionally hold and love a dying child.

I invite you to come and do that with us. Hold a dying child and learn to really celebrate and live life. We are just a short flight away.


Daryl, Wanda and the Crew