When the surgeon found us in the waiting room and informed us that they could only find an aneurysm, our hearts flew. We were elated to have this peace we had been praying for. It was too good to be true. It’s amazing to me that God made our bodies to experience pain for our good.
Joel’s knee had been hurting for a while, and after a visit to the pediatrician, a orthopedist, and finally an orthopedic surgeon, surgery became the immediate plan of action. Mere days from the consult with the surgeon, we were in a prep room with our brave son who showed us confidence in Christ as he bolstered his heart and trusted his Mom and Dad and the helpful medical staff at the hospital. Before the surgery, the sense was that this mysterious mass needed to come out, and in the process, make sure it isn’t cancerous. The understanding was that if they opened his leg and found that it was cancerous, they would close the location and we would then work with an oncologist to figure out next steps. Because of this, the operation had been going on for over an hour, I started to rest a bit easier, as a longer surgery likely meant they were removing the mass completely and our post-op prognosis would be better.
After two and a half hours in the O.R., we finally got to see our son after talking to the surgeon. Our hearts were light and free as we giggled watching our son coming out from under the general anesthetic. Awake, asleep, awake, asleep, blubbering nonsense for a moment and back asleep again. We lovingly helped him take spoonfuls of water and eventually helped him hold his hand steady as he ate a grape popsicle. Watching him eat that thing made me long for one myself, though I wasn’t interested in going through the necessary hoops and expenses that would warrant my getting one in a post-op ward. I’ve had enough surgeries myself for a very long time.
We went home content and glad knowing that in a couple of weeks Joel would be back to his old self running around and playing with our neighbors the way he longs to do so much. One of the things that the surgeon told us was that Joel’s situation was unique and that he hadn’t seen anything like it before.
Standing strong in the face of evil. Protecting the innocent. Helping the helpless. These are the ways a father desires to see his son stand out in a crowd. Not on this list things like hardened criminal, neighborhood bully, and interesting case for a surgeon. I let his “interesting case” status roll off quickly and figured I’d let that little mystery lie in a folder packed away in the back of a filing cabinet in a sub-basement to be forgotten, but today that changed.
Usually we think of the phrase “too good to be true” in association with things that are actually real. The Seahawks’ win against the Vikings in the playoffs last week, for example. A kicker missing the same kick once that he had made perfectly so many times all season long. For the Seahawks, it was too good to be true. But it was indeed true. I watched it happen. I froze with thousands of Vikings fans cheering on the Seahawks, watching them drink Miller Lite slushes and frozen Coca Colas. Too good to be true, but there it was, as plain as the missed field goal, Joel was going to be fine after a little recovery.
Today the surgeon called at about 10:30 am to let us know what had become of the biopsy on the material that was pulled from Joel’s leg. He used words like “odd”, and “bizarre” to describe it, and he is right. But odd and bizarre aren’t the first words that come to mind when I hear the word “cancer”.
When I hear that word, I cower in fear. I duck my head and my eyes begin to well up with tears. Why am I afraid? Because I know exactly how much power I have over cancer. I fear because of my weakness. Why did God make us so weak. The tiniest cells can stop our lives in a moment. Viruses spread like wildfire across populations causing havoc and misery. We learn how to combat them through science and research, but we’re powerless to rid the world of them. Even diseases that we thought we had eradicated decades ago are raising their ugly heads again all over the world. God designed us in this way and if I believe his word, then I have to recognize that is is a good design. We could get into the truly amazing stuff like our immune system and how God made white blood cells to work, but the point is in reality, we are weak people, and this wasn’t by mistake.
The apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that there is a good reason or all of this. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2Corinthians 12:9 ESV) What this means is that he designed me weak. It’s not a bug or design flaw, its a feature! It’s purpose is to highlight God’s perfect sufficient power and grace. He made us to need him, and without him, we are incomplete, so how do I then embrace this feature? Falling prostrate sure feels like the right position to be in right now. A 10 year old with synovial sarcoma is my current reason to go to the Lord. What we thought was true a few days ago, actually was too good to be true and reality is more difficult than we imagined. The hope we hold on to, though, is the knowledge that God tells us not to fear, but look to him. So we do. We look to God who sent his son to die for us, taking our place, standing in the way of the wrath that we deserve. This reality seems too good to be true, but is the one truth we hang on to. Our goal through this trial is to keep pointing to Jesus Christ, who is the truth, so that everyone who sees will testify, there is a God in Heaven, and he loves us with a love that is eternally true.