My son, Ziggy, had six brain surgeries before he was 3 years old.
He and his twin sister, Quinny, were born six years ago this month. They arrived early — delivered at only 27 weeks — and had a rough go at it in the beginning. Ziggy was especially sick, his most brooding condition being hydrocephalus.
Back then I wrote with conviction about an idea growing inside of me. If we grow and change most in our struggles, then why don’t we openly embrace the struggles that bring about that growth? Even hydrocephalus. It’s a cheap idea, really, unless tested in fire. But I felt I had reason enough to proclaim it true. (So I did.)
Here we are years later. My little man will be 6. He’s in kindergarten and hasn’t been under the knife in three-and-a-half years (praise God). Most of our days involve learning sight words and how best to avoid constant turmoil with one’s twin sister. We watch American Ninja Warrior and play drums at night. We make pancakes and wrestle the dog in the morning. In short, life is not on the edge as when he and his sister spent 100 days in the NICU or when we were told that “walking, talking, and going to school” could be in jeopardy for little Zigs.
Zigs still has a shunt in his head. It still saves his life a little at a time, carrying drops of cerebrospinal fluid to his abdomen when the pressure sufficiently builds. It can fail at any time. Or he could fall and smack his head and crack the tubing behind his ear. He still has hydrocephalus. It’s still there. So is evidence of the rest of his trauma — I recently saw an MRI scan of the dead spot left by a massive stroke he endured at only a month old.
The urgency of a hospital visit serves as an obvious impetus toward faith, but back at home on any old Tuesday, it’s not as easy to trust that God is using Zigs’ scarred little brain to build my own story of salvation. In my experience, faith is born in the big moments, but nurtured in the everyday. I’m not enlightened enough to live with constant awareness of the truest reality — of God’s presence. So I rely on faith in those wild times. It’s the reason the brain surgeries don’t bury me, but oddly, the rest of life seems heavier. I want to live in faith with the awareness of Paul, but I have to continually ask myself: am I living His life — the great life, the big, bright, seismic, center-of-everything life?
Gosh, I hope so. Life is so much more rad when we believe in purpose — that it’s the spark of divinity that ultimately motivates us. Let it not be fear or sex or drink or apathy. It too often is. I want to believe my life is a movie worth watching in a theater or a book for which crying in bed is to be expected. In the quiet times between life’s swells, I still want to be full of the Spirit. Passionate.
But the quiet times can have some awfully loud little voices. They tell me I’m not much good. They’re forged in . insecurities and grow into prejudices. The voice of truth, though, is molded in hope, strengthened in love. It gives rise to faith, which is the only thing ever really required of any of us.
Zigs is strong. Smart. But he’ll undoubtedly suffer through more surgeries. His life, our lives, will be interrupted. I still believe God is in it, though, because God is always right here, right now. God is in my days, where almost all of life happens — in between the big moments, in the lull of living without brain surgeries. That’s when faith is most important, especially if we are to be prepared for the challenges and joys that lie ahead.
I’m quick to tell the story of my toughest times through the lens of faith, but I’m learning that the lens is much clearer when put to use daily. In fact, it’s not really meant to be just a lens. Every day, I have to choose to believe that God is making something out my experiences. Even the meaningless ones. Especially the meaningless ones.
I’ve read that the entire Old Testament can be summed up in one question posed by God and directed at all His people: “Do you trust me?” The answer was always the same. When crises hit, we desperately wanted to trust God, but we didn’t know how. As for all the times in between, we found it too taxing to trust. We were never quite there.
The New Deal involves God entering our lives in the most intimate fashion — as one of us — so that the question doesn’t have to be posed. The New Covenant isn’t a question at all. It’s an answer. One found in the living itself. And so that’s where I’m trying to keep my focus, in the living, no matter how little it may appear.
The big times are sure to circle back.