I used to think Abraham was really crazy. I would read the story of Abraham and Isaac and think, “What a crazy guy! Who would do that?”
I was totally missing the point.
My 12 year-old son was recently diagnosed with a heart problem. The doctor said that a heart procedure would be required as soon as possible because if the problem was not addressed, he could die from it at any moment of his life. He explained that the problem with my son’s heart was related to a developmental process that should have happened in utero but didn’t.
On the day of the surgery, the surgical team strapped him to the operating table. They strapped every part of him down: his legs, his torso, his chest, his arms, his hands. He was completely bound to this long, thin table.
I couldn’t help but think of Abraham tying his only, beloved son to the altar of sacrifice. As I looked at my own beloved son, bound to the operating table, I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t have the faith of Abraham.
At that moment, with the clarity of a “Eureka!” moment, I finally understood the story of Abraham and Isaac. I understood why the figure of Abraham is connected with deep, grace-filled faith.
As we walked out of the operating room, leaving our son in the hands of the doctor and his team, I also realized that there was no option but to trust God. I had nurtured and protected my son for twelve-years and now I had absolutely no control over the situation. At this point, everything was completely up to God.
I thought about the fact that the heart problem stemmed from a problem in utero. This brought to mind the Psalm of David:
You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be (Psalm 139).
As the surgery dragged on, twice as long as was anticipated, I thought about these words while the fear welled up in my throat. I meditated on the fact that I didn’t know what the outcome of the surgery would be. In fact, it came to mind, that I really don’t know the outcome of anything at all. In the end, I really am not in control of anything. In the beginning, in the end, and every moment in the middle, I do not know what the outcome of anything will be. I must do my part, but the rest is up to God.
And as I reflected on this, I found great comfort in this psalm. God knew what was going on when my son was in utero. He knew about this heart condition before anyone did. I reflected on the passage, “Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be.” God knows how many days my son, and each of us, will have.
That is comforting. It is comforting because it means that we don’t need to control everything. We can completely melt down and He is still “on top of the situation.” We can surrender to God because He has us – all the time – from before we are born, He has us. He’s got us covered.
I silently prayed, “Lord, I don’t know what will happen. But I love you. I praise you. I glorify you. I adore you. I trust you.”
And then, the nurse came out and said that my son was ok. The doctor followed. He said that although the surgery took twice as long as he had expected it would, that he believed he had found the spot and addressed the problem and that it should not be a problem going forward.
If the problem had not been addressed, my son could have died any day at any moment from this condition. If this specific doctor, who specialized in my son’s specific heart problem, had not been in the emergency room at the time that he came in, this problem would not have been detected. Moreover, this heart problem could only be detected on EKG during the rare intermittent episodes when the heart was beating in the irregular way. It happened that it was caught on the EKG while my son was in the ER. Some children who have this condition undetected, require heart transplants. My sons condition was detected and addressed before any of this occurred.
You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know.
My thoughts were of Gratitude. Gratitude tested by fire.
A couple of days ago, Jesuit Fr. James Martin wrote, “False religion says that if you believe in God, nothing bad will ever happen, so don’t worry. Real religion says that even if you believe in God, something bad might happen, but there’s no need to worry. In fearful times we tend to forget that God is right there with us, no matter what happens—through our friends, our families, even our doctors—and that God gives us all sorts of resources to deal with our problems and move through them, and if we’re lucky, past them. The key is remembering all this when the fear starts and focusing on the trust instead.”
We all have hardships. Things arise that shock us and scare us and that we can’t plan for – this is life, but every moment is ripe with invitation to trust God more.
Every moment of our lives, every heartbeat, every breath – is a gift. Only God knows how many breaths and how many heartbeats we will have in our lifetime. And, he knows them down to the specific count.
Truly, every moment is an opportunity to surrender to the Love that keeps our hearts beating.
“I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!”
Because He Lives ( Amen ) – Matt Maher