In case you missed the news I’ve attempted to broadcast to the entire world to ask for prayer, my eight-year-old son has had a very big week. It started last Sunday (September 1st) with a severe, sudden onset headache at the pool and progressed to the diagnosis of an aneurysm inside an arterioventricular malformation that has been in his precious little brain for who knows how long. The story has continued with the insertion of drains to get the excess blood out of his brain, the constant measuring of intracranial pressure, and every other thing that can be measured about the human body from sodium to potassium to pulse, blood pressure, oxygenation, urine output… I’m not close to the entirety of the list yet.
At present our beautiful Blake is stable, and being kept in a medically-induced coma and soon we’ll be beginning the process of reducing those meds to wake him up. At which point he will still need some type of surgery/therapy to deal with the AVM that got this party started.
So friends, you’re used to hearing from me on Wednesdays. And here is the one thing I have thought of over and over this week that I think I need to tell you today.
God is very kind in helping me understand things in simple ways. And this is one of those moments where a simple analogy has spoken volumes to me.
I’ve been thinking about ketchup packets. The kind they toss in your bag at the drive thru. Mustard packets. Mayonnaise packets. The ones I like that have salad dressing. The hot sauce ones.
All those packets have something in common: what has been put into them is what will come out when they are squeezed.
If you accidentally step on a ketchup packet as you cross a parking lot, you can be sure you will not see mustard on the bottom of your shoe. Unless something strange happened at the factory, I suppose. Every analogy has its limits.
But friend, your soul and mine are a lot like those sauce packets. What we are putting in is what is going to come out when we are squeezed.
And this week? I have been squeezed. The hubs has been squeezed. We have been squeezed in a way we didn’t know we could be squeezed. Our hearts have been squeezed so tight we felt sure they were close to bursting.
But what is coming out? Well, I think what is coming out is what we’ve been putting in.
First, hundreds of people have been praying for us. And I think that has helped fill our packets with strength and hope and a sense of peace that surpasses understanding this storm.
We’ve also cultivated a life where we try to look for goodness and give thanks for it. We look on the bright side and do our best to find it.
We’ve cultivated our hearts to try to see the good in things and people and to try to see life from someone else’s shoes.
We’ve learned to look for the handprint of God in things that other folks might call “coincidence.”
We’ve also tried to put God’s Word into these hearts of ours. And we’ve tried to listen to God’s voice, to learn how He speaks to each of us, the ways that we learn to hear Him that aren’t like chatting with a friend across a table at a coffee shop, but are just as real and meaningful.
So we are being squeezed and what’s coming out is the fruit of the Spirit others have been praying for for us, and it’s what we’ve been trying to cultivate by living in and through and to the Lord. We are being squeezed and finding a deep reserve of a patience we didn’t know was there. We are finding joy in the midst of the most profound hardship we’ve ever faced. We are finding gentleness to handle each other, our children, our caregivers, our extended family and friends — at a time when your heart is so sensitive a word spoken with the wrong inflection could cause offense — we are finding gentleness somewhere in those deep wells, available to extend to those around us.
We are being squeezed. We are pressed but not crushed. We feel persecuted, but we do not feel abandoned. We feel struck down with shock and fear and pain — but we have not been destroyed by these things.
Second Corinthians talks about it this way:
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.
This is not because we have goodness of our own to offer. We do not have patience in our nature. These things are the fruit of living hard into faith, and leaning on the Spirit, in Whom we can find everything we need. It is the power of Christ at work in us — and I can only point to Him, and to us clinging to Him in all the hard places we’ve faced before this one.
He is the peace. He is the hope. He is where we’ve placed our faith. Not in the miracle we’re believing for itself — but in the goodness of an unfailing God with unstoppable love.
Are we scared? Terrified.
Are we hurting? Yes. In ways we didn’t know we could hurt.
But I’m so grateful somewhere in the midst of the conglomeration of things inside the ketchup packets of our souls, we made room for a faith that does not run screaming when life gets hard.
We don’t know the outcome of this journey but we believe in a good God, and we trust in Him.
Give some thought this week to what you’re putting in your ketchup packet. In ten minutes, life can change from completely normal to a squeeze you never saw coming. I pray you’ll put your hope in the Lord. We believe He is at work — calming this storm in our lives. And He is the reason we are able to walk on the water of this trial, through this storm, keeping our eyes above the waves.
We’re looking at Jesus.
P.S. You can see updates on Facebook here to know how to be praying for Blake and our family in the days ahead. We’d be so grateful if you’d take the time to pray, and Raise a Hallelujah for Blake by singing this song right here. And some amazing friends of mine wanted to do something to encourage this Hallelujah chorus and made t-shirts right here. We’ve been overwhelmed with the prayer and the tangible support of our friends and family through this storm. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
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