I was sitting by our Christmas tree this morning, knowing this is the last time I’ll be enjoying its soft beauty this year. And it hit me. Everything I do today will be the last time I do “that” this year, because tomorrow is a whole new year! My brain, fuzzy from another long seizure night with Aaron and waiting for my first cup of coffee to kick in, tried to wrap itself around that fact. 2017 is almost here!
I’m not really as excited as that exclamation point may indicate. I mean, a new year is always pretty cool to think about. But life has a way of pulling us back to reality, especially as we get older, and for me my vision is narrowed to what I have on my plate right now. I know I need goals, but on days like today, today is about all I can handle.
Up four times with Aaron and once with the dog last night made my reality at that moment very narrow. It was the tree and the lights…..my coffee…..and the baby monitor beside me as I listened to Aaron after he returned to bed, my ears jumping into alert mode at each change in his breathing.
And one more thing……a word. The word “grace.” Sometimes that word may be overused, if that’s possible, and for me may lose its full meaning. But this morning that word kept going through my tired mind.
Two meanings of this word popped up on my handy phone dictionary app. They are:
1) The freely given, unmerited favor and love of God.
2) The influence or Spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.
Perhaps my favorite grace passage in the Bible is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. I was drawn to that this morning, and though I know it pretty well by heart, I made myself actually walk upstairs to get my Bible. Really, walking up the stairs took some effort this morning. I felt like I should copy Aaron, who earlier went up the stairs monkey fashion on all fours, as he often does.
Anyway, Bible in hand, I sat down and opened to these familiar verses. Paul had been given his “thorn in the flesh,” whatever that was…..and three times he implored God to take it away. Implored…..past tense. It seems that Paul was done with asking God to remove it, and was now able to say in the next verse that God “has said,” meaning that there was an ongoing result of God continuing to say these truths to Paul:
“And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
One thing I had written beside these verses in my Bible, my memorial stone, was simply: “Feb. ’92, Aaron.” That was the terrifying day in Germany, 25 years ago, when Aaron had his first big seizure. I’ll never forget that Sunday afternoon in our kitchen in military housing…..the terror of him falling backward into my arms…..blood coming from his mouth as he seized and I screamed for Gary……the frantic phone call……the ambulance……the German children’s hospital…..language barriers with doctors…..so much to absorb and to understand and to fear.
But God was there with us bringing His unmistakable peace and calm, due only to His grace. It had nothing to do with Gary and me being strong, or having a certain personality, or any of that “me” stuff. I was a momma wreck! It was totally God pouring out His strength…..His grace…..onto and into me.
So here I was this morning, 25 years later……TWENTY FIVE!!!!…….and God pulled me back to these memorial verses. Nothing has changed. Aaron had four hard seizures last night. God has not taken away this thorn, this reality, this sadness in Aaron’s life and in ours. But he has, over and over and over again, shown us His grace….His love……His favor…..His strength…..in the middle of our pain and our struggles.
So am I, like Paul, “well content” with this weakness that God has given our Aaron and us? That phrase means “to take pleasure in.” Well, no. I can’t honestly say that I take pleasure in Aaron’s seizures or in his autism. But I must look beyond all that list of things Paul mentions “taking pleasure in,” and look at those words, “for Christ’s sake.”
For my whole life, really, is to point to Christ. That’s what following Him is all about, after all. And if I could handle it all myself, I wouldn’t need Him. But I DO need Him!! And therefore, what Paul said is so true. “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
Strong because God makes me that way, and He makes me that way only because of His grace. Back to that word again…..grace……the outpouring of His favor and strength upon me.
So I just found my resolve for this new year. It’s to come back to the realization that I can’t change a thing, but I don’t need to change a thing. Recognizing my sorrow and my pain isn’t meant to point to me and to make me the focus. It’s to point to Christ and to talk about His grace through it all.
“So that the power of Christ may dwell in me,” Paul said. That word “dwell” means “to pitch a tent.” Christ’s power is here for the long term, for me, as I rely on Him and trust Him in the hard times and thank Him through all of it.
His grace is here for all of us who follow Him. What a priceless gift! So I close with the words of this old song written by Don Moen, perfect for this new year ahead.
He Giveth More Grace
He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
His grace is such a gift! And so is our Aaron.