Friday, April 10, 2009

John David - a Good Friday lesson

I met an extraordinary young man yesterday. His name is John David.

John David suffers from brain damage, apparently a result of having been born ten weeks prematurely. He has had both brain surgery and heart surgery. He wears a complicated hearing aid system to combat his near-deafness.

John David is one of the most articulate people I have met. His father, a nuclear physicist, is one of the smartest people I have ever known - John David's IQ outstrips his father's by 20 points.

Within seconds of meeting me, John David engaged me in a complicated conversation. He reads on the level of a college freshman.

John David just turned eight years old.

John David proudly explained to me that he is getting ready for adenoid and tonsil surgery, which will be (I think) his seventh operation, and proclaimed that he is a "surgery veteran" and is ready for the next one.

What struck me most about meeting this remarkable little boy is how God blesses in unpredictable packages. I know that John David's life has been an incredible challenge to his family - financially, emotionally, stamina-wise, and spiritually. I know there were weeks ... months ... years that had to be filled with questions - to be fair, his parents have expressed none of that to me, so maybe I am projecting. Maybe they dealt with the situation with proper aplomb from Day One. Let me rephrase to say that I think that I would deal with such a situation with questions, and I am sure with a little anger. But since I have not walked in those shoes, it is dangerous for me to project.

But past whatever questions they had, beyond the emotions and the stress and the surgeries and the uncertainties, there is John David. He is incredible. He is smart and articulate and happy. I am confident he will make amazing contributions to this world. Oh, he still has surgeries and therapy ahead. He still faces the stigmas attached to being "different", and he will have to learn how to grow up in a world with kids who do not understand his challenges.

I am going to make a leap now. It is an unfair comparison for John David, and please don't try to read too much into it.

Today is Good Friday. The singular worst event of human history has been christened "Good" by historians, because the most incredible blessing of all time arose out of that terrible event. If ever there was an unexpected package, this was it. The sky grew dark for three hours. At three o'clock, Jesus cried out in a loud voice (quoting the twenty-second Psalm), "Eloi Eloi, lama sabachtani?", which means, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" The rocks split and the temple curtain was torn in two. The Son of God literally died at the hands of those whom He had come to save.

It gets no worse than that.

And yet, of course, Easter Sunday is coming, and the grandest victory imagineable awaits.

John David is not perfect... he is not Jesus, and what he has gone through is not a crucifixion. I understand that I am using hyperbole.

But I think that his parents must have had a Psalm 22 moment once or twice, a time of wondering (whether aloud or quietly), whether God's face was turned away. John David could have refused to do the hard work it has taken to learn to walk and to face yet another test in another hospital room. Still, I think, as they have gone through yet another surgery and another therapy, they have had Easter moments as they see how God is bringing them through to see a life that must have been unimagineable.

Resurrection is the ultimate blessing from the most unexpected package.

I am glad to know John David. He reminds me that God is at work through the darkness.

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