Today, I got to spend most of my morning with some dear friends, whose premature baby boy Marcello underwent his second surgery in less than two weeks. Marcello (born at 23 weeks, 2 days and weighing only 1 lb. 6 oz.) and his little brother Manuel (birth weight 1 lb. 3 oz.) have already become an inspiration to many. These little boys are a great blessing and are among the best teachers of the faith I have ever had. Watching them, being with them, praying with their parents and walking with them through this time has been challenging in many ways. But my pastoral experience has taught me that our greatest challenges often become our greatest blessings—both in this life and the next.
<If you would like to follow their story, you can read their blog by clicking here. I can’t do justice in writing about their situation, but Mom and Dad have done a great job in relating much of what they have been through. If you check out their blog, I recommend reading from the bottom to the top, so that you can read their lives’ story as it has transpired.>
I will not even try to recap what all these beloved sons of God have been through, but I would like to share with you some of the thoughts that were going through my mind as Marcello had his surgery. While the surgeons worked, we prayed and read through this ancient passage:
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:22-26, ESV)
The first verse was particularly fitting to our situation because it is a reminder that every day we wake, we awake with the assurance that the Lord’s love never ceases. His mercies are new every morning. The redeemed get to go through this life never knowing what each day has in store for them, but confident that the Lord’s mercy will bring us through each day.
Marcello and Manuel’s complex condition doesn’t allow the luxury of long-term planning. They weren’t expected to survive delivery. Nor were they supposed to make it through their first weekend. Even now, new challenges arise each day that threaten their survival. They are holding their own and we are optimistic for their future, but we aren’t out of the woods yet.
Their extreme prematurity has brought those around them a new thankfulness and spirit that is keenly aware that every day is a gift to be cherished. When was the last time you thanked God for today? I’m afraid that often when everything in my life seems to be going well, I am unfortunately to preoccupied to thank God for each day. They’ve humbled me.
Being with the boys, seeing their tubes and watching their monitors makes one uncomfortably aware of their weakness. Gazing upon the fragility of their existence and being powerless to change their condition also brings to my mind my own weakness. Even as adults, were it not for the faithfulness of the Lord, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy any day. But because of the love of God, He gives us every day. It is easy for us to thank Jesus for eternal life, but what would happen if God’s people lived each day of this life cognisant that Christ’s death on the cross makes every day of this life possible? I think our lives may be turned upside-down and the whole world turned upside-down, which is exactly what happened in the moment of Christ’s greatest “weakness.”
What appeared to be Jesus’ greatest moment of weakness proved to be the moment of His greatest strength. Because of His ultimate “weakness,” we have solace in our times of great weakness. Our weaknesses bring us back to the cross, the place where God has died that we may live. The resurrection teaches that His mercies have no end because His life, power and very existence have no end.
Experiencing weakness with the promise of God’s grace teaches us that there is great value in weakness. We are also shown that God gives His people more than strength when they are weak. We are given a deeper awareness of God’s greatest gift when we are weak.
“’The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,
‘therefore I will hope in him.’” (Lamentations 3:24, ESV)
There is deep meaning in the statement, “The Lord is my portion.” The gifts we receive from God take on new meaning during the Christmas season because in Jesus, God gives us more than strength, more than eternal life, more than the forgiveness of sins, more than hope, joy and peace. In Jesus, God gives us Himself.
God is ours because He gives Himself to us. It doesn’t make sense that we, the creatures, have been given the right to claim our Creator as our portion or “inheritance.” We can call God our God because He has first called us His people. God can give us nothing more than Himself. Because He has given Himself to us, He withholds no good thing from us.
These boys have received the love and mercy of God because He has created them for this purpose. He is theirs and they are His. Only a person with faith in Jesus Christ, who has themselves been weak, can understand what peace comes with the knowledge of God’s love.
God’s peace gives us patience to wait on the Lord. We are always waiting on the Lord, but sitting in the NICU with a couple of the tiniest (and cutest, I might add) little babies you ever did see gives one a new kind of patience. It gives one patience to accept God’s plan for these little boys because He knows best and has already met every need they will ever have. It gives one patience because we know that God will not fail these little boys because He can’t fail these little boys. It gives one patience to wait and see what the Lord has in store. What a way to live!
Please continue to pray with me by thanking the Lord for Marcello and Manuel and asking that He continues to care for them as only He can, using their family, doctors, nurses, and His holy angels to show them His love every day!