It was a normal Thursday afternoon when I went to pick up our son Luke from the School for Little Children at the church we were serving. Normal was going to end abruptly. Our nine-month-old, though he seemed fine, was breathing heavy and just seemed a little off. I decided to take him by my wife’s work and let her motherly instincts inspect the situation. Lauren quickly suggested we go see the pediatrician. Our pediatrician promptly suggested we make our way to Texas Children’s Hospital just to be safe as we noticed heavy breathing was turning to a lethargic disposition. Things took a quick turn from there.
On the way to the hospital Luke began to vomit and it was clear this was something more than a pre-school virus. At Texas Children’s, nurses and doctors in the ER struggled to discern what was happening to Luke. When they tried to get him on an IV and Luke did not even respond to the poking and prodding, everyone knew something was seriously wrong.
Finally, a nurse was inclined to try a glucose reading and sure enough he was off the charts. No, really, literally off the charts for the glucose reader. It would not even register a number. Our little guy was in something called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). With the lack of insulin produced by his body, it could not breakdown glucose to make energy so naturally it began to break down fat for energy so that his body could keep going. The problem is this process releases ketones into the blood, which is essentially, poison in large amounts.
The next 24 hours was a blur as we were transferred to another hospital for specialized care, Luke was stabilized and hydrated, and we began to learn what it meant to now have a nine-month-old with Type 1 Diabetes.
Early the next morning we were doing one of those subconscious desperate assessments of our surroundings. Do you know what I am talking about? Like you are shipwrecked on an island, and you are forced to scan the area to see what is there to help you survive. So, Lauren and I began to remind ourselves of our faith in a God who brings hope and I even remember a prayer that surreptitiously left my mouth, “God show us you are here.”
And God did.
Up to this point for every doctor or nurse that entered our room we would tell them about the last 24 hours in detail so they could understand further what was going on. We understood the necessity of this but still; retelling it over and over again was like reliving it.
Then, in walked Dr. D (I am going to leave out his name to respect his privacy). Dr. D learned our story before stepping foot in the room and instead of questions about the details of the last 24 hours he immediately began to comfort Lauren by saying things like:
“Wow, y’all did so great yesterday.”
“The way that you noticed something and followed your parental instincts is amazing. It is so hard to know what to do in these circumstances and so rare with a child this young.”
“Mom, I know this is scary, but Luke is going to be great, and you have already shown yourself to be such a strong advocate for him.”
These words helped us to turn away from loss and begin to see potential…”we can make it through this…we will make it through this.”
Then he said the thing that melted me…
“John, did you say that you were a pastor?”
“….yes” (taken back a little)
“Well, I want you both to know that I am a pastor’s kid, like Luke, and I am a Type 1 diabetic, and an endocrinologist. I see this work as my calling to help little ones like Luke. If you will have me then I would like to be Luke’s endocrinologist.”
Since that moment we have entrusted Luke to this wonderful doctor, who by the way is one of the best pediatric endocrinologists in the country. But more importantly we have learned how imperative it is to cultivate a holy imagination to see what is not there when hardship comes. The last few years have been difficult with the pandemic, pastoral challenges, and my dad has been fighting to survive throat cancer but now we almost expect resurrection breakthroughs in the darkness.
I wonder if some of the chaos that has infiltrated the Church is a result of our imaginations being broken. We just cannot see the treasure in the shipwreck. We have a hard time conceiving that God can and does bring hope in the darkest places. What would it look like for the Church to be optimistic again about God’s power and grace--optimistic about what God can do in us, through us, and in the world?
Ephesians 1:18–23 (NIV)
18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
John Wayne McMann is the Associate Pastor at Marvin United Methodist Church, Tyler. If you are ever in the area, John Wayne and the rest of the congregation would love to have you come worship with them.
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