Saturday, April 30, 2011

One year ago today...

One year ago today, Levi was diagnosed with leukemia. Some days it seems like it was only yesterday, and on other days it seems like a lifetime ago. Levi had a great checkup a couple of weeks ago, and his labs once again came back clear. He is walking, beginning to talk, and terrorizing his big sister, just like a normal 13 month old boy should be.

At one point last year, reflecting on that day when we received the phone call, I wrote the following little reflection. I just wanted to share it with you all. Thank you again for the continued prayers and support. Our little Levi continues to do well by the grace of God.

I have tried to share some of the lessons that God has taught me and my family over this past year. I try to write these thoughts down, and some of them can be kind of hard. We have been able to share Levi’s testimony a few times, which will never grow old for a thankful mommy and daddy, but I wanted to share this lesson with you.

You ask any Christian, and many non-Christians, to quote a Bible verse, and what’s the first one that pops into your head? Almost undoubtedly, John 3:16 comes up. We have sung about it in Sunday School, seen it on handwritten signs at ball games, and even had it adulterated as a catch phrase for professional wrestlers. Essentially, it is one of the banners for our faith. But have you heard it so often that it has lost some of its impact? If you’re like me, it is hard to wrap your head around how much God loves us. His love is unfathomable, and therefore sometimes difficult to explain.

Going through our trial with Levi’s battle with leukemia, God gave me some insight on how I might use my son’s testimony to explain this love to others. This lesson slammed me upside the head while pacing the halls of Riley Hospital… There is a bulletin board outside of Levi’s examination room that is plastered with newspaper articles and pictures of children’s cancer survival stories. Just examining the photos of brave families masking their pain with smiles and the children with bandanas covering heads bared from treatments will bring you to your knees. The stories they have to share of their battles, setbacks, and victories are hard to read through the tears they bring. In many of the articles, parents reflect on their stories and are quoted as saying something like “we received a phone call with the worst news a parent can hear – that our child has cancer”. Now, these words immediately brought tears to my eyes, and my heart broke with each story I read. As many of you have, Stephanie and I have been on the receiving end of that call, and it’s a heartbreaker. I remember standing in the kitchen on the phone hearing the news from our doctor. My beautiful wife was looking at me, her eyes pleading for answers, but I tried to keep a straight poker face and answer the doctor’s questions in a “matter-of-fact” manner because I wanted to spare her the news as long as possible. It didn’t work though, she can read me like a book, and she immediately broke down. But that call did make me think. I would have done anything in my power to take this burden from boy. Actually, on several occasions, I asked God to give the disease to me and not him. Why? One simple reason. Because I love my son.

But then I began thinking… What if that “bad news” call didn’t diagnose cancer? What if, instead, you overheard a phone conversation to a parent that went something like this? “Good afternoon Sir. I am afraid we have some bad news about your son. We know you sent him on a mission trip to help people out, but after working there awhile, he was captured in the middle of the night and an angry mob brutally tortured, mocked, spit upon, and murdered him like he was some sort of criminal in an act of vigilante ‘justice’. We know this news must be especially difficult for you, since your son hadn’t committed a crime. In fact, in a shocking display of love, he forgave the people that were doing these unspeakable things to him while he was dying.”

I don’t know many parents that would have willingly allowed their children to go on a trip like this if they knew what the outcome would be. However, this is exactly what God did for you and me. Knowing that the sacrifice of His Son at the hands of a riotous mob was the only way we, the human race, could be saved. That’s how much He loves us. Our Father willingly sacrificed his own Son to save us. If this doesn’t demonstrate to you the depth of His love for us, then we should talk.

Oh – one more thing. Imagine the phone ringing again three days later… “Good morning Sir, it’s us again. We just wanted to let you know that something strange has happened… Well, it’s kind of hard to describe, but we went to the cemetery to check on your son’s grave, and the craziest thing – it was empty…”

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”