Everyone Has Got A Spiritual Life

I am being spiritually formed. You are being spiritually formed. We all are being spiritually formed. All the things about us that are not physical such as our emotions, our choices, and our thoughts make up our spiritual life. So even a person who has never heard of God has a spiritual life and is being formed in some way spiritual. Yes, it has always been this way. Hitler was spiritually formed, Timothy McVeigh was spiritually formed, Mother Teresa was spiritually formed, Billy Graham was spiritually formed. It comes down to how are we being spiritually formed and who or what is at the center of that formation?

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33

This kingdom that we seek is very much a spiritual reality that puts us in community with the risen Savior, Jesus Christ, and his Father God.

Have You Had Your Holy Hug Today?

This may sound really weird and I may be the only one in the world who experiences this but I would like you to try an experiment. Today, when you take a hot shower, stand in front of the shower for a moment and take a deep breath.  Then, just stand there and see how long the feeling last. Enjoy the moment. Almost every time I do this, I start to get those wonderful chill bumps all over my body.

I have started to call these moments “holy hugs”. Philip Yancey wrote a book several years ago called Rumors of Another World in which he tries to enliven the skeptics faith by getting them to pay attention to the strangely beautiful that surrounds them. The idea being that some things are just so profoundly wonderful that they cannot be easily dismissed as random accidents. We all have had those moments where a look from your child, a scene from nature, or a particular word spoken simply overtakes us with joy and comfort. Or more simply, where a taste of ice cream or a dip in a swimming pool is just so refreshing we say silly things like, “This is the life.”

I think God has a hand in every one of these profoundly wonderful moments and he loves to provide them for us. I think he uses these moments to get us to question just who is responsible for the beauty that surrounds us, who created the sweet things in life, and why can life be so wonderful? I have no idea what it is about the shower and my positioning and the temperature of the room that makes my body break out in relaxing goose bumps. From a physiological standpoint I don’t really care. All I know is that I have started to savor these moments as a hug from someplace and someone else that is beyond my limited understanding and experience.

What I Have Learned From Having Cleft-Affected Child

Our youngest daughter just completed her third surgery on her cleft palate this Thursday. The surgeon has tried twice to completely close up her palate but the two previous times a fistula (opening) has developed. Because of this, there are certain verbal sounds that she cannot make, there are certain foods that become problematic to eat and thus cause potential infection or discomfort and pain. My wife and I have been working through the weight of our daughter’s problems since before she was born three years ago. I think I have learned a few things along the way about myself, my God, and my spiritual life. Here are a few of those things that I have learned:

1. Prayer works – along this entire journey we have had countless prayers answered. For example, before she was born, her situation looked bleaker than a correctable cleft lip and palate. Conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, spina bifida, and kidney malfunction were thrown around by her Perinatal Specialist. We immediately began praying and had our church pray and many of the worst possible scenarios did not come to pass.

2. I can pray with intensity – there is nothing like desperate circumstances to get you on your knees with a sense of urgency. I cried, I pounded my fist in anger, and I pleaded with God to heal her and keep her from harm. I never knew that I could pray so vigorously.

3. Sometimes prayers end with resignation – After I have prayed in all of the urgency and intensity as I knew how, I often was just left with one prayer. “Lord, I place my daughter in your hands. I have done everything that I know to do and I am going to trust you with her care.”

4. A marriage can grow closer – I often hear about marriages that struggle when their children are suffering through intense medical situations. I can see where these things can zap the energy and effort needed to keep a marriage relationship going well. My wife and I have had our moments where we have let the magnitude of things overwhelm some of the commitments that we have made to each other but we also quickly learned that we needed each other because no one else on earth knows exactly what we are going through.

5. People mean well but say silly things – I don’t begin to pretend that our daughter’s health concerns are worse than other children with deformities or illness but when people passively dismissed her ailments as “just” this or “just” that or “that can be fixed,” I kind of cringed inside. I know that these people were thankful that her condition was not worse than it was but their comments didn’t accurately reflect what we will be going through over the next 15 years. My wife and I realized that expecting others to understand what we are going through is not realistic. We have to rely on God for comfort and strength and on each other for understanding and encouragement.

6. There is no quota on medical issues – In the first year of her life, we thought that each tough situation that we surpassed meant that we got a break for a while. That did not turn out to be true. Surgeries, pneumonia, scoliosis, hernia, and eye procedures all have marked our daughter’s life over the last three years. I have learned to quit keeping track and just move to the next thing. God is here now, God was there then, and he will be there in the next thing.

7. A church family is important – Visits to the hospital, picking up our older daughters at school, meals when we just get back from the hospital, and prayers have marked how our church has supported, assisted, and encouraged us. I couldn’t imagine going through all of this without the support of friends, family, and church.

8. God’s blessings come in the darkest time – I can remember nights when my daughter was in so much pain that she couldn’t sleep and I would just pray and pray for her comfort and rest. When my prayer would be answered there would just be a complete outpouring of peace and comfort from God. I almost felt like I was wrapped up in it. I couldn’t experience that if I didn’t first experience the pain and trouble of the dark times.