Update on Seth
July 11, 2020
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
~ Psalm 27:13-14
I remember that special moment, 40 years ago today, when I proudly displayed my newborn son to several of my friends through a glass window in the hospital maternity ward. As I write this, Seth is lying in his bed gazing out the large windows of his room at our expansive lawn, large towering trees, and a neighbor’s horse pasture. A little over a year ago we moved from the home he had grown up in, to a larger home on nearly three acres, a purchase occasioned by my marriage to Marian and part of a fresh start for the three of us. The former large family room has become Seth’s room and my office. I know he enjoys the view out the large windows on three sides of the room (not to mention the large-screen TV left by the former owner, a good friend of mine). He also appears to appreciate a feminine presence in the household, often greeting Marian with a smile when she walks into the room. She has been a huge blessing for both of us!
Seth’s condition remains largely the same as ever; his inability to swallow his secretions necessitates much loud, convulsive (and apparently, painful) coughs and my efforts to keep his passageway clear along with the rest of his care. At times he seems quite alert and responsive, and I always wonder what he is thinking. I can follow some of his friends on Facebook who are raising families of their own and can then share their activities with Seth. Is such news as bittersweet for him as it is for me? We are nearing the 17-year mark since his becoming incapacitated.
We often hear that, “the Lord will never give us more than we can handle.” I believe that is true, but I am also inclined to believe He will sometimes give us more than we think we can endure. During such occurrences, our tendency may be to think either God isn’t there or He doesn’t care.
I vividly recall the moment, just a few days after Seth’s automobile accident—and after he had failed to come out of an induced coma on his own—when my late wife, Mary, and I were informed by a neurosurgeon that there was only a 10% chance that the son we had known would ever come back to us the way he had been before; that if he didn’t die, he would remain comatose or be seriously impaired. He said, “I’m afraid that you are looking at the long haul.” I could not imagine what he meant at that time, and I was even more perplexed as I wondered what God’s purpose was in all of this. My reaction (spiritually speaking) was a mixed bag: on the one hand, of course, I fervently hoped the Lord was bringing this about to (soon) heal my son miraculously and so bring glory to Himself—the best case (and for me, only satisfying) scenario! There was also a quiet assurance that God would see us through, that we would weather this storm, no matter what. But in my grief and confusion, there was also a cynical side to me that resented the notion that any such “long haul” suffering on our part might be a piece of His plan to refine us (Rom. 5:3-4, James 1:2-4, etc.), that Seth was to be sacrificed on the altar of our character development. My thought was, “So, I guess it’s just going to be ‘grace to cope’?” Truly, the past 17 years has been a long haul, and with additional trials added along the way. Was God there? Did He care?
In the history of God’s people such skepticism is a recurrent theme. For example, in Isaiah chapter 40, the Lord shares examples of His immensity and sovereign rule, then asks His people in v. 27, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord’,” (God is not there because He is unaware of what is going on!) and then, “my right is disregarded by my God” (God doesn’t care!). God responds by declaring His eternality, creativity, omnipotence, and omniscience (v. 28), then assures them of His concern and ability to “power them through” their ordeal (v. 29) despite what seems humanely impossible (v. 30). In fact, He offers them a promise: If they will just “wait for the Lord” (v. 31), their flagging strength will be renewed, like an eagle that spreads its wings and is borne up by the currents of air. Further imagery is offered, that of being able to run and not become weary or to walk and not become faint.
Think of it! To be able to run, in a full-out sprint, and not grow tired . . . Wow! Now that would be fun; exhilarating, even! When tasks and responsibilities hit us overwhelmingly fast, hard, and relentlessly, our God can supply us with amazing skill and vitality to see the job through. On the other hand, “to walk and not faint” speaks of a plodding endurance, a sustaining, load-bearing fortitude that “just keeps on going on.” Grace to cope, if you will, a necessary and (now, from my later perspective, much appreciated) blessing from the hand of God to equip us when the promised trials and sufferings come.
So, we wait on the Lord. Now, to “wait” usually implies the notion of biding one’s time, of anticipating something that has not yet occurred. I’ve sometimes asked myself, if I’m to be waiting on the Lord, exactly what am I supposed to be waiting for? For satisfaction—of my son’s being miraculously healed of his traumatic brain injury? After 17 years, that hope has all but been extinguished. Or, of relief from my sadness? That, however, is something I feel each day as I look at him and wonder what might have been. Certainly, we who are of God’s family all wait for heaven when all will be made right. However, I am persuaded that “waiting for the Lord” can also imply a continuing trust in God’s working behind the scenes to accomplish His purposes even when we, personally, don’t see closure. The heroes in God’s Hall of Faith were commended because they obeyed and endured hardships without receiving what was promised (Heb. 11:39-40). It is, after all, not about me or my happiness (or yours) but God’s overarching purpose that ultimately matters.
Grace to cope... not always an answer to our desires, but a welcome blessing and sufficient for the day’s trouble (Matt. 6:34).