Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Perspectives VIII: A Death Sentence Lifted

From grief to joy in a matter of minutes. Today my wife and I experienced the intense joy of having a death sentence lifted from our son. Our weeping had a different cause today. I called the specialist’s office to see if we were supposed to continue with his medication, and the nurse told me that the doctor left a note saying: there is no evidence of biliary atresia. I have not wept so intensely in my life, save for the weeping over the grief of my son. This truly is a death sentence lifted.
My faith in the Lord has not wavered in the least during this time. I had already given my son to the Lord, knowing the character of Him who has called me. I had accepted that my son may die; I had accepted that my son may suffer; but I was content in knowing that whatever happened, the Lord is in control. The suffering is real, but so is the rest in Him.

Now we wait to find out what is afflicting our child; at this point anything seems like a walk in the park! We prayed intensely, along with many others (many who may be reading this now), that he would not have biliary atresia. The Lord has granted that prayer, and we are forever, humbly grateful. I knew that the Lord is kind. Now whenever I look at my son I have tangible evidence of His kindness.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Perspectives VII: The Grief of Life

Last Fall my wife shared with me the amazing news that we were going to be having another child. Instantly my heart was filled with joy and I thanked the Lord for the blessing He had given us. Our prayers were that our child would go full-term (as we have gone through miscarriage in the past) and that he would live to honor the Lord. It has been my prayer for both of my children that they would live to honor the Lord and that I would be able to provide an example for them of how to live a life honoring to Christ. I know the mistakes I have made in the past and I want my children to avoid those same mistakes. I also know that it is my job to teach them how to live properly. This is one of the great burden’s of being a father. A father is expected to be a role model to his children while bearing the burden of the the knowledge of his own sins. This sobering reality always makes me pause and search my actions relative to my children. Am I compromising in my own heart where I would not want my children to compromise? How can I expect them to avoid these compromises if I am unwilling to viciously weed out my own sinful habits?
This existential trouble of trying to be a solid example for my children while recognizing my own sinful dispositions has occupied a great portion of my thoughts. I am concerned over the life that my children will live. I’m not concerned as much (though it is a concern) over the material quality of their lives, but rather the quality of their characters. As a father I am overwhelmed with joy that the Lord has put these lifes (I’m aware of the spelling) into my own, to love and enjoy.
But the life of my son has so far been marked with death. 3 days after his birth my grandfather died, and from the time just before we brought him home from the hospital it has been gradually been unfolding how real the possibility is that his own life will be cut short. I’ve had to move from the place where I am praying that he will live a life honoring to the Lord, to a place where I am praying that he will simply have life. My boy has something wrong with his liver and the doctor’s suspect biliary atresia. Infants do not live past 2 without surgical intervention and most end up having to have a transplant at some point in their life. So far his life has been a life of grief. He has undergone more occasions of blood being drawn, had more medical prescriptions, and been isolated for various medical procedures than any 7-week old should have to go through (7-week olds shouldn’t have to go through any of this). Where my wife and I should have been enjoying the life of this blessing from the Lord, instead we have been sorting through our devastated hearts and trying not to completely break down in front of our eldest. I would say that I cannot express how we feel, but that isn’t true, I can: grieved. Our daughter was given her name because she is a source of joy for us. Our son, whom we are overjoyed to see, has delivered to us a heavy mix of grief with joy.

Some Christians say that when we endure painful trials in our lives that we ought to show ourselves happy, remember the Lord, and continue with steadfast endurance without hesitation. I disagree. I think this advice does a disservice to the recognition of the real pain and suffering that we endure as human beings. I think it downplays the terrible effect of sin on the world. We are suffering right now and we have immense pain in our hearts. Our son is suffering right now and he is having to go through some painful procedures with the prospect of more. I remember that Jesus wept. The context of that verse is that His cousin Lazarus had just died. Jesus knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead, and yet He wept. I find myself indebted to the Apostle John for recording this narrative, because without it I would not have known the fitness of weeping and grieving over my suffering. The Lord knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead, He knew (more intimately than anyone) the character of God, and He knew that all would be made well at the end of history, and yet He wept. He wept because the suffering is real.
I think of Job who is said to have torn his garments, spread ashes over himself, and worship the Lord upon the apprehension of his great misfortunes. Some will key in on the fact that Job worshipped the Lord. However even in his worship he grieved, and grieved more intensely perhaps than I have ever grieved. In this book we read that Job complains that the Lord has acted unfairly and he even despairs of his own life, saying that it would have been better if he had never been born. Ultimately the Lord answers Job that He is just, and His dealings with men are fair. Job acknowledges and repents of his charge against the Lord, but not of his grieving. Through it all there is a recognition that the Lord is fair, He is kind, and there is a gratefulness for the blessings He has given, but grief remains.
The sad reality is that sin is real, and the consequences are real. I see that when I look at my son and think of the suffering he faces. I worship the Lord, I take comfort in His promises, I trust in wisdom and providence; and yet I weep. The grief remains. The suffering is real and deserves attention. I grieve, but not without hope. I grieve not because I don’t trust the Lord, but because the suffering is real. And with this brief reflection I end with a grateful word to my son:

My son, I thank you for helping me to appreciate the grief of life.


Monday, June 29, 2015

The Melting Pot VI: Starý Otec

The passing of my starý otec (grandfather in Slovak) is bittersweet for me. On the one hand, it pains me to think that the remainder of this life will be had without him. It gives me greater pain to know that my son, born the same week as starý otec’s death, will not know my grandfather. On the other hand I know that he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ to save him from his sins, and so I know that I will meet him again on that day when the Lord takes me home as well. 
My daughter with Starý Otec and Stará Mama

My grandfather made a profound impact on my life. In every conversation I had with the man since 2004, he has tried to convince me to move back to Canada to be close to the family. It is somewhat ironic that his life is part of the reason for my desire to be adventurous and strike out on my own. Hearing the adventures of both him and my father after him has created this need for me to be able to pass on stories of my own life to my children. I don’t know that I’ll ever live up to the generations before me.
My starý otec was full of stories. His life was indeed an interesting one. I sat with him every time I visited him and would try to probe into the great tales of his life. I brought several friends out to the farm with me and we would just ask him questions and listen to his stories. He was fascinating! Many of his stories contained the same event; my grandfather would say “and then I sat down and I cried.” For example he visited the dome of the Rock in Israel, and when the tour guide said something about Mohammed returning, starý otec said “no, no, no, no. Mohammed didn’t rise from the dead, Jesus rose from the dead.” Then the tour guide told him to run, so he ran and ran, and his words, “then I sat down and I cried.” He also told me of his coming to Canada. He got on a train from Montreal and ended up in the train station in Windsor, not knowing any English. Not knowing what to do, he sat down and cried. Then he met a man who brought him out to his farmhouse in Harrow and gave him tea and showed him kindness. Starý otec would later buy that farmhouse and it was the house that he and his wife showed kindness to many of us throughout the years. Starý otec was not shy to communicate to me that he often found himself in situations where he was genuinely afraid and had no idea what to do. The story of his life, at least the way in which he communicated it to me, was a testament to the providential care of God.
Starý otec was also a stubborn man. His stubbornness could frustrate the most patient of men. For weeks I had a running argument with my grandfather about how to say ‘thank you’ in Korean. He was adamant that the word was ‘kanta mida’. I assured him that he was wrong, but hey, what do I know, I only lived in South Korea for 8 years, studied the Korean language, and married a Korean woman. He was positive that ‘kanta mida’ means thank you in Korean, because at the corner store in Harrow was a Korean man who told him as much. Finally, the argument developed to the point where I offered to take my grandfather to the store and ask the Korean man himself what the word for thank you is. He took me up on my offer. When we got to the store we asked the man what the word was, and it turned out I was right. Starý otec cocked his head to the side, shrugged his shoulders, and got that grin on his face that many of you are familiar with––like a child caught eating cookies when he shouldn’t be. We laughed about and from then on he would always throw in a ‘kanta mida’ into our conversation.

My starý otec was stubborn, but good-natured. A kind man who lived a full life. He knew the Lord and now knows the Lord more intimately. Though he may not know it, his life was instrumental in shaping the direction of my own. I owe much to him. I love him and miss him. I will see you again starý otec.

My wife and I with Starý Otec and Stará Mama

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Melting Pot V: Everything is happening!

It's been a year since my last post.... OOPS! I guess I've just been having a difficult time trying to take time to blog and balance everything that has been happening in my life. This post is just a brief update on my life. There are so many things taking place right now, so this post is functioning as a sort of 'life guidemap'; an indication of what has happened in the last year and what I think is next.

I'm set to graduate next Saturday (pending my ability to finish all of my assignments on time, a monumental task to be sure). I'll be receiving an M.A. in Philosophy and in Biblical Studies from Southern Evangelical Seminary. I have really enjoyed my studies here. I used to believe that studying in a formal setting was a waste of money, that I could learn just as well on my own as I could in a seminary setting. I was very, very wrong. One reason that a formal education is so much more valuable than self-study is that you are forced to present your ideas and argue (in the academic sense of the word) for your positions with other academics. One of the great benefits that the classroom has been for me is to expose my views to the criticisms of others, thereby forcing me to think more reflectively on particular issues. I presented a paper at the EPS Regional meeting in Atlanta last month, where I critique a certain individual's view of time and eternity and offer a Thomistic alternative. This was beneficial for me because I had to field questions relative to my paper, thus helping me to think about the topic more robustly. My seminary education is definitely something which I value highly.

Given that I'm graduating, the question now is 'what next'? I am tracking academically and would like to pursue a PhD in Philosophy, concentrating in Philosophy of Language. I'm planning on taking a year off to apply to different programs and see what options are available to me.

Another much-anticipated event in my life is the birth of my first son, who is set to arrive in mid-June. Preparing for his birth has been very difficult for us, as we have to deal with all kinds of immigration and health care questions. Additionally, my wife is hoping to give birth naturally after having a C-section for our first child (this is called VBAC). Over the next month or so we need to secure a doctor who is willing to do this, and start attending classes so that we can better anticipate what will happen. I also need to learn what my role will be in all of this, how I can be a help and not a hindrance to my wife.

This last year has been a good one; it has been trying at times but there has been so much to be thankful for. I'm looking forward to what is to come in the coming months.