For years the 27th Psalm has been one of my favorite passages of scripture. It contains such richness of trust and confidence in God's strength, protection, and faithfulness. It speaks of all-consuming desire for His Presence and beauty. It declares His goodness in the face of struggle and uncertainty. In different seasons of my life, specific passages from what I have come to refer to as my "life Psalm" have resonated within me at a deeper level. Presently, it is the above verse that is both stirring my heart with gratitude and anchoring my soul with truth. Let me explain...
Perhaps I will begin by recalling a now cherished memory from over seven years ago. It was December of 2009. Benjamin was seven months old, and we had just discovered that he had double hernias that would require surgery. It was a minor procedure compared to the open heart surgery he faced the previous summer, but it was another medical hurdle after an already exhausting seven months of challenges. I was struggling to say the least. During this time a trusted friend encouraged Shawn and me to offer God a sacrifice of praise in the midst of our pain. To continue the narrative, here is an excerpt from my book Reflections from Holland: A New Mother's Journey with Down Syndrome...
On one particular day that week, Benjamin was extra fussy and did not want to be put down at all. I wasn't feeling well myself, and I was so weary by the afternoon. Needing a momentary break, I went out to check the mail. Some friends of ours who had a baby boy a few months after we did had sent us a personalized Christmas card and letter, with pictures of their family and their smiling baby. I noticed that, though younger than our son, he was holding his head up with ease. Benjamin's neck was still a bit floppy, and we had to make sure he wouldn't flail his head back while being held. As I read their Christmas letter that shared about how well their son was doing and how much they were enjoying life with him (as they absolutely should), something inside of me broke. Waves of grief swept over me as I mourned the early C-section in place of a healthy, full-term delivery. I mourned the long hospital stays in the place of bringing my baby home from the start. I mourned the numerous health conditions in place of a healthy, thriving baby. I mourned the developmental delays in the place of a typically developing child. And now we were facing another medical challenge. It wasn't fair!
I knew I was in self-pity, but I remembered the exhortation to offer a sacrifice of praise, so as I held my fussy baby, I began to sing the chorus "So Good to Me" out of sheer will. As my son's cries escalated, I sat down to nurse him, opened my Bible to Psalm 27, and began to read aloud. I didn't get very far before deep sobs rose up inside of me and I began to release my pent-up grief to the Lord. In the midst of the pain, I felt His peace wash over my heart, and I knew we weren't walking through this alone.
The memory of that day will forever be etched in my memory. Sometimes it is the seemingly insignificant and hidden moments of our lives that in fact become the most significant. They are the moments that begin to define us and establish those thing that have lasting value in our hearts. In that moment (and in many moments since) I experienced the reality that "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit," (Psalm 34:18, NIV). I discovered that my pain offered to Him in worship could be transformed into a doorway for encounter with my beautiful Savior Who loves me and is present with me in ALL circumstances. What an extraordinary gift!
David, the lowly shepherd boy turned king, who authored most of the Psalms of the Bible, was keenly and intimately aware of this nearness of God in the midst of suffering. His fiery trials taught him the secret of how to strengthen himself in the Lord as he recalled time and again Who God is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do. It is for this reason that he was able to declare in Psalm 27:13 "I would have lost heart, unless I believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." In verse 14 he then goes on to exhort us, "Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say on the Lord!"
Recently, I have been struggling again. Benjamin is approaching his eighth birthday this May. He is still non-verbal, still in diapers, and still mesmerized by twirling stuffed animals and musical baby toys. In last few weeks we've had some viruses hit our home, and Benjamin has not been exempt. He can't tell us what doesn't feel good, so we have to try our best to decipher through his cries and symptoms. It hurts me to see him hurting. We have also recently begun the process of having him tested for autism. I have suspected this possibility for a long time, but I have honestly been afraid to give voice to it until now. However, I want to provide my son with the best opportunities to learn and grow, and maybe this will be a missing puzzle piece to aid us in our journey At times I feel so helpless to help him. At times I feel hope waning that he will ever be able talk or relate in a deeper way. Our communication is so limited, and I long to know the inner workings of my sweet son's heart and mind. It is here that I need to give pause and recall to mind the goodness of my God. It is in this place that I need to remember Who my God is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do! I do not have the time or the space here to list all the ways He has shown us His goodness since our son's birth, but will you please join me now as I testify to what He has done in and through Benjamin?
Benjamin could have died in the womb, but my low amniotic fluid, and his plummeting heart rate were discovered at just the right time.
Though I did not desire a C-section, the procedure ended up saving his life as the umbilical cord was looping around his neck.
The NICU staff did not expect our little warrior to survive, but when he was nearly a month old we brought him home.
Friends and family poured out an abundance of support physically, emotionally, and spiritually during our most difficult days.
Benjamin's subsequent surgeries were successful with speedy recoveries.
Though he was diagnosed with infantile spasm seizures in early 2010, the Lord miraculously healed him a few months later, and he has never had a seizure since!
He was diagnosed with permanent hearing loss on the eve of his first birthday and soon after fitted with hearing aids. A few months prior to his third birthday, it was medically confirmed that his hearing had been completely restored, and we were told to discontinue use of this hearing aids!
Benjamin has worked hard to achieve milestones that felt so out of reach for so long, including walking, feeding himself, and using some sign language.
He has brought us such joy through his smiles, laughter, and unhindered affection.
He has grown in independence, attending school, loving the bus transport, and enjoying the simple structure of his days.
He has become a big brother to first a sister and now a little brother, and is a vital part of our beautiful little family.
He has a sweet connection with Lord, coming alive with joy in His Presence.
Benjamin is a child of promise with the hand of God on his young life. The journey has never looked how I expected it would, but, then again, how often does life ever look the way we envision? Circumstances change, trials and joys come and go. Life is uncertain, God is eternal. The air that fills our lungs, and the blood that pumps through our hearts are gifts sustained by our Creator. Each new days is a mercy, not an entitlement. I do not know what the future will look like, but I do know that whatever the landscape may be, the one sure thing is that I will see the goodness of the Lord. This is my hope, my song, and my confidence. HE IS GOOD!