Many of you know, but some of you do not, that Lord willing my dad will be receiving a kidney transplant next week. We’ve known about this tentative date for about 2-3 weeks now and last week that it was finally confirmed. After months and months of testing and 2 years of kidney failure, this long-awaited transplant is finally underway! We are very blessed. 2 years is a short period of time to wait for a transplant. It typically takes 5-6 years to get a kidney once you are placed on the waiting list. My dad had about 2 dozen people offer to donate their kidneys to him, which is unheard of. This has been an amazing testimony of the gospel to the hospital workers my parents have come into contact with. They simply tell them that we are Christians and this is what we do. We love sacrificially because that’s how we have been loved – no strings attached, no debt to pay back. The world doesn’t know that kind of love.
On Monday morning I will leave to drive home and spend a couple of days with my dad and family before my dad undergoes surgery on Wednesday afternoon. His donor will be in surgery that morning, the doctor will take a lunch break, and then will go in and place the kidney in my dad’s body. It’s an amazing process to think about. The way God created our bodies is truly amazing. This process, more than anything, has convinced me that evolution is not possible. We don’t have the ability to evolve into who we are today because we wouldn’t survive if our bodies didn’t function the exact way God created them to. If even one tiny organ in our bodies malfunctions, take our kidneys, for instance — we die. It’s also amazing how God created our bodies to heal. Somehow, my dad’s body might actually be able to accept another man’s kidney and function as if that kidney were his own. It’s crazy. And more, our immune systems work so well that my dad has to take medication to actually trick his body so it doesn’t attack the new kidney. We are built to naturally attack anything foreign to our systems — our bodies do this day in and day out and we barely give thought to it until we are wake up one day with a runny nose or an annoying cough. God is amazing in how He created us.
It’s also a humbling process. It’s humbling that one man would be so generous as to give my dad a part of his own body. He has nothing to gain from this and, even though I know it’s what Christians are supposed to do, I still feel astounded at his generosity. It continues to be a reminder to me that God is in control of the hearts of men. Why is this man giving my dad his kidney? He felt God calling him to. If that’s not evidence of the Spirit alive and at work, I don’t know what is.
More than anything, I’ve seen God’s grace through this. I don’t quite understand it, but somehow God allots different amounts of grace at different times to different people. As I look back on my life, some of the most difficult trials have felt ridiculously easy and some of the simpler trials have felt unbearably hard. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability.” It’s true. Through this I’ve learned that God’s grace upholds us through seasons that should be overwhelming.
I can remember spring of 2008 when I first found out my dad’s kidneys had officially failed. I drove home from work that day and went straight to my room and cried. I laid there all night and didn’t get up until the next morning. The next day I went to work and again went home and straight to bed. I was grieving. It was the end of an era in my life where my parents were invincible and my dad was always the strong pillar that held the rest of us up. It was the beginning of a new season where my brother, sister and I would need to help and support my parents. To top that, there were a lot of unknowns. I remember the day my dad called me and told me he hadn’t qualified to be put on the transplant list. I was so focused on praying that I would want God’s will that I didn’t think to pray that the doctors would change their mind. Two weeks later he called and told me the doctor wanted to help my dad so bad that he found a way, and my dad would be able to receive a transplant. It was a slap in the face. How weak my faith was that I didn’t even think to pray for that, and yet God had done it anyways! At that time my greatest fear was that my dad would have to go on dialysis before receiving a transplant. On WOW Saturday (August) of 2008 I woke up after 4 hours of sleep to about 30 new girls moving into the dorm (that I had just been given full responsibility for) and an e-mail that my greatest fear had come true. My dad was going on dialysis. “Perfect,” I thought, “Good to know.” That day was a blur, but I wasn’t crushed.
Since then life has been a tug of war between the ministry and people I love down here in LA, and the desire to help and support the family I love up in the Bay Area.
And the thing is, if you know me and know how much I love my dad, you would think this would all be unbearable. I am the girl who laid awake at night in college praying that God wouldn’t take my dad away from me — not because he was sick or dying but because I couldn’t bear the thought of living without him. And yet, it hasn’t been unbearable. In fact, in has been one of the easiest things I’ve faced in the past few years. I can only attribute that to God’s grace because it shouldn’t have been this easy. It should have been life-shattering. That’s where God’s grace comes in and makes up for the weakness and lack in me and somehow enables me to thrive and put my entire trust in Him when I really should be crumbling.
The other thing is, if you know me or my family, you know we’ve always been close. We’ve always loved each other. We spent Thanksgiving of 2007 (just months before we found out about this) in a beach house in Hawaii celebrating my parents 30th anniversary (you can read about it here, and here.) My parents were so generous to rent a house so all of us could celebrate together. That’s the kind of family we were. In November of 2007, right before we left for Hawaii, I actually wrote this:
I’m continually thankful for my family. As I sang in church yesterday I thought about the upcoming week in Hawaii and realized that I would love spending time with my family even if we spent the week in the hospital next week. I would thank Christ for them whether He wills that we spend next week on the beach or in intensive care. Life is fragile and short and the Lord gives and He takes away. You never know what tomorrow will bring. If the Lord wills, I will be in Hawaii, but who knows what the week may bring.
We actually will spend next week in the hospital, and I am looking forward to it just as much as I did to seeing them in Hawaii. I mean that. I can promise you that we love each other, serve each other, look out for each other, and support each other more today than we did two years ago when everything was seemingly perfect. God has given us the joy of my little nephew, Indy, who was born right smack in the middle of all of this. Indy has been a bright beam of blessing to us in the midst of a trying season. I love that little boy more than I’ve ever loved anything before. We all do. God has been kind to mingle “pain with pleasure.”
I’m not saying it’s been a perfect or flawless road. God has hit us each where we were weak and, just as your muscles have to break down before they grow stronger, we have each been broken in this process. In the midst of that breaking has come pain and frustration. This pressure has caused sin to come out that might never have been exposed if none of this had ever happened — but that is good. God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. I would much rather have God break me and expose my sin in order to make me more like Christ than have an easy, carefree, or comfortable life. I mean that, too.
So, as we go into this next week, a lot of people have been asking me how I feel about it.
In short, I don’t know how to feel.
I’m not quite sure what to expect. I’m excited for the time we get to be together as a family on Monday and Tuesday and for the big family breakfast we will have before my dad is admitted to the hospital on Tuesday. I’m scared that things might not go according to plan or something unexpected might happen — things I barely let myself think of. I’m concerned for how my dad’s recovery will go and for my mom as she takes care of him after he comes home from the hospital. It makes me sad to think of my dad in the kind of pain he will be after the surgery. I’m thankful for the donor and his wife and hoping his surgery goes as smoothly as possible so he won’t have to endure any extra pain as a result of his kind, selfless act. And I’m excited. Excited to have my dad back, for him to have the kind of energy he did before his kidneys started failing, excited for the memories we will get to have together and the years we will have to enjoy as a result of this surgery. So I guess there’s a lot of things going on in this little heart of mine.
I received a letter from my dad on April 6, 2008 (almost 2 years ago exactly), and I wrote this excerpt on the inside cover of my bible to serve as a continual reminder:
Uncertainty is a gift because it causes us to look to the only source of real certainty … to the God of all grace who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and is the giver of every good and perfect gift (Js. 1:18). Who is a loving and wise Father who always knows what’s best for his children. Who knows the future and promises out of his wisdom and sovereignty to cause all things to work together for the good to those who love him (Rom. 8:28) and whose will is described as good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12:1-2). Who brings trials and uncertainty into our lives that we might learn to trust his wisdom and goodness rather than our own foolishness and finiteness. Who holds the future securely in his omnipotent hands. So while the specifics of the future may be uncertain, the reality is that the BIG THINGS are absolutely certain. My heavenly Father is merciful and gracious and wise and good. How much more certainty does one need??? I can see how God has prepared me for this journey by teaching me to trust in much smaller things through the years of learning to walk by faith. And by his grace I have come to deeply trust my heavenly Father to do what’s best.
My dad has continued to write us throughout this process to encourage (definition: to inspire with courage) our faith. He continues to be a source of strength for our family, even when he is at his weakest. So, I guess, in the midst of all those feelings, I feel courageous. I know God will not fail and that is why I can go into this next week full of excitement, fear, doubts, and uncertainty with the courage to face whatever may come our way.
And here is really what sparked this entire post. Tonight as I was going to bed I began reading back on old journals again and I came across this quote (can you tell that I love quotes?) from Charles Simeon on his death bed:
Infinite wisdom has arranged the whole with infinite love; and infinite power enables me to rest upon that love. I am in a dear Father’s hands – all is secure. When I look to Him, I see nothing but faithfulness – and immutability – and truth; and I have the sweetest peace – I cannot have more peace.
I realized I feel at peace (much different than where my heart was at least week!) The kind of peace that is both calm and courageous. It’s a strange feeling….but it doesn’t hurt (name that movie!)
I will keep you all posted on how the surgery goes and we all would ask for your prayers in the coming week.