“Why did God make me this way?”
I knew the question would eventually come and I’d prayed about how I would answer it. When my seven-year-old son with Spina Bifida finally asked me that question one evening as I was helping him in the bathroom I gave him the only answer I could think of that was not a lie.
“I don’t know son.”
Of course, I could’ve gone into some theological rationalization and told him all about how God was going to use his infirmity to bless others; how truthfully, in fact, he already had – as hundreds prayed for Henry for the weeks and months leading up to his birth and through the four years of surgeries that had followed.
Somehow, though, I didn’t think that would bring him much comfort.
So I decided to sit with him in the question. I decided not to minimize his pain. I decided not to explain away his disease by making it some part of a gigantic cosmic puzzle that God was working.
I’ve come to believe that we who call ourselves Christians are too quick to come up with explanations at times like these. I’ve come to believe that we do not place enough value in the ministry of presence: 0ur own or God’s.
The only thing I know for sure is that God loves us, cherishes us. I know God is present with us – on every mountaintop in and in every valley. I do believe that God is constantly at work – reconciling, redeeming, and working in and through us to make something beautiful out of our brokenness. I even believe that sometimes God heals miraculously. I can’t explain it and, quite frankly, I don’t feel the need to. It’s not my call to make.
The Problem With Guilt
Many who prayed for our son before he was born prayed for a total healing. Some us that if we prayed hard enough and prayed the right things that he’d be healed. To harbor any doubt would show a lack of faith and result in our son not being healed.
Now any parent will tell you that they’d dress in a clown suit and eat brussel sprouts three meals a day if they thought it would mean their child would be healed. But to add to the almost unendurable road of walking with a severely ill child, the potential for guilt because of thinking your lack of faith kept him from being healed – well, that’s just plain cruel and leaves no room for grace.
Doctors at Vanderbilt University offered us a first-of-its-kind intrauterine surgery to repair our son’s spine. I wanted to do it. My wife didn’t. We decided to move forward and pray that if it wasn’t the right choice that God would stop it. When we went in for the initial ultrasound, the doctors told us they were sorry, but the placenta had moved into a position that made the surgery impossible.
Ultimately we prayed for healing, but also prayed that if he were not to be healed, that we’d have the courage to handle whatever came. After our son was born we were relieved to find that he didn’t have many of the complications that usually accompany Spina Bifida. He had no water on the brain and did not need a shunt. He would prove to be one of the rare kids with Spina Bifida who walks.
Walking the Crooked Road
The people who qualified for the surgery and ultimately went through with it wound up with a child that did not do as well. Is that because we prayed more rightly than they? Is that because we loved our child more than they loved theirs? Or that God loved our child more? I don’t believe any of those things.
What I do believe is that God does hear prayer. What I do believe is that God desires a relationship with us. And what I believe most of all is that God is not afraid of our questions, and even our anger when we have to walk a crooked road.
To listen to Crooked Road, click here.
Originally Posted 4/26/16