The “Christian” aspects of a Christian’s life cannot be compartmentalized into a box. Therefore, it is impossible to quantify an acceptable balance of “Christian” activities with other daily activities. A person who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is a Christian. This aspect of his/her identity is woven into every fiber in a way that is not easily separated.
I have one more personal experience that I would like to share before wrapping up this chapter. It involves the birth of my daughter. The doctor diagnosed a lack of sufficient growth during the second sonogram. Melanie was placed on bed rest after that. This didn't seem to help. Each sonogram continued to show insufficient growth. The doctor explained that we were involved in a toss-up of time. The earlier a baby is delivered, the lower the child's chance of survival is. However, the longer our daughter remained in my wife's womb, the greater the lack of growth and development would be. He wanted to wait for the ideal moment when the trade-off between the two situations tipped toward delivery. He suggested placing Melanie on a blood thinner called Heparin. He said that this may increase the flow of blood and nutrients through the placenta, but he was not certain of the success. Plus there were risks involved in experimenting with this drug treatment.
We decided not to participate in the Heparin treatment. A few days later Melanie experienced preeclampsia in the middle of the night. This causes a pregnant woman to develop high blood pressure. Hers was fatally high. Her ankles were severely swollen and she was vomiting. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery. I took her to the hospital at 3:00 in the morning, and she had an emergency caesarean section.
My daughter, Samantha was born ten weeks early. Due to her insufficient development in the womb, she was smaller than a typical ten week premature baby. She weighed only 1 pound and 15 ounces at birth. She fit inside the palm of one of my hands. I still have a picture of her wearing my wedding ring as a bracelet. She was really small.
Melanie was extremely dehydrated when she came into the hospital (due to the vomiting). They had to push several bags of intravenous fluid into her, using a blood pressure cuff, before they could start the caesarean section. This caused her body to experience a rapid temperature drop. After the surgery, they had to put her in a vinyl suit filled with hot air to restore her body temperature. There were no post-delivery rooms available at first, so she was placed in a pre-delivery holding room (with two other women) and then in the delivery hallway. We weren't in a stable, but I could relate to Mary and Joseph when they were told that there was no room in the Inn. Melanie was still shivering in that silver hot air suit while I was blocking people from bumping into her bed in the hallway. I wanted to visit the neonatal intensive care unit and see my daughter, but I couldn't leave my wife shivering in the hallway.
Eventually Melanie's body temperature normalized, and a room became available. I visited Samantha. She was in an incubator. She had a respirator tube down her throat, monitor sensors stuck all over her body, patches on her eyes and a phototherapy light shining on her (to alleviate jaundice). I couldn't hold her. I had to wait until the day that they removed the respirator tube. That was the least of my worries, though. While I stood there, looking at my daughter through a plastic box, the doctor had more bad news for me.
He said that an exam revealed that she had several severe heart issues. It looked like they were going to have to perform heart surgery on my 10 week early, 1 pound and 15 ounce baby girl. That was it! That was the breaking point for me. My wife was still lying in a hospital room recovering from surgery. What would I tell her? She still hadn't even seen her daughter yet. She still had high blood pressure. The doctor explained that it takes some time after delivery for the mother's body to return to normal. I almost didn't want to tell her, but I couldn't avoid it. She had so many questions for me when I came back to her room. Plus, she could see on my face that something was wrong.
Late that night, when the hospital kicked me out, I went home and went straight to my knees. I didn't sleep at all, even though I had been up since 1:00 that morning. I had reached the limit of what was acceptable without receiving an answer from God. I was determined to pray a miracle into my daughter's life. I can honestly say, I have never experienced a deeper or more fervent time of prayer than that night. Romans 8:26 says, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words (ESV)." This is what I experienced.
The next morning the doctor told me that something had happened that he did not understand. Almost all of Samantha's heart complications were gone. There was still one heart murmur, but it was insignificant. There was no need for surgery. I almost jumped through the ceiling! I couldn't wait to tell Melanie.
We weren't out of the woods yet. I framed a picture of Samantha for Melanie to keep at her bedside. We continued to pray. Eventually Melanie was strong enough to visit Samantha. Then she became well enough to be discharged from the hospital. However, Samantha was still at the hospital in that plastic box. We kept praying.
We prayed through each struggle and victory. The breathing tube in her throat was traded for a nasal tube. Eventually she was breathing on her own. The doctors struggled to insert a special long term intravenous called a PICC line. Samantha started to look like a pin cushion, and I strongly reasoned with the doctor that it was more advantageous to just use a normal intravenous. We were able to hold her, and eventually feed her. Then finally, two months later, we took her home. Now, Samantha is a beautiful and healthy seven-year-old.
As Christians, we are ambassadors of Christ. This calling is fulfilled throughout our day, not just when we are at church or on our best behavior. Christ is more concerned with how we act during the other parts of our day (when we are frustrated, when we think no one is looking, etc.)
These are the moments that actually define our character. A personal example that illustrates this is my experience with my observed reality vs. the actual reality of how my clothes fit. On several occasions I have checked the fit of a shirt in the mirror (while getting dressed) and been rather satisfied. Later on, I observe a picture someone took or a reflection in a store window, and discover a gut protruding under the shirt that wasn't present earlier in the mirror. I finally realized that I was in the habit of sucking in the gut every time I looked in the mirror. However, it is
impossible to remember to keep your gut sucked in throughout the entire day. Candid moments later in the day revealed the true nature of my waistline.
This is why I say that Christianity should not be compartmentalized and balanced into the rest of our day. That type of application will cause positive change only in the Christian compartment of our lives (when we are looking in the mirror). True ambassadors of Christ strive to be an ideal reflection of Him in
every aspect of their lives.
... Like my experience playing my new tenor sax, God may have to speak to us through some outside factor or new experience. A message from a guest speaker or a sermon on television may spark something in us.
...The secret is to not ignore the spark when it happens. I could have just returned my new tenor and purchased one that was easier for me to play. Then I would have missed out on the revelation I received in both my sax playing and singing. Don't disregard a spiritual "spark" moment just because it pricks your feelings or rubs you the wrong way. Examine the scriptures to see if it lines up. If so, it may be a tool God is using to lift you out of a hole that you have been trapped in and bring new revelation to your life.
Just like the nodules that developed on my vocal chords, we can develop calluses on our conscience. This causes it to become difficult to discern if a thought was inspired by God or our own mind. We lose that sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
...If left untreated, this damage can lead to serious consequences. I had to practically lose my voice to realize that I needed medical attention. This resulted in a year of vocal therapy, a lifetime of necessary vocal exercises, extensive water consumption and other preventative measures to avoid relapse.
...I pray that, if you are going through a similar experience, you won't allow it to go that far. Surrender your entire life to Jesus. Ask Him to forgive you of your past sins and mistakes. Ask Him to help you to change your ways, and learn true obedience to His will.
I was reading over my rough manuscript today to get it ready for submission. I came across this passage from chapter 2 (written some time ago):
"We don't take the time to listen to the Holy Spirit, study the Word and seek God with our whole heart. We can't, because we haven't given him free reign over every area of our lives. God doesn't allow people to pick and choose the select areas of their lives that they want Him to develop maturity in. He is either Lord of all or not Lord at all."
and thought, "Did I write that? Now if I could only live it consistently!"
Finding My Voice is the title of my new book. It has not been released yet (still in the proof reading stage), but I want to share parts of the writing experience with you. I will post quotes from the draft, testimonies and other parts of the journey. Please feel free to share comments. They may help to refine the final draft.