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Entitled to Nothing, Given Everything

man-prayingOn October 5, 2007 at 2 AM, I was afraid. Sitting in a car in Fridley, MN I prayed.

“Lord, don’t take my son. Please, don’t take my son.”

My wife was 28 weeks pregnant. We were in a strange city on a very stormy night. My wife is in labor and my son is in serious danger. 28 weeks is way too early. I didn’t know the exact risks, but I knew they were serious.

Sitting in the car and soaked with the pouring rain, I looked toward the upper floors of Unity Hospital. My wife was there and I was sure she was scared. What can I do to support her? If I were in some movie I would promise that everything would be just fine. But she and I both know that I have no power to keep that promise.

I got out of the car and ran through the rain. Hurrying back to the floor, we met with the obstetrician who was working that night. he explained that the baby was coming and that he was quite premature.

“Tell me the worst case scenario” I said.

“Well, the blood vessels in his brain are fragile and when he is delivered, if any of them were to burst, he could have serious brain damage.”

Oddly, it was good to know what the worst was.

Unity Hospital was not equipped to deal with a child that premature so they asked for Children’s Hospital to send an ambulance so that the baby could be sent to Children’s right away. Unfortunately, the ambulance was busy on another call. The staff slowed Sam’s labor in the hopes of putting off the delivery until they arrived.

It was over two hours before they arrived and Sam was allowed to labor. shortly thereafter, at 4:57 AM, my son was born. He let out a loud cry which to this day brings tears. He was gently put into what I call the Baby Baker (an incubator on a stretcher) and was whisked away to Children’s hospital.

We named him Chase after me. He was Charles Gruver IV.

I tell this story to ask a question: Does God owe me Chase?

We heard lines like “God wouldn’t let him die” and “just believe that he will be fine.” These were meant to be comforting, but they weren’t. We knew that throughout the Bible God not only allowed terrible things to happen, sometimes he commanded them. God could have stopped Herod from killing every child under two in Bethlehem, but he didn’t.

The fact is, terrible things happen to believers and to their children. God does not spare his children from suffering, even awful suffering. I recently was reading on the Holocaust and there is a picture of a Hungarian Jewish mother walking with her two young sons on their way to the gas chamber. Was God wronging them? He could have saved them from the gas chamber.

As heartwrenching as it is, the answer is that we are God’s and he can do with us as he pleases. That night, I knew that God could take my son and he would not be wrong to do so. Chase was not mine. He was God’s and I was begging for the privilege of caring for him.

Despite the months of fear, this story has a happy ending. Chase is alive and well today. God did grant my request and he spared my son. The happier ending is that Chase and I are believers, we will live with Jesus forever. One day he will not be simply my son, but a brother who will turn one million the same year I turn one million twenty-four.

As frightening as it is to know that God could take Chase at any time, it is also freeing. God is not random chance. If he takes Chase from me, he has a purpose. Far from being meaningless, God’s actions are deeply meaningful. That is full of meaning!

The heartbreak we feel should be felt. The pain in this world is because of sin but it is also in the hands of a Father who loves us. We are allowed to grieve, but we “may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” If God had taken Chase, it is in the end for my joy.

So brothers and sisters, do not hang onto your things, children, spouses, jobs, and friends as if God would wrong you if he took it away. That is a recipe for losing your faith when he does take it away. Instead give him everything. Know that it is his to start with and be thankful that he has let you enjoy them.

The strange part is that when I give them up, I am more thankful for them. Tonight is not just any night, it is one of the finite number of evenings I get to spend with my wife in this world. Maybe it is even the last one. How grateful I am for each one!

-Chip

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