Thursday, June 25, 2009

Transformational Trials

I never thought anything would trump autism in terms of the orbit of helplessness and wearying stress it can launch. I was wrong.

Learning Allie was quarantined in a Chinese hospital for swine flu did. I physically shook with tremors the first night after getting up off the floor in immediate, desperate prayer. As we gained information, the conjured up images in our minds were replaced with facts about her welfare. Foreign, yes. Scary, yes. Uncomfortable, at times. Dangerous, no.

You notice I haven't written in awhile. I am an internal processor so, apart from dispatching a mighty prayer team, I cocooned myself until light was visible. At a certain point, I became aware of how many blessings were coming as direct result of this trial. I considered starting a whole new blog to itemize them!

Lo and behold, she is home and internally processing herself--the numerous stretching experiences, cultural awareness, faith building, and fellowship that went down. For the most part, I will let it be her story since she is well able to tell it. And yet, I can't pass up passing on a few proven-once-again spiritual principles:

1. God is able to do immeasurably more than we ask for or imagine.

We sent Allie on this 9th grade class trip to broaden her world view, benefit from full immersion in a foreign culture, and expand her personal threshold of independence. Parents of last year's travelers said the China trip changed their kids. We got way more bang for our buck!

2. "When the praises go up, His glory comes down" (to quote a rockin' song by Karen Wheaton).

People from Yichang to Pittsburgh to Solana Beach were praying for these kids and their parents at all hours of the day and night. Intercession opens the floodgates for widespread blessing. Kids bonded with teachers; unlikely life-long relationships among peers are cemented; moms met back home for group hugs; marriages are being strengthened; international contacts are multiplying; nurses named Angel appeared!

3. Trials transform us.

John Knight writes a meaty blog covering disability ministry at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis as well as applying Biblical truth on the Sovereignty of God to issues he encounters firsthand as a father. Wouldn't you know, he posted this today--the first day I have signed into in 19 days.

A peculiar transformation happens as the focus shifts from agonizing about the experience of a multiform hardship that is thought to await them to the actual experience of living with this particular human being and the multiform way in which they find themselves managing and growing in the process of facing difficulties as they actual (sic) encounter them. Theology, Disability and the New Genetics, p. 194 by Bernd Wannenwetsch

We don't often get to choose the trials which transform us. For some, it will be autism, for others divorce, quarantine, cancer, loss of limb, loss of job, or lost on a hiking trail. Whatever the challenge, all we can choose is how we respond. The degree to which we embrace it as God's agent for transformation in us, is the degree to which we grow spiritually.

Praise GOD! Allie is home, safe and sound, bigger and better, for the trial she endured, as are we. I am grateful for the joy set before us, that it flows not just from autism in our family but also from international travel and fellowship with so many faithful friends.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-3

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. Romans 5:3

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:13-16


  1. Praise God for his provision to Allie, both in China and to bring her home safely. This was very helpful to see it applied beyond my experiences with disability and disease. Thank you for posting it.

  2. Oh! I did not realize she was actually quarantined in a Chinese hospital! Thank God she is home, and I can just imagine what a relief it was for you to hold her in your arms.

    'The degree to which we embrace it as God's agent for transformation in us, is the degree to which we grow spiritually.' Amen. Soon after Rhema's diagnoses, Brandon and I said to one another something to the effect of, 'God's got great things planned for Rhema. He will take care of her. But wouldn't it be a shame for us (her parents) to go through this whole thing in bitterness and self-pity without learning/seeing the things God wants to show us?'

    Give your brave, transformed girl a hug for me.

  3. I love the quote. I have a friend going through a divorce. I think I'll forward it on.

    That's interesting. My oldest son also traveled to China this summer. He was fortunate that Swine Flu didn't disrupt his trip. But in his group a couple people were quarantined at the end of the tour.