The Divine Appointment
August 8, 2014
By Laura DiFatta
This past week my niece from Mississippi had surgery here in Birmingham for spinal fusion. This surgery was another layer in what has been an extremely challenging journey for my sister, brother-in-law and their family.
My beautiful niece has Rett Syndrome (not at all like Tourette.) Rett has caused Mary Claire to be non-verbal, to have little voluntary movement, to be unable to walk independently, and to be dependent on others for literally all of her care.
Mary Claire’s parents are amazing and devoted and inspiring. But it has been hard. Suffering, even for good has a way of stripping you bare and getting you to a place of humble honesty. They know that it is God they need and that it is God who is daily giving them the strength and energy and hope they need to walk through the moments.
Mary Claire has taught many of us what selfless love looks like, that dignity exists in every single human life and what an honor it is to serve those who are unable to return it in obvious ways. That is how Jesus loves us. We are unable to return the grace and love He has given and continues to give in kind. Yet He gave and continues to give that love to us lavishly.
Mary Claire has helped our family and many others outside our family learn more about God’s love. She has opened the door to members of our family speaking, with validity, the truth of God’s Word especially as it relates to His Presence and provision in suffering. We are literally honored to be able to love her because God is so clearly teaching us what Jesus’ love is like through her life.
Yesterday, I took my sister Jodie to my gym for an hour to work out. Anyone who has spent much time in the hospital caring for a loved one knows how much a small break like that can mean physically and emotionally. We did an exercise class and really enjoyed it. On our way out of the gym where the class was held, I almost literally ran into a man with Down Syndrome who was standing just outside the gym doors. I recognized him as the man who welcomed me to his church a couple of years ago when our family visited. I also knew that he was the same man my son told me about who encouraged him a few weeks ago. He had told my son, “God loves you. Trust Him because He cares for you and wants the very best for you.” I re-introduced myself to him and thanked him for encouraging my son. Then I introduced him to my sister and said, her daughter is in the hospital. Will you pray for her?” He said, “Yes I will,” then he immediately placed a hand on one of my shoulders and a hand on one of my sister’s shoulders, bowed his head and began to pray. Right there in the middle of a crowded hallway in our fitness facility, this precious man led us to the throne of God. He prayed with eloquence, confidence, authority, sincerity and passion. It was clear he knows The Lord intimately and has a vibrant relationship with Him. He prayed with knowledge of the Word of God and used that knowledge to pray for our needs and personally encourage us in our journey through this time of suffering. It was a holy moment.
There are many layers that I could talk about from this experience. I will focus briefly on two. The first is that he was so humble. He was not concerned about what we or anyone else thought of him. We had a need, he knew Who could meet it and he took us there. Here was one who the world system of “might makes right” and “winner takes all” and “just do it” and “you can do it all,” you, you, you… easily forgets about or sidelines or pities. Yet here is one who reflects and lives out the very nature and heart of the King of Kings! Philippians 2:1-11, beautifully describes how our precious and powerful Jesus put aside his rights as the King of Kings on the greatest rescue mission of all time. It tells of how he humbled Himself even to death on the cross. He did not consider himself. Instead, He humbled himself completely. For you and for me. He trusted himself to the Father knowing that He was loved and that Father
God would lift Him up at the due time. God promises and reassures believers in 1 Peter 5:6 that as we humble ourselves under His mighty hand, He will also lift us up in due time.
Matthew 5:5, records Jesus himself telling the crowd that had gathered for what is now known as the Sermon on the Mount that the “meek shall inherit the earth.” Later, Jesus told his friends that everyone who follows Him must “deny himself” and follow him! That is certainly not a message that we naturally live out. It takes intention and having a great example to follow.
Many of us would admit that we are not very good at self-denial. In fact, very few of us would have done what this precious one did for me and my sister. Would you or I have prayed right then and there without thinking of ourselves and how others would perceive us? But you see, he was not focused on himself or thinking of what anyone else’s perception of him would be. He was focused on God and others and the deep need. As it should be.
God spoke very clearly to us yesterday through one who doesn’t appear valuable in this world’s value system, (In fact estimates show that 90% of babies whose mothers find out they have Down syndrome before birth, are aborted). But, He is precious to His Creator.
In living in the example of Jesus and imitating His humility, he is being used to bring glory and honor to Almighty God! Jesus himself told his friends that anyone who does not accept Him with the the simple faith of a child cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. We place such pride in our own knowledge and intellect and high-minded arguments, in status and position and how others perceive us. The root is pride.
Pride brings to mind our standing, our status, our position. It leads us to self-focused comparison that makes us either more prideful our causes us to feel inferior. Many professing Christians do not even openly share the hope they have in Christ, in part, for fear of how others might perceive or judge them. Pride and self-elevation–or the other side of the coin, insecure self-focus–separates, divides and inhibits. Humility–like this man showed–invites, heals and encourages.
He is special, that is true. But the special he is, lies in the fact that he so beautifully represents his beloved Jesus. I can say, without reservation, I want to be more like him because he acts a lot like my Savior. And I am confident that I will, because God promises to continue the good work He began in me.
And finally, my sister and I once again experienced the very personal love and attentiveness of our Father God. He chose that this prayer of intercession for their needs would come through a man with special needs. Her own daughter has special needs. God’s timing was perfect once again and the person He used was divinely appointed. It would take a thick book to tell you the experiences that my sister and I have each had that are just so intimate and personal from our Lord.
He tells us that we were knit together in our mothers’ wombs, that He has a plan and a purpose for our good, that he knows when we sit and rise, when we go out and come back. He knows our thoughts, desires, concerns, needs and worries. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. And he proved his love most clearly in his willing and humble death on the cross, so that we could know the One who knows us and who loved us even before we knew Him.
And so today, I once again celebrate the personal, loving-kindness of my Savior and invite you to come along with me in this opposite-world journey of learning to be humble, not thinking less of myself, but thinking of myself less.