AND FAITH THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHILD
2006 by Jim Robinson
when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled,
saying, It is a
spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus
spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not
afraid. —Matthew 14: 26, 27
was born with the most beautiful eyes.
But last December, one of them didn’t
look quite right to his father. They were sitting in a restaurant—four-year-old
Dawson, his mother, father, big brother Daniel, and the grandparents.
Eating, talking, discussing the day’s events, the busy-ness
of things with Christmas coming soon.
then Mark noticed something. Perhaps in any other situation,
under any other lighting, it might have gone unnoticed—the
dilated pupil, the strange milky-pink cast, vaguely translucent
and colorless. Mark reached out and placed his hand in front
of Dawson’s other eye, and asked what he could see.
unfolded over the next few days is the kind of thing every
parent prays will never happen. Please God, no. Not our child.
Not our baby. Our child.
moved quickly for medical help. The process didn’t go
as they’d prayed, though; the look of concern on the
doctor’s faces, the quick referrals to specialists.
This unexpected chapter thrust upon their lives would not
relent, and with each new page turned, the news worsened.
From one examination room to another, hearts pounding, their
world falling away. The looks warned. The scans confirmed.
had a cancerous tumor inside his left eye. Without intervention,
he would probably not survive more than another year. As Mark
and Carol Ann stood helpless, holding each other up, they
were told of the risk of more cancer, perhaps in the other
eye, or anywhere. They could hear the words, echoing off the
cold white walls. Their son would need an operation. Soon.
didn’t seem fair. Dawson had been born into the world
weeks early, fragile and weak, not much bigger than his father’s
two hands. There were challenges. He and his parents grew
accustomed to fighting battles. He was small, but beautiful.
He had been through a lot. Why him? Why this?
moved around them like a dream, a very bad dream. But they
did the things that needed doing. They booked the flight.
They packed their bags. The very best at this kind of procedure
could be found in Philadelphia. That’s where they would
go. They would do the next thing, and the next, and hope beyond
hope to wake up from this terrible nightmare, confused but
wife and I went to see them before they left. We sat at the
breakfast table and talked, though the words meant less than
the company to them, no doubt. Because words don’t mean
much in times like this. Words don’t carry enough comfort,
or hold enough hope. Teresa and I tried to be upbeat and encouraging.
But the truth is, our faith often isn’t sufficient.
Even the most well-meaning of us can sometimes discover a
surprising inability to reach beyond our own fears far enough
to be fully available for someone else’s. My wife and
I have small children of our own. The fear of our good friends
scared us. And so tears came, from all of us, and the silent
embraces meant more than the words.
FAITH AND FEAR
am familiar with Fear. He comes to me, and I know his eyes.
I see him not only in the eyes of those who come into my counseling
office, but in my own sometimes, too. There. In the mirror.
Sometimes the look is old, a reflection of things from the
past perhaps not yet fully surrendered. But often the eyes
are looking forward, too far ahead. All of these marvelous
gifts that have come to me since getting sober, since sacrificing
my selfishness to Christ…can they be real? Can they
know it isn’t “right,” this worrying, this
projecting of pain into a future that hasn’t yet arrived.
Most of the time, we Christians do our best to remain in the
day, to follow Jesus’ advice about living for and in
the present moment, rather than worshiping the false god of
fear. Wherefore, if God so clothes the grass of the field,
writes Matthew, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into
the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little
faith? And we read this, and we get it. But then something
happens, something unbelievable, something that looks and
sounds and feels so very un-God-like that we blink against
it and try desperately to refocus. Therefore take no thought,
saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal
shall we be clothed? …for your heavenly Father knoweth
that ye have need of all these things. Yes, Lord, yes.
I know you love me. But here, now, in the midst of this terrible
fear…But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his
righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you…
And if we’re not careful, oh so careful, the words
can begin to threaten our sense of strength, our perception
of our own “spiritual condition.” Maybe something
is wrong with my faith. Is it strong enough? Has it ever been?
therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall
take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the
day is the evil thereof. Children
seem to understand this, naturally, the way they understand
laughter, and the love within the laughter. As adults, we
know this…but it is often too much in our heads,
rather than our hearts. When things are going smoothly, we
practice it. But then the fear comes…
from my early religious teachings will sometimes sneak up
on me, and an implanted, covert kind of shame will resurface.
I will default to a common misinterpretation of Scripture,
and I’ll find myself believing that somehow my faith
can cast out all fear, that if only I can muster enough of
the stuff it will act as a shield against fear and loss and
projected loneliness. But this is not true. Perfect love
is my only real hope, and perfect love is something we humans
are incapable of manufacturing on our own. There
is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because
fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in
love. (1 John 4: 18)
that feareth—All of us. Made perfect in love—Jesus.
Mark and Carol Ann are strong Christians, and deeply committed
parents. Their passion for raising their children within a
Christian environment is nothing less than inspiring. They
are godparents to my son. But they are not equipped to face
the fierceness of fear on their own. None of us are. It is
too much. And so, as followers of Jesus, we ask for something
we can barely understand through our own quivering lips. We
ask Him to give us the strength to put on our clothes, to
feed our children, to take them to school and to the park
and to the doctor. And when they or anyone else we dearly
love become sick, we ask Him for a strength beyond our broken
hearts to keep us upright in the chair beside their bed, and
to calm our trembling enough that we might hold their hand
in our own.
lost the eye. But his life was spared. There was no more cancer.
family returned both empty and filled. They had survived,
all of them. At times Mark and Carol Ann had wondered if they
could stand the pain of their son losing a part of his precious
body, but they did. Prayers for something far more precious—his
very life—had become their ultimate plea. God had answered.
Their faith had not allowed them to walk through the dark
forest unafraid, or unscathed. But walk through it they did.
And the great Healer traveled with them. He does not say we
will walk the earth free of fear. But Jesus—the embodiment
of Perfect Love—promises that He will never let us walk
were home in time for Christmas. But Mark and Carol Ann were
somewhat numbed by the exhaustion of it all, and found themselves
struggling to embrace their usual enthusiasm for the occasion.
At times, they admitted to feelings of just wanting the day
to pass, so they could begin to recover, and start a new year.
But still, there were children in the house. Children unaware
of just how serious things had been, unable to comprehend
all their parents had been through. They only knew somewhere
within their innocent spirits that it was Christmas, and that
something Love-filled was about to happen.
so, the lights were lit on the tree, the presents opened.
Grandparents, parents, children. Together. Celebrating a certain
day, a day that in ways we can never fully fathom always seems
to make us pause, and wonder. To breathe. To take in a dared-hoped-for
respite from the reality of a world that can be most dangerous
indeed. To be still, and see through the eyes of childlike
vulnerability that He is God. If only for a moment. But then,
this moment is all we really have.
the end of the day, after the wrapping paper had been thrown
away and the prayers spoken and food eaten, Dawson, wearing
a patch until the prosthetic could be fitted, came to his
mother. She lifted him into her arms. She smelled his hair.
Mommy,” he said, his voice almost wistful. “Wasn’t
this a wonderful Christmas?”
it was, little Dawson.