It is hard to believe that such a sweet, happy, and healthy looking child is actually not healthy at all. About a year ago my daughter began to notice that something was not quite right with little Kolten. He would have episodes in which his body would not act or respond in certain situations, sometimes even twitch or contort in a small way. Instead of going away they became more frequent. After thorough testing the diagnosis was confirmed: epilepsy.
On the day he went to the hospital for a week of testing to determine the nature and frequency of his situation, his little head was covered with so many electrodes and wires that he looked like something out of an old Frankenstein movie. The plan was that he would spend five days all wired up to collect as much data from his brain as the doctors could get. However, after just 36 hours, he had already experienced 170 seizures and given the hospital staff more than enough data to interpret.
In this last year Kolten has taught me as much about ministry to people as any one of my incredible seminary professors or any of a number of lay persons who have impacted my life. Here are just a few of the things I have learned, and am still learning:
1. Ministry is about loving people, and loving people always limits your life. That’s right. Anything worth loving brings boundaries and limits to life. I love being with my grandson. But when I am with him it isn’t about what he can give to me, how he can enrich my life, or ways in which he can further my career. No, its all about loving Kolten. As I write this I am in the middle of several days alone with Kolten. He is two years old. I’m fifty years old. I’m tired. And its a good tired. I’m always watching him, even more so than the average two year old. He takes a lot of medicine. He falls down a lot. He gets frustrated with dropping his toys. It limits my life – a lot! There are things I don’t do, there are places I don’t go. It has helped me to ponder: how committed am I to loving the people of my congregation? Am I committed enough to do everything necessary to watch out for them and ensure their spiritual growth? Are their selfish places in my heart that prevent me from being the best minister I can for them?
2. Its all about grace. Yes, I said all. I’m not given to exaggeration. Everything comes down to grace, and grace trumps everything. On the day back at the hospital when the data was collected and interpreted, an incredible illumination happened. When Kolten has a seizure his entire brain lights up, except one small area – the area where his emotion center is. I am told by doctors that if the emotion center of a child’s brain is constantly bombarded by seizures that that child will be always angry, will continually bite themselves, and will hit and abuse siblings and parents. But, as you can see, Kolten is happy. The interpretation of the data for me could not be any more clear: in this arena of heartache and struggle with epilepsy, there is an incredible display of God’s grace in the midst of disease. When it comes to ministry, things can never get so bad, people can never be so far from where you would like to see them that they are not displaying some form of God’s wonderful mercy and grace. I have to look for it sometimes, but I know its there. And Kolten has taught me to look for it in ways and in places in the Church I have been unable to see.
Well, Kolten is waking up from his nap. Its time to go. Its time to see grace in action. Its time for me to love again. Its time for God to keep working through the broken and flawed and fallen world to show forth the riches of his grace to us.