As I heard the words come out of the neurologist’s mouth, my brain was unable to process them. My wife Cassia was sitting next to me. We live in Elgin, IL, but we had driven into Chicago to meet with a neurologist who would tell us the results of an MRI for our son, Elan, who was five months old. All of this started the day after Elan was born, when he failed his in-hospital hearing test. We wrote it off as a fluke because the test had been interrupted so many times. But after two more failed hearing tests, we knew something was wrong. We hoped it was simply fluid buildup in his ears that never drained. But then Elan began missing other developmental milestones. He didn’t seem to react to our voices. He didn’t make eye contact with us. He wasn’t reaching for objects in front of him, or even tracking things that would move across his field of vision. Then the soft spot on his skull closed, and our pediatrician ordered an MRI. Soon we got the call that the neurologist was ready to meet with us.
We sat in her office for an hour with her, looking at Elan’s brain imaging as she explained what was on the screen. There was so much empty space where brain should be. Whatever we were looking at, we knew it wasn’t good. At the end, she looked at Cassia and I and asked, “So, do you have any questions for me?” Even after an hour of explaining, my biggest questions still had not been answered. After a moment, I cleared my throat and asked, “Doctor, will Elan ever be able to hear or see?” She looked at Cassia, and then back at me. “Probably not,” she said. Her words seemed to hang there in the air, not really landing anywhere. More questions rushed out of my mouth. “What will his cognitive abilities be? Will he be able to interact with us? What does Elan’s future look like?” She paused to consider the questions. Finally she replied, “I don’t know.”
I have heard those three words a lot in the last two months since that appointment. Elan has been diagnosed with epilepsy. Will seizures be a regular part of his life? I don’t know. His is currently on three different seizure medications. How long will these meds work? I don’t know. A recent bout of seizures compromised his swallow ability, requiring him to be put on a NG tube to eat. Will he regain his swallow ability, or will he be tube fed for the rest of his life? I don’t know. Will he ever know my face? Will he ever hear my voice? Will he ever be able to walk? Or talk? Or sing? How will he experience beauty in this world? I don’t know.
And yet, in the midst of all this unknown, there is beauty. There is beauty in recognizing the image of God in a boy who experiences life so differently. There is beauty in the way the community of Jesus has surrounded our family to help us bear burdens we would not be able to bear ourselves. There is beauty in my brand new appreciation for the episodes in the Gospels where Jesus makes the deaf and mute speak, makes the blind see, makes the epileptic cured, and makes the lame walk. There is beauty in knowing that God is fully able to reveal himself to Elan, despite Elan’s limitations.
We don’t know what the next few decades hold. But we do know how this story ends. It ends with heaven invading earth. With resurrection. With healing. With restoration, justice, and unity of all things. The end of the story is beautiful. And even between now and the end of the story, there is beauty - beauty in the glimpses of his kingdom coming, and, in the midst of the unknown, beauty in walking with the God who has made himself known to us.
“God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice”
White bean chicken chili - a delicious accident. The meal is a result of following a recipe on one page and accidentally finishing with a different recipe on a different page. Recipe here.
Father, I do not know what tomorrow holds. But I know the One who holds tomorrow. Help me to trust when I cannot see. Help me to walk by faith, and not by sight.
Pastor and author Tim Keller has said, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.” Jesus came so that we might experience being both known and loved at the same time. This week, take a look at the people around you. Who feels like no one really knows them? Who feels like they are unknown, and thus unloved? Consider the opportunity you have to be intentional and vulnerable with these people this week. As you carry Christ in you, may you yourself be the beauty in the midst of the unknown.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / @coryshumate