September 3, 1983: A day that shall live inside of me
Dateline: Friday, September 2, 1983 The day began like any other day might, if that day included your being a ministry student living in the married couples' dorms at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, married to your nine-months-pregnant, ready-to-pop high school sweetheart, father of a two year old toddling girl, facing five classes between 7 AM and 1 PM, due for work at Vermillion Walnut Company by 3 PM, getting home from work around 12:30 AM, and finally getting a weekend to catch up on your studies, and write a paper for your insufferable Life of Paul professor.
The day began as every other day did back in those days—as a blur to a bleary-eyed, weary-but-determined preacher-in-the-making.
It was how the day ended and the next one began that would forever change the course of our lives.
When I got home from work in the wee hours of September 3, 1983, my wife informed me that it was time. She was in labor and more than ready to finally give birth to our second child. So, fresh from eight hours of cutting and sanding assorted shapes and sizes of walnut wood that would be fashioned into cheese-slicers and knife blocks, I ran through the shower and to the car.
A few hours later, the thing that would most challenge my faith would occur.
Holly Rachelle Strother was born without a name and with a birth defect. It would be a little while before we would settle on the name that literally translates "holy lamb." It would be a lot longer before we would sort through the raw emotions and reeling punches to the psyche and come to grips with the fact that our little girl ( and I do mean little) did not have a perfect body.
I remember—after the doctor's sufficiently grave demeanor impressed upon me that this was no passing thing, that our daughter faced immense challenges that may preclude her from ever learning to walk—stumbling down the hallway of that hospital like a drunken man, looking for a place to be alone. I found it in the men's restroom, the last stall. There, I crumbled to the floor and began my spiritual wrangling with the God I had sworn my life to serve.
Stronger Christians, better preachers have encouraged other believers with a faith so strong they never asked, "Why?"
I asked and asked and asked.
Why this? Why her? Why us? Why me? Why now?
You know, I still do not know the answer to that question.
And isn't that the point of faith? If I had all the answers, what need would I have to trust Him with the things that I do not understand, with the things that hurt the most?
I don't know why God chose me for that challenge. I do have a pretty good idea why he chose Holly. He made her spirit as indomitable as her body was imperfect. He imbued her with as much strength of character as she had weakness of limbs.
My God said, "Watch this. I will show you that the most incredible beauty is bound in brokenness. I will demonstrate my strength in your weakness. I will be the Father to her you can never be. I will make her so that people, young and old, cannot help but stare...and cannot help but see everything they know they want to be. I will make Me a servant. I will be her Friend and Confidant. I will rock her to sleep on those cold, lonely nights of teen angst and confusion, and I will wake her the next morning to an even deeper reservoir of faith and strength. I will teach her to trust Me and she will teach you to be a better man."
And so, that day in 1983 brought the thing that most challenged my faith, which became the thing that most strengthened it. What Satan wanted to use to cause chaos and doubt in my heart, God used to convince me more deeply than ever that He makes no mistakes, that He wastes no opportunities, and that He avoids no honest question.
Even if the question is, "Why?"
Today, I am 30 years removed from that critical moment in my life. And I am thankful He chose her for us and us for her. And by us, I mean all of us. Her mother, me, her sisters, her grandparents, her aunts and uncles, her cousins. He gave her to the people she needed and to the people who needed her.
And we gave her to you, because we knew we had something too precious not to share. We gave her to God, because she was always His, anyways.
Happy birthday to the gift and thank you, Lord, for her.