I haven’t had a spare moment to write since last Wed. but I’m at my desk today trying to keep things running and I’d like to pipe in with a brief overview of what I’ve been through this last week and how it has appeared to me.
Back on July 28th, my wife gave birth to our first son, Odin Levi Skaggs. The labor went really well, there were no complications at all and we were in and out of the hospital in 24 hours. But he was fussy. He was always happy to eat, but then would quickly spit up. While it was troubling, we were assured by others that this sort of behavior wasn’t uncommon. After a few days of this we were getting concerned and brought him to the doctor who weighed him and discovered that Odin had lost almost 20% of his birth weight in 5 days. Some weight loss is normal, but this was something else so he sent us to Legacy Emmanuel hospital. After about 24 hours of profound anxiety, we discovered that there was no connection between Odin’s mouth and his stomach – his throat was simply a dead end pouch. Here, by the way, is only the first indication of God’s hand – how does a newborn survive for five days with no food or water? He should have been dead, or at least suffered some serious problems like kidney failure, but really he was just hungry, dehydrated and mad. (Tough little guy!).
As it turns out, this is not an unheard of condition and there has been a tried and true surgical procedure that doctors have been doing for 70 years, but it involves unzipping the baby like a winter coat and often creates long term problems like scoliosis. But our doctor said, “While I’ve never done it before, I’m pretty sure I could do this through the scope.”...and so he did. With four incisions about the size of rice grains Odin’s esophagus was repaired and he’s spent the last three days recovering and hitting or exceeding every benchmark along the way – so while we aren’t done with this drama, we’re definitely over the hump.
But here’s the thing – the overwhelming experience here hasn’t been fear and anxiety, but rather God’s immediate presence. Before we even knew what was happening I was drawn to Philippians 2:30 which in my pocket Bible reads “...he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me.” At the time, I read it as God speaking to me about Odin (not Paul talking to the Philippians about Epaphroditus). The idea that this event would serve to ‘complete’ my service to God really set me down a train of thought that had a lot to do with the work I find myself in these days, particularly BCNW, and how I’ve wound up picking a fight with the enemy in some sense. By reaching out to men and trying to live from my own true heart, I’ve caught the devil’s eye as a soldier who’s popped his head out of the foxhole.
Now I don’t know if Satan reached up and cut my son’s throat in two, but I certainly know how he hovered at my shoulder through all of this, whispering despair and fear and lies of the ‘How can a loving God allow this” variety. And yet, by God’s grace and the perspective I’ve learned these last couple of years, it only served to make his BS more obvious. His line was never attractive, the deception was at no point convincing and I found myself less and less afraid and more and more angry. That this battlefield my son has been born into, this dreadful, bitter conflict that is forced upon every son of Adam, rests squarely on Lucifer’s shoulders.
There was a powerful moment of clarity where his attack was heavy and I was exhausted that I remember some primal, spiritual growl rising in my throat. “Even if you take my son,” I said, “You will not crush me. You will only piss me off and add fuel to my rage against you.”
It’s so very true that a man truly alive is a real threat to the Kingdom of Darkness, and the Devil will strike at us from any place he can. But we do not mourn as those who have no hope. I’ve told many men that the offer presented in Wild at Heart is not an offer of safer, calmer life, but just the opposite. The offer is one of risk – and it’s truly in the furnace that we find the depth of our own strength and that of our sustainer.
Stay the course.
Fight the good fight.
Finish the race.