Sometimes I wonder about the significance of my life. Why am I here? What does God want from me? What am I supposed to be doing?
I’m probably not alone in that. We want to know that our lives have a purpose.
I found something the other day that gave me a very unique glimpse into that purpose. It startled me and humbled me. But it made me smile as well. My Dad wrote a book many years ago titled, “Just A Moment”. Each chapter tells the story of something in his ministry or in his life, stories of God’s faithfulness and provision. I ran across a copy of that book the other day.
And one of the chapters is about me. When I was just seven months old, I became pretty sick. And almost died. Here is how my Dad tells the story:
Twice, my little girl was on the critical list. Once, after a severe relapse, she failed to regain consciousness. Ushering my wife from the hospital, I prepared myself for the worst.
That night, with her life hanging in the balance, I watched one of the top pediatricians in the New York area call other doctors. None had discovered any new treatment for “para-influenza”. That germ had wrecked Sharon’s intestines. Nourishment was impossible and dehydration was in a lethal stage. She was dying of malnutrition. So deteriorated was her tiny body that the veins were collapsing and artificial means of feeding were to no avail.
The doctor said, “We’re doing all we can, but it may not be enough. I can give you no real hope.”
That single night will forever be a monument in my memory as my little girl teetered on the threshold of eternity. While two specialists went into the minor operating room in search of a single vein in her weakened body, this evangelist telephoned a select few of God’s people, among them my own father. “Dad, ask people to pray, because if God doesn’t work a miracle, she’ll not last the night!”
Cradling the phone, I went into a small waiting room and knelt to yield myself and my daughter to the will of God.
At length, I heard a baby cry. The doctors had found a vein and my child was conscious. There was hope! Within an hour a Christian nurse stood at Sharon’s bedside to see her through the night. And with the help of private nursing my child inched her way back to shaky health. In the process she consumed 97 bottles of intravenous fluid, underwent two minor operations, spent five tedious weeks in the hospital and had lingered near death. Finally, we gathered up a weak but mending little bundle of life and took her home. Sharon would live.
But her body will always bear the marks of her brush with eternity. The two operations left cross-shaped scars on her ankles clearly visible even today. Only recently , she pointed to them and asked, “Daddy, what are these marks?”.
I answered, “Honey, you’re too young to know about it right now. When you are a little older, I’ll tell you the entire story.”
And what will I say? I’ll recount the anxious weeks, the bottles, the operations and the night of prayer. But those scars will receive special attention. I’ll remind her how they represent two Biblical themes: life and death. They are the marks of near death and at once the emblems of new life graciously given. And I’ll explain how she must refuse to live for herself; how ungrateful it would be to lead a self-centered life when her very breath depends on the mercy of God. And then I’ll turn in my Bible to Paul’s Galatian epistle and remind her that another man was branded; marked as she is. For Paul stated his dedication of life and singleness of purpose by saying in Galatians 6:17: “From henceforth let no man trouble me for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”
Paul was eternally branded. How and where? The question had already been answered in Galatians 2:20: “For I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Those marks were Calvary’s marks. In conversion, Paul was branded as a special possession of Jesus Christ. These are the marks of death and life and every Christian is so marked in genuine conversion.
Then, I’ll apply those scars on Sharon’s ankles to a life-long reminder that she is not her own, but purchased with a price. Her allegiance must be to the God Who saved her life. She is truly, “a dead person on furlough”.
So there it is.
God could have taken me into eternity that night, but He didn’t. He has me here for a reason. And as Dad’s words reminded me this weekend, “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Those cross-shaped scars on my ankles are still visible today. Sharon, you’re marked. For Him. For life.
…always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:10
A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. John 14:19