At 11:45 on Thursday night, July 14 I was out at Camp Mennoscah. We had just finished up our campfire and late night activity time. As I was preparing to go back to my cabin the director came running up and said, “you need to call your wife.” I already knew what was happening. Three weeks before there were indications that she was at risk of beginning preterm labor. A week after that there was a procedure to slow the process down. When I got a phone call, I knew what was happening. She was on her way from Hutchinson to Wichita with contractions that were very close together. Less than 24 hours later, at 6:06pm we welcomed baby Benjamin Isaiah Stucky into the world. Although, if you want to know how much of a surprise he was, you can just note that it took us another 18 hours after his birth to finally decide to call him Benjamin.
I am writing this article a week and a day after he was born, which, just so happens to be the first day that I was allowed to hold him. I have many wise and knowledgeable medical professionals in my life. I am fully aware that, even though Ben is doing very well at this point, that having a baby at 24 weeks means a future that may very well include a good bit of difficulty. At the very least, we are looking at months in the NICU. Months that will be filled with good days and bad days, steps forward and steps backward. Beyond that there are a whole host of issues that our family may have to overcome in the coming years. There are reasons to be overwhelmed, but interestingly I am finding myself relatively ‘even keel’ at the moment. Sure, there have been many moments of uncontrollable crying, but I am feeling more stable than I was expecting to be.
As I’ve reflected on why this is, I think part of it is due to the fact that this is not the first round of difficulty related to our children. After a very long and difficult struggle to even get pregnant in the first place, late in the pregnancy for our first child we learned of potential complications that might have ended in tragedy.
At several points during our previous struggles I had numerous people tell me that we were so “strong” or “courageous”. It was an interesting thing to hear because I don’t remember feeling that “strong” or “courageous”. Looking back on previous ordeals, as well as looking at our current one, there are a couple of things about the nature of courage that has become very clear to me.
The first is that courage is cumulative. I once heard a quote that said something to the effect of, “Courage is not something you get before you go through a difficult experience, it’s something that you get afterwards.” True courage comes after making it through a painful and difficult experience and realizing that you can in fact survive it. It’s then, when you face a new challenge, can you enter into that new challenge knowing that you are strong enough to survive it?
The other thing that I’ve learned about courage is that courage and survival are different words for the same thing. What seems like extraordinary courage from the outside, is really just a matter of facing the challenge that is set in front of you and simply making it through another day. It’s not an act of bravery, it’s merely what must be done.
The final thing I’ve learned is that God is present through everything that we might face. While this might seem like the thing a pastor should say, it’s not something that I would have always said, particularly in the midst of my most difficult moments. When I say that God is present through everything, what I mean is that God is there even when it feels like God is absent. I have had moments where I truly thought God had abandoned me. It’s only through looking back that I’m able to see how God was at work through it all. And again, it’s these past experiences that allow me to see God at work now, even in the midst of serious difficulty.
The truth is that every one of us will face some sort of challenge or difficulty in our lives; a challenge that will re-quire what looks like incomprehensible strength and courage to others. What is also true is that each of us can and will face those challenges with courage that comes by facing what we have before us for that day. A courage that looks more like survival, and faith that carries us even when we feel completely alone.
Each month for our newsletter Pastor Alan writes a short article on a variety of topics. At times he will also create a video version of the article.
First Church of the Brethren
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