I have a young friend who's name is Cade. He is a very precocious ten year old filled with spunk and a tad bit mischievous, which makes him even cuter. Since he hails from the great state of Texas ( I had to say that for Cade's sake) he plays football and loves those Friday night lights! This year very close to Cade's tenth birthday he entered a new school.....the school of suffering.
Within a one month period of time his father lost the job he held for twenty years, was diagnosed with cancer in the spine and ribs, and was told he had a tumor in his right sinus the size of a baseball. The doctors decided the tumor was the most life threatening and so Cade's father had to undergo a twelve hour surgery and then endure weeks of horrific pain, knowing that when he was sufficiently recovered he would have to start the battle with cancer.
Anyone of these things alone would have been devastating; but all three together are very hard for adults to comprehend much less a ten year old who loves his dad very much. Cade's father is one of the best men I know. If I were to look around and try and nominate someone from the male species for best husband, father, friend, boss etc. he would be at the top of my list.
One day while I was praying for this family a picture came to my mind; one I thought might help Cade in his ordeal. So I wrote him a letter and he has graciously given me permission to share it with others in the hopes that this picture may find its way to another who is in the school of suffering.
I was going through my bookcase the other day and came upon one of my favorite stories...War Horse. I don't know if you and your family went to see the movie last year when it came out and are familiar with it. At any rate I felt I was to send it on to you and I do hope you read it.
It is about a very special horse named Joey. The story opens in a world of beauty with Joey living on a farm and having a master (Albert) who loves him very much. But then a war comes and Joey is forced to go into another world where he becomes a "war horse". He serves much like a humble servant to each of the warring factions of men and they both recognize his noble qualities. He also has one true friend Topthorn who he looks up to and who helps him survive his ordeal.
But then comes a terrible day when he loses Topthorn and runs from all the shelling into a place called "no man's land"....and in the awful darkness he gets all tangled up in the barbed wire the men at war have strung all across the deep dark trenches. He can do nothing but stand in pain and wait.
It is Christmas. One man from each side gets brave enough to care more about the wounded horse tangled in barbed wire than their own safety. They each set aside their weapons and walk out into "no man's land". I will let you read and finish the story; but what I want to suggest to you is that Joey is much like Jesus. Jesus lived in a world of beauty with his Father and then came the war caused by men which separated heaven and earth and brought destruction on human beings and creation. He enters the world of men as the "Suffering Servant' and ends up on a cross with a crown of thorns...which represent all the thorns that have now covered the creation; much like Joey being all tangled up in barbed wire.
What Christmas really means is that because of His sacrifice peace has now re-entered the world of warring men; they can have peace with God and peace among themselves. They can go out to Him like the two men did Joey, laying aside all their weapons and warfare and find something more to live for ; something of great nobility and beauty.
There is another reason I hope you will read this book Cade, and actually what inspired me to write to you about Joey. It is about what has happened to your own dad. You see Cade, as Christians we are called not to just believe in Jesus; we are called to follow Him. That will look different for each one of us but one thing we can know, if His own life went into a place of great loss and suffering ours will too.
For your dad it is pretty obvious what all he has lost and how much he has suffered. He is a lot like Joey all tangled in barbed wire and waiting. The important thing here is that this very thing is not going unnoticed here on earth and in the heavens above. Like Joey's suffering causing men to lay down their weapons and come out to him, so many people are looking at your dads suffering and patient endurance and are being changed by it.
Your dad is one of the bravest and finest men I have ever known. He is a hero Cade. Like Joey everyone recognizes him for the noble man that he is. He has served others sacrificially all his life and blessed so many people (I am just one of many). Now he is being used in a way that is hard for us to understand, very hard for you, your brothers and your mom. But you must not lose hope! Joey is restored to Albert and gets back to England. Our stories have a good ending because we are following Jesus and His story has the best ending.
You have a great part to play now in your dad's story...and your own story. Will you be brave and be one of the ones to go out and help your dad? To go where it is very hard to go...into his suffering? It must have been very hard to cut the wire off of Joey, to wash his wounds and help him. Read the story and you will see how Albert comes back into it. I am convinced Cade that you have it in you to be brave and courageous and to move toward your dad and help your mom. This won't be easy but being a hero never is. Your dad is a hero and you are his son, love him well.
I ended the letter with a personal blessing. The charge I gave to Cade is really a charge to myself. It is too easy to withdraw to my safe world rather than walk into someone else's pain and suffering. It is a way of self protection that I know only too well. Yet I am convinced the love of Christ looks like this....laying our weapons of self defense down and walking out into "no man's land". Remembering when we move toward the suffering and wounded we move toward Jesus.