FEAR & COURAGE*
The door to my home office burst open with a big waft of air … “Chris, guess what?” Natalie said with a smile. I was so startled by her sudden entry, I began to worry a pipe broke in our basement apartment and that our few newlywed belongings were being washed away. “Is everything okay?” I said anxiously. She paused, “I’m pregnant.”
In that singular moment, I was overcome with two emotions. On the one hand, I was excited because I always wanted to be a father. At the same time, I was frightened and said to myself, “I am so inexperienced with life … am I ready for such a responsibility?” Ready or not, we were going to have our first baby and it was up to me to rise to the challenge of fatherhood. We were poor as church mice, trying to fight our way through college and full-time jobs. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say I was afraid of the future. I was young and afraid.
Soon our little daughter joined our family and my heart was spilling over with love. She was a most precious little girl and I loved seeing her personality emerge. Over the next few years, I saw her become an independent, feisty and compassionate little girl. Ever since she came into my life, I have tried to fiercely protect her from people who might use or take advantage of her. My greatest desire then and now is to help her see her true worth – for I love her so. Thus began our family – under less-than-perfect circumstances and in many ways under a shadow of self-doubt and fear.
By the time Mitchell was diagnosed with DMD, Natalie was already pregnant with our 4th child, Wyatt. Fearing our newest baby might have DMD, a medical professional suggested we think about aborting our baby. We dismissed the notion wholesale because we valued life more than our inconvenience. What’s more, although Mitch was diagnosed with a fatal disease, his tender life was still worth living. For he found much joy in his life, and so did we.
We were prepared to accept our baby no matter what physical challenges he might have. As mother and father, we would stand united and love our child with all we had. We were still afraid of the future, but we faced our fear with whatever faith and courage we could muster. That was the best we could do. I suppose that is the best anyone can do.
So on this day, I’ll never forget our newborn sleeping peacefully on the examination table as Natalie took on a most ponderous demeanor. This was the moment we would discover if Wyatt had DMD. She seemed to look upon him as if to say, “Sweet baby of mine, no matter how heavy the burden, I will carry you all the days of my life.” Such is the magic of motherhood.
A blood test would soon reveal Wyatt was perfectly healthy and fear retreated like the evening tide. That night, I knelt at the side of my bed and tearfully thanked my Father for my family. I was grateful Wyatt was healthy. I was also grateful we were blessed with Mitch, broken wings and all. Though I felt inadequate, I promised to do my best to be a dad and asked that He would somehow make up the difference.
Whether I’ve faced professional insecurities or deeply personal self-doubts, I have confronted my fair share of fear, worry, and discouragement. What if I ran from fear? What if I turned my back on fatherhood and abandoned my family when we discovered Mitch was sick? I would have missed one of the most profound blessings of my life. Everything that has ever scared me, when confronted, has made me stronger.
In life or in the face of death, there are moments every human will shudder with fear … and somehow, some way, we must find a way to take up courage and face the things that frighten us.
No matter how much I want to, I cannot know the future. So, when I face fear or the unknown, I try to remember the phrase “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it.” Then, I do what my sweet wife taught me years ago, I take the next best step.
These are images of Wyatt having blood drawn to screen for DMD.
There is a profound story surrounding little Wyatt: an answer to prayers, his birth and his life. That story is shared in our Tender Mercies presentation.