Another excerpt from my new book, which officially released this week - get your copy now!

“Reverend, I need to talk to both you and your wife about something very important. Will you follow me into surgical?”

I meekly followed the surgeon to the room where my wife was being prepared for her mastectomy, but with every step came rising dread that I could barely stifle. The past six months of our lives had taught me to always expect the worst: first our miscarriage, then a break-in at our house. Then Carol’s cancer diagnosis, the temporary loss of our health insurance, and the discovery that her cancer had started to spread. What was it this time? Had the cancer spread to her lungs, to her brain? What terrible news did God have in store for us?

We entered the prep room, where my wife lay on a surgical gurney. I reached out my hand to lend her any strength I could, but the truth was that I had none to give. I was terrified of what the surgeon would say next, and could barely remain standing myself.

Our doctor paused for a moment and began cautiously. “Sooo . . . we took a routine blood test for your wife, something we always do. But when I got the results back, I saw that her hormone levels were a little strange, so we had to run some additional tests.” She paused again, whether to collect herself or for effect, I’ll never know.

She plunged on. “I just got those results back right now. Mrs. Chin: you are pregnant.”

Carol and I looked at each other but didn’t say a thing. I think I tried to smile weakly at her, but I’m sure it was more of a frozen look of astonishment than anything else. A series of rather asinine questions raced through my mind: “Pregnant? How can she be pregnant? How does someone even get pregnant in the first place?”

Realizing we didn’t have anything intelligent to say in response, Dr, Griffin continued, “Now at this point we have to make some important decisions. First off, you are going to have this baby, right?”

It really wasn’t just a question—it was more of an assumption, a suggestion even. The curious phrasing of her question sparked something in us, a conviction that we might not have had otherwise. Carol and I looked at each other for just the briefest of moments, and immediately agreed: “Yes, of course. Of course we are going to keep this baby.”

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A series of rather asinine questions raced through my mind: “Pregnant? How can she be pregnant? How does someone even get pregnant in the first place?”

And that became our final decision—that no matter what happened, we were going to keep this baby. It was a conviction that would be sorely tested in the coming months, and would greatly complicate the process of Carol’s treatment and recovery. But it was the turning point of this terribly dark season, and it all began with that innocent question, “You are going to have this baby, right?”

Right, we will. It’s funny how little it takes sometimes to get someone to do the right thing.

Our surgeon nodded, and placed her hands on both our shoulders. And then she said something that would stick with us, even to this day: “I don’t know what God is up to, but he’s up to something. That’s for sure!” I could hardly argue with that.

You might be asking why, after everything we had endured, and how little we truly understood about the pregnancy, that we felt so certain that this child was a gift from God. That is a difficult question to answer because I think that our decision was in no small way prompted by the Holy Spirit. But sometimes, you don’t even have know what a gift is to know that it is good. All you have to know is who gave it to you.

For example, in Luke 2, when Jesus is presented at the temple, a devout old man named Simeon rises to meet him. Simeon immediately recognizes that Jesus is nothing less than the Messiah, and praises God that he was able to lay eyes on the Christ, even going so far as to say that now he can die in peace. But what exactly did Simeon see that day? Did a divine sheen surround Jesus, or did Jesus make the sign of the cross with his chubby little fingers? No, from what we can read in the passage, Jesus performs no miracle of any kind, and probably seemed like an ordinary baby.

So why does Simeon react as if he does, as if he had just witnessed a profound miracle of the highest degree? I think this can be partly explained by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, that it was the Holy Spirit who brought Simeon to Jesus and revealed Jesus’ true identity to him. What a reminder that we need the Spirit to see Jesus clearly!

But the passage also says that Simeon had been a devout and righteous man his entire life. And being a man who had cultivated an intimate relationship with God for so long, he knows that God is both good and loving, and that whomever God sent to Israel would be good and loving as well. Simeon didn’t need to see Jesus do anything amazing to know that he was amazing. Because Simeon trusted the Giver, he was able to see the Gift for what he truly was.

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In our own lives, due to our incredibly limited wisdom and comprehension, very rarely will we be able to grasp the true worth of that which what God gives us. More often than not, we look at those gifts with confusion, even horror, wondering why God has given us something that differs so starkly from what we had asked him for.

Because Simeon trusted the Giver, he was able to see the Gift for what he truly was.

In moments when we can’t comprehend what God is doing, we have to take our eyes off the "gift" and focus instead on the Giver. We should remember what it says in James 1:17, that every good and perfect gift comes from our heavenly Father, and what Jesus tells us, that our heavenly Father waits for his wayward children to return with his richest gifts in hand. If we can remember these truths in those moments, it is far easier to look at the gift in our lap and recognize it for its true and priceless worth, even though it may be wrapped in dirty rags, or born in a manger.

Or if you find out about it right before going in for major surgery.

Third Culture
Third Culture looks at matters of faith from the multicultural and minority perspective.
Peter Chin
Peter W. Chin is the pastor of Rainier Avenue Church and author of Blindsided By God. His advocacy work for racial reconciliation has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR, and the Washington Post.
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