Two years ago this month marks the two-year anniversary of our granddaughter’s emergency surgery when she was just nine days old. Although she appeared healthy at birth, our granddaughter was born with a congenital condition known as malrotation. Her intestines did not develop properly, leaving them predisposed to twisting. Such twisting makes it impossible to digest food and cuts the blood supply to the intestines.
No one in our family had ever heard of malrotation that morning two years ago. My husband and I were on a plane en route to northern Iowa to meet the newest addition to the family. When our plane landed, we learned that our new granddaughter had been vomiting “highlighter yellow” fluid and had been sent to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, by their local doctor.
By the time we arrived at Mayo, testing was completed. We had a brief opportunity to meet our new granddaughter before the pediatric surgeon rushed her into surgery. Not more than an hour later he returned, joking about the bad coffee and reassuring us that she was just fine. He also commented that the surgery had been just in time to save her intestines. Our granddaughter recovered quickly and without complications. It is fair to say that her parents and grandparents took longer to recover from the event.
Several months later, this same granddaughter experienced another bout of vomiting. Again, “highlighter yellow” fluid. Her parents quickly returned with her to Mayo, where testing reassured them that she was “just” vomiting. During their follow-up visit with the doctor a couple of weeks later, he reassured them that once he “fixed” the malrotation problem, it remained fixed.
There are a few aspects to this part of our family’s history that make the history quite relevant to the spiritual considerations that often accompany a new year. Although I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, a new year is a good time to deal anew with our sin problem in the context of our faith.
Often, our sins are hidden from us, much the same as our newborn granddaughter’s medical condition. We seem like nice people. We don’t lie, cheat, or steal. Nevertheless, we are fallen people in a fallen world. We are sinners. We need to come before the Lord and ask Him to reveal what we cannot see, the subtle and not so subtle ways we have failed to love. This is not something we can do ourselves. We need professional help, so to speak, to save us from our sin before it kills us. King David certainly appreciated the Lord’s revelatory work in his life: “You have searched me and known me.”
And just as our granddaughter’s condition needed immediate treatment, corrective measures must be taken once our sin has been revealed. Confession and repentance: a change in heart, thought life, lifestyle. Sometimes the corrective measures are dramatic, and spiritual surgery is necessary to remove the root of sin: “If your righteyemakes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Sin is serious and life-threatening and must be treated as such.
Finally, we must depend on the Lord’s forgiveness and His sanctifying work in us. Lingering guilt is one of the most potent weapons of our enemy, the accuser. But just as the pediatric surgeon fixed our granddaughter’s problem, our Redeemer has provided an ongoing and permanent fix to our sin problem: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We need not and must not rehearse our forgiven sins: when we do so, we presumptuously play God and focus on ourselves rather than on Him. Although we will undoubtedly continue to sin, we can continue to confess and repent and depend on the Lord’s forgiveness and redemptive work.
Living in a sinful world is tough, and our own sin makes it even tougher. But praise the Lord! He has not left us to die in our sins. Jesus died to cover our sins so that we can enjoy a restored relationship with Him. He has given us His Word and His indwelling Spirit to reveal our sins and lead us to confession and repentance. So while we do need to seek His professional spiritual help to correct what threatens our spiritual well-being, we no longer need to live in guilt and fear. Instead, we have the incredible privilege of living in faith before our Lord who became God Incarnate to die for our sins, who guides and guards us and is preparing us for our place in His kingdom.