So it is time for a more expansive update on how Nate is doing, along with an expression of our profound gratitude. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all his benefits” (Ps. 103:2).
Nate had his surgery last Tuesday. We reported on all of that at the time, but here are some more details. There were two neurosurgeons involved—the first has done around 1300 of these operations. The second has been doing it for thirty years—many thousands of times. The prayers we requested from you, and which you lifted up most generously, were in fact greatly needed. The second surgeon said he had not seen a worse case in those 30 years. He was not referring to outcomes, but rather to the challenges and difficulties. Since Nate is doing well now, and on track with his recovery, it was obviously not the worst in terms of outcome—since this operation is in fact fatal for some. The problem was that the tumor contained a much larger than normal amount of blood vessels, making the work a mess, and because the tumor was stuck to the brain and to the facial nerve, which the surgeons were wanting to protect. And so we thank God for the extraordinary level of skill displayed by these surgeons, the operating staff, and Keck Medical Center.
Nancy and I flew into LA the day before the surgery, while Nate and Heather and their five kids drove down. My sister and her family lives in the area, and so although we were all staying next to the hospital, Nancy and the kids could hang out with family during the surgery. My sister is named Heather as well, but I am keeping such references to minimum in order to prevent confusion. Heather’s two sisters (Nate’s Heather, see?) drove down from Santa Cruz to be with her in the hospital lobby during the surgery, and I was there as well. When we got back into Moscow last night with Nate and Heather’s kids, we were greeted with a marvelous steak dinner delivered by Heather’s brother and sister-in-law. After we left LA, Ben and Nate’s sister Bekah flew down to help them transfer from the hospital to a house they had rented on the beach. (Nate has to stay in LA for a week post-op). When they left, some friends of Nate and Heather, Andrew and Elise, flew down to spend time with them. Tomorrow, Nate’s other sister Rachel and husband Luke are flying down to help them navigate the air travel home. And so we thank God for the extraordinary levels of tight dedication to one another displayed by our family and friends.
The day after the surgery, Nate was still pretty beat up. But late in that day, he was transferred from ICU to a hospital room of his own, so that we could visit him there with the kids. Nate was sleeping a lot, and the pain was considerable. He said that it was as though “a small bronco had tried to kick its way out of his head.” But he bore that with the same kind of quiet fortitude he showed going into the surgery. Heather was also remarkable in her cheerful steadiness throughout, and Nate was, speaking simply, very brave. Over the years, he has dealt with many things that people don’t know about because he is the photo-negative of a whiner or fusser. He has never assigned a burden to any of his protagonists in his books that he is not willing to assume if his Author assigns it to him. And so I thank God for a son who is truly courageous.
After Nate’s kids had seen him three times post-surgery, Nancy and I piled into the car with all of them in order to come back to Idaho. We decided to drive east before heading north, hitting three national parks in three days (Grand Canyon, Zion, and Yellowstone). I think that was a personal record for all seven of us. We saw a great deal of gorgeous scenery, both inside and outside the parks. And so we thank God for our car companions—Rory, Lucia, Ameera, Seamus, and Marisol—who were pleasant and gracious company. Rory, who is fifteen, helped with the driving, and Marisol, who is a delightfully cheerful seven, displayed her knowledge of many interesting songs. It was a kindness from God that we were driving back surrounded by relief, instead of something weighty or grievous.
When we got back into Moscow last night, all the local cousins came by to visit and catch up. And so we thank God for a living room full of grandchildren who are cousins, but functionally brothers and sisters, both in the Lord and in family.
We stayed just north of Yellowstone Saturday night. We got up early Sunday morning in order to drive to Emmanuel Chapel in Helena. After all that God had given us in the previous week, it was fitting and right that we appear before the Lord in order to worship Him, in order to register that we had not forgotten all His benefits. The pastor, Jonah Barnes, opened the Word very ably, preaching through Psalm 18.
“For who is God save the Lord? Or who is a rock save our God?” (Ps. 18:31).
“The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; And let the God of my salvation be exalted” (Ps. 18:46).
Pastor Barnes made the wonderful point of showing all the different ways that rocks had been used by God to deliver David—as when Saul was on one side of the mountain, David on the other, and the rock in between. Having just driven through Zion National Park, and having been protected by our Rock, worshiping with the saints there in Helena was a great privilege. In the corporate petitions that were presented, they lifted Nate up and his continued recovery, and so Emmanuel Chapel was a tangible representation to us of all the people everywhere who did so much for us in prayer. And so we thank God for all the prayers that His saints have presented to God throughout this ordeal, whether in our sister churches or individually.
The Wilson kids had to be pulled out of school at the very end of the year in order to go down to LA, and the administration of the school was most helpful and gracious in working with the family. Their teachers were wonderful, and encouraged by them (one in particular), their schoolmates gathered up numerous very thoughtful gifts for the kids to use in the car ride room. And so we thank God for the Christian community that is embodied every day at Logos School.
The congregation of Christ Church has been equally marvelous (and our sister congregation, Trinity Reformed). In addition to the prayers and the financial gifts, they have thrown themselves into very practical ways of helping out—getting the Wilson home ready for their return, signing up to deliver meals, providing administration for the financial generosity, and so on. As I am fond of saying, theology comes out your fingertips, and we are truly privileged to live in a Christian community like this one. And so we thank God for the people who surround us, and who love one another in very tangible ways.
Charles Spurgeon once said there were two types of storms—winter storms and summer storms. He said that winter storms make things worse, whether muddier, or colder, or more frozen, and so on. But summer storms, while having a capacity for real violence, make everything lush and green. We pray for unity within the church, but are too often unaware of the fact that affliction is one of the instruments God uses for doing this. This particular trial was remarkable in that way. I was humbled and gratified to see a gift come in to our Deacon’s Fund from one of my adversaries on the web. God is good. We thank God for the way He has drawn His body closer together in and through this ordeal.
We are a family of writers, and so naturally a number of us wrote letters to one another before the event. Among the others, Nancy wrote to Nate before his surgery. The point has already been made that Nate lives the way he writes — he is no literary hypocrite. Nancy also lives the way she writes. Her latest book is entitled Learning Contentment and was released (coincidentally) on May 2, the day of Nate’s surgery. Throughout the whole business, from start to finish, Nancy has practiced what she teaches about contentment, and has practiced it well. And so I thank God for a wife who meant what she was saying when we dedicated Nate to God as an infant, along with his sisters.
This is a kind of situation where I could just go on and on, but I will close it out this way. From the beginning of this trial, we were faced with one of the most difficult balancing acts that I know of. The first thing is to rest in God’s promises, trusting Him for answered prayer, and the second thing is to surrender the outcome completely. If all we do is say “thy will be done,” this can be indistinguishable from a pagan stoicism. If all we do is claim God’s promises, without surrendering, what we are doing is trying to dictate to God. But holding the two together is a work of the Holy Spirit. The best I can figure out, the thing that indicates this balance is happening is that you carry the thing as a weight, not a worry. A weight must be carried, and it must be carried across the finish line. But it can be carried. A worry just chews you up and you can’t carry anything anywhere. And so we thank God for all His promises, and for the arms to hold them.
Continuing prayer requests: Nate is continuing to improve, but we would continue to ask prayers for the pain and nausea to continue to diminish, for his adjustment to a new way of balancing, and for the doctors to clear him to fly home this coming Wednesday. We thank God, we thank you all, and we thank God for you all.