Monday, September 21, 2009

"Venite Ad Me Omnes"

In the center of the University of Notre Dame campus, not far from the law school, stands a statue of Jesus with his arms stretched out and the inscription, "Venite ad me omnes" ("Come to me all") on a plaque. The simplicity of those words always filled me with a deep peace back in the days when my only worry was finals. It wasn't until May 12, 1993, the day after I completed the requirements for law school graduation, that their meaning began to take on a whole new significance.

May 12, 1993 was the day that redefined "normal." When Ingrid, not yet five months old, had her first seizure.

Fast-forward three months: Rick and I drove back to Illinois from Minnesota with a sedated eight-month-old Ingrid sleeping in her car seat. In three months, she had gone from a beautiful, communicative baby to one who could no longer cry or smile, and whose right hand was fisted and unusable from constant seizures. I knew that the seizures would start up again as soon as the Valium wore off. But the children's hospital had sent us home. She was not a candidate for surgery and none of the experimental medications had worked.

But more devastating than any of that, God had not come through and healed her, in spite of our frantic, all-consuming prayers. The laws of nature had prevailed as I feared they would, and I found myself standing over the precipice of a terrifying new reality.

The strange thing about evil is that we all know it's there, but most of the time it doesn't seem real because it stays at a safe enough distance. Theologians write countless books on The Problem of Evil, trying to make sense of it. But when it encroaches on your personal space for the first time, when the knowledge of evil becomes part of the fiber of your soul, explanations mean nothing. The safety rails are off and you realize the magnitude of the stakes. A place called Hell could really exist, because you've been there.

My first reaction when Ingrid wasn't healed was, "So God isn't real after all. We're in this nightmare all alone." I had no explanation--no defense of God. Watching Ingrid having a seizure was like standing by as wild dogs tore my baby apart. How could God allow that? My worldview was shattered.

But I was even more shattered. I started having panic attacks, and darkness hung like a curtain around me. The only way I could get through the day was by leaning more heavily than ever on the God whose existence no longer seemed intellectually credible.

And he was there, more real than ever before. He told me to lay down the burden, to stop praying for Ingrid so obsessively and come. Come without asking for anything except his presence. Surrender everything at his altar. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)

I clung to him like never before, releasing everything into his hands--Ingrid, my precarious mental state, and my faltering faith. His light spilled into my life, more powerful than ever, filling me with a joy and peace that could only be supernatural. The darkness that had lurked in every corner fled at his presence, and the panic attacks disappeared and never came back.

A few days later, an untried combination of medications stopped Ingrid's seizures enough to bring us out of crisis mode. And God began to rebuild our family's life.

The problem of evil has many moving parts, and all the books in the world combined can't do justice to it. But it has only one solution: Christ. Having experienced that first-hand silences many questions.


Cindy said...

The lessons you learned with Ingrid's illness have made you a blessing to the rest of the family.

Anette Acker said...

Thank you, Cindy. You are such a blessing, too!

Ragnhild K Ulrich said...

So much of your spiritual depth-perception of faith has come from the journey you have walked towards your Father's heart in finding answers to Ingrid's situation. What you found was His mercy and grace ... summed up in Christ! That is one reason why your words carry a rare dimension of comfort ... you have EXPERIENCED 1. Cor. 1:3-4, which states that we comfort others with the comfort with which we have been comforted by God! I am reminded of the last paragraph of C.S. Lewis' book, Till We Have Faces, where the main character Psyche concludes, "I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away"...
Tante Ragnhild

Anette Acker said...

Tante Ragnhild,

I love that book! I just went and pulled it off the shelf and the way it continues is brilliant: "What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words."

I'm sure that Lewis, as an apologist, saw the futility of words. People will always find the words to defend what they want to believe. Only a personal encounter with God (even if it's not dramatic) brings true faith.

Becky said...

They are good quotes from C.S.Lewis.. It reminds me of a song i was listening to this morning, that my friend Will wrote... the lyrics go "i don't want to talk, talk about Jesus... i just want to see His face..."

Anette Acker said...

Thanks for sharing that, Becky. Your friend has good insight!

Anonymous said...

Bless you; what a hard road to walk...what a great Saviour to meet. It truly is HIS presence that makes all the other issues in the dark corners not soul threatening. And some of that stuff is scary without HiS light. (A ketone diet sometimes have probably already been there, done that.) Know I am praying for you and your family.

Anette Acker said...


Thank you for your encouraging words and your prayers!

We have tried the ketogenic diet, and it helped Ingrid for a while, but then it stopped working, like many of the medications. However, her seizures are fairly well controlled now.

It is a hard road, but it motivates me to keep praying and seeking God, and He has blessed our family in so many ways!