Today we offer a guest blog post from our good friend Chaplain Charlie Mallie, whose newborn son has had some physical complications which have required surgery the day after being born. Please read below what he wrote for us all as he waited through the surgery today.
As a pastor with more than a decade under my belt, I’m no stranger to ERs, ICUs, NICUs and all the other scary letters in the hospital. As a Navy Chaplain, I’ve seen… well, I’ve seen more than anyone should.
I can say with great certainty that things don’t always go like we think, like we plan or even like we hope and pray. In a fallen world, things can go horribly wrong and sometimes do.
She did everything right, my wife. Prenatal vitamins, regular exercise, scads of check ups and ultrasounds. No issues. None until the delivery, that is. Double nuchal cord and then… something not quite right. Rushed to NICU, a smart intern and a chest scan revealed a diaphragmatic hernia. Basically a hole in the membrane that controls breathing. A hole that allowed the bowels to slip up into the thoracic cavity and consequently push the heart out of location and not allow the lungs to fully develop nor fully function. A biological jigsaw puzzle as an object lesson for the severity of the fall, and my son.
Ultimately it’s my fault. Not that I did something wrong, or that I didn’t do something right – like not pray enough, or have enough quiet times or any of that. (All of that is true by the way, I am a poor miserable sinner, and don’t have much hope in myself for being better.) My only hope is in Christ. But still, it’s my fault. And yours, too, by the way. Unless you’re somehow perfect, your sin contributed to this whole mess just as much as mine did.
Sin is an inherited disease, from Adam on down the line to me, to you, and to my son. Through sin, death entered the world – death in all its forms. Hair going gray and falling out, eyesight getting worse, metabolism crashing. And the more dire forms we’re all too familiar with – cancer, disease, conditions, syndromes, diaphragmatic hernias, the whole stinking mess. And not just us, but the whole creation. From earthquakes to tornados, tsunamis to drought, the whole enchilada ‘is done broke.’ The really bad news is, there ain’t no fixin’ it either. Not by us, anyway. The problem was so immense, so huge, on such a cosmic level, it actually took the death of the Son of God to set things right. There it is. I said it. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
Back to the hospital. Now the parade of doctors, interns, residents, nurses, techs and consent forms is enough to frighten any pagan into instant conversion, but more concerning to a pastor-type like me, and I’d think any God fearing Christian would be the state of his soul should things take a turn for the worse.
What would you do? Pray, surely, but what else? Commit it to God and hope for the best? I’ve seen really solid believers reach for all kinds of superstitions for comfort. I’ve seen the bargaining with God, the deals we try to make, as if we could offer anything He’d deem worthy or useful. Isaiah says something about filthy rags… I’ll let you look it up.
The good news is that our Lord has not left us without aid and comfort in such situations. He doesn’t sit back and do nothing. He doesn’t wait for us to come to Him. He has promised to extend His salvation even to the little ones. He has provided a means that not only delivers the gift of the Holy Spirit, but real assurance through the promise of salvation delivered by a Watery Flood of grace and gift. Not unlike Noah being preserved by the promise of God through the flood nor unlike Israel being brought through the water of the Jordan into the promised land, these events are but foreshadowings of a greater flood, a greater promise and a greater deliverance from sin, death and the devil.
When Christ commanded all nations to be baptized he was not unclear. Even “ready, fire, aim!” Peter got it. And if he got it, so should you. He explained the power of the promise that Baptism delivers, namely the gift of the Holy Spirit. And in case you need it spelled out for you, that gift, it ain’t just for you when you get around to it, when you feel like it, when you understand it. The gift is for you and your children. That gift, the Holy Spirit, is for your children. Don’t be stingy, don’t create barriers where there aren’t any, and don’t relegate the gift of baptism to mere superstition, because you can’t make sense of it in that big brain of yours. Its the greatest, best thing you could ever do for your children. Why would you ever withhold that kind of gift from your own kids?
St. Paul tells us that baptism delivers us into the promise of the resurrection as well– through Christ. Baptized into his death, we are united with Christ. And if united with Him in His death, surely united with Him in His resurrection. Romans 6, you might take a look.
Now all of that is truly good, right and salutary… and solid Biblical theology that some have been trying to poke holes in for mmmm… about 2000 yrs. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what is true. As I write this, Nikolas lies on a table in the next room under the knife. I can tell you good theology counts in times like these. No amount of human comfort is going to do a thing for me at this point. I have only one thought, one concern, one prayer. Now is not the time for fond wishes and hoping for the best. Now is the time to take the Word of God seriously, take His gifts seriously, take His promises to heart. Knowing the promises of God matters. God promised to save my son in Baptism. 1 Peter 3:21 says so. The rest of the world can be made liars, so long as God remains true. Kyrie Eleison! So taking that Word to heart, Nikolas was baptized by my hand right there in the middle of NICU, shortly after he was transported to the Naval Hospital. Baptized into Christ.
Lord knows, I’m thankful for all the prayers, good thoughts, well wishes and casseroles being delivered to my Facebook page and front door. But more than that, I take real comfort that my son’s name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. It was penned in the ink of Christ’s blood shed for Nikolas and every darned one of us.
Should things go terribly wrong, as they sometimes do… well… we will surely grieve, but not as those who have no hope. (1 Thes 4:13) Because more than anything else in this life we’re banking on that Word and Promise of God, applied through baptism and sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. All of that means, as far as whatever the next few hours bring, the biggest concern of any Christian parent is covered. Death is a defeated enemy. Should we lose the privilege of watching our little man grow up, it’ll surely be the toughest thing my wife and I will ever go through, but the truth of it is it’ll be okay. We’ll see him again.
In the meantime, I love this hymn from the Lutheran Service Book. It just about says it all.
God’s Own Child I Gladly Say It
Lutheran Service Book #594
God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!
He, because I could not pay it, gave my full redemption price.
Do I need earth’s treasures many? I have one worth more than any
That brought me salvation free, Lasting to eternity!
Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!
I have comfort even stronger: Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice.
Should a guilty conscience seize me, since my baptism did release me
In a dear forgiving flood, sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?
Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!
Drop your ugly accusation; I am not so soon enticed.
Now that to the font I’ve traveled, all your might has come unraveled,
And, against your tyranny, God, my Lord, unites with me!
Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!
When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!
Though I lie in dust and ashes faith’s assurance brightly flashes:
Baptism has the strength divine to make life immortal mine.
There is nothing worth comparing to this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring: Even there I’ll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising, still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise!
Nikolas Evangelos Mallie
Baptized into Christ 07OCT2012
His name in Greek means “The victory of the people is through the Gospel.”
Written from surgery waiting room 1
4th deck, bldg 1
Naval Medical Center San Diego
LT Mallie is a Navy Chaplain currently serving as tactical Chaplain for 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, the Magnificent Bastards!
“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”” Acts 2:38-39
“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 3:21
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Romans 6:3-4
“baptism now saves you” 1 Peter 3:21
“Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Acts 22:16
“Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas” 1 Cor 1:16
“And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.”” Acts 16:15
“And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.” Acts 16:33
“But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”” Mark 10:14-15
** UPDATE -
From Chaplain Mallie: “Successful surgery! In record time. They even had time to do the circumcision. Things must have been better than anticipated.”
From Mrs. Mallie: “Here he is about an hour+ post op. What a miracle! He looks so much better than before surgery. Most of his bowels were up with his lungs. Now that they are in the right spot, he can breathe!! We are waiting for him to wake up from the anesthesia and then they are hoping to start the process of weening him off the ventilator.”
Your prayers for little Nikolas and the Mallie family are greatly appreciated.By Ted R