Last week Renée shared her story of resting in his sovereignty and love in the midst of immense loss. This week Joshua and Lidia Noemi Aguilar share their story. As a parent there may be nothing more fearful than the birth of a child. You want everything to be right. The Aguilars are resting in God in the midst of three of their children being born with a cleft lip and more than 20 surgeries now. God is sovereign and loving even when our kids suffer in this fallen world and there’s nothing we can do but trust God.
“When darkness veils His lovely face,” these words from the second verse of the Solid Rock hymn have been on my mind and heart the past few weeks. Think about those words. Meditate on them for a minute. Jesus told His disciples, “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33c). In these moments of tribulation, trials, temptation and tempests, God’s sovereignty and love seem to be veiled to us in darkness. There have been times in my family’s lives where we sat back and wondered, “God what are you doing?”
I remember the excitement I felt when my wife went into labor with our firstborn son, Joshua. We were a young couple, both of us about 21, and honestly we were unprepared to become parents. When my wife gave birth, family surrounded us and little did we know that parenthood was about to smack us in the face. However an unexpected complication came along with his birth. Our son was born with a bilateral cleft lip. As unprepared as we were for parenthood, we had no idea how to deal with a cleft lip. All we knew is that God entrusted this beautiful child to us--to raise him to love God with all his heart, soul and mind.
The first months were a major struggle. For the first three months my son only gained a pound or two. We knew he wasn’t getting enough food but we didn’t know how to help him. Many of the doctor’s and nurses didn’t know how to help us help him either. Baby Josh was up all night crying, my poor wife was sleep deprived, and at this time I was working nights and taking 18 credit hours at college. Sad to say on my part, my wife was mostly alone. Then the surgeries started and every time we took baby Josh in for surgery he would come out of it looking a little different. We had to emotionally prepare for his face to change a little bit every time. His surgeon was a God send for us. He prepared us and walked with us the whole way. In his first two years I say he had about 5-6 surgeries. Only by the grace of God did we survive. His grace kept my wife together, kept baby Josh together, kept me together, and kept our marriage together.
Life went on, we had another child, Abigail, and the doctors did ultrasounds to check on her lip and couldn’t see because her hand was covering her face. Abi was born with no issues, just some sass (that was for you Ab). Two years later we were expecting again so this time when we went in for the ultrasound the dcotor sat down with us and told us that our baby girl was going to have a cleft and it appeared to be more severe than my sons. He asked us if we still wanted to go through with the pregnancy. I was shocked when I heard that, of course! Killing our baby was not an option.
That day was tough. We were just trying to understand what God was doing. We thought things like, “Didn’t we learn what we needed to from baby Josh?” and “God, what are you doing?” My wife was devastated. She had a conversation with her dad that helped us be at peace. He told her, “What if it is not about you? What if your daughter has to go through this so she would develop into the person that God wants her to be?” People tried to explain things to us; we heard that this was happening because of some form of lunar activity, to something in the water, or to God judging us for secret sin. We prayed that God would bring healing to our daughter in the womb. Our church family was too. But my wife and I sensed a peace and we prayed: “Your will be done.” We always took great care in naming our kids. We wanted to give them biblical names that had meaning. My wife would pick a name and I would pick a name. So when we came together to pick a name for our daughter we came across two names that we felt like were perfect. We named her Azaniah which means God has heard our prayer and Charis, the Greek word for grace--God has heard our prayer and answered with grace.
Three years later we were blessed with another son, Caleb Marcos Stephen. He also was born with a cleft lip. Needless to say we were totally prepared for this now. We were professionals. The nurses would come watch us feed him and care for him because we were good at taking care of him. The hospital nurses started calling and asking my wife for advice and to try out new products for feeding kids with cleft lips. All in all I would say we have been through about 20 surgeries with our kids. Baby Josh will be having his last in a couple of weeks. Niah (short for Azaniah) and Caleb still have a few left and Abi, well, when she was younger she struggled with being the only one not born with a cleft. Who would of thought? But she has been a defender and strength to her siblings at times... also a thorn in their sides. They’re siblings after all.
We have had many ups and downs in life, as the Allstate commercial says, “Life comes at you fast.” But God is faithful. When your marriage is in trouble, God is faithful. When your heart is broken, God is faithful. When life is hard, God is faithful. When the money is tight, God is faithful. When your child is in pain, God is faithful. In Ephesians Paul writes, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4). The very next verse tells us that it was in love that he chose us, before the world was even created, so that you would be holy and blameless before him. If you are a Christian, you are clothed with the holiness of Christ and your position before God is holy and blameless. But we still live on this earth and we are still in a struggle with sin and holy living is a process. We must put our trust in God who promises to work out every situation that filters in our life for good (Rom 8:28). He will take every situation and conform us more and more to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29), which is the process of holy living on earth.
I pray that in the storms of your life you can sing the words of this hymn,
His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
Josh and Lidia Noemi Aguilar, this year will be our 19th wedding anniversary, we have 4 awesome kids that we home school Joshua Daniel, Abigail Priscilla, Azaniah Charis and last but not least Caleb Marcus Stephen. Currently serving at Watson Chapel Baptist Church in Pine Bluff AR in the youth ministry. You can visit Joshua’s blog at Intersections.